Tag Archives: workplace

Be Irreplaceable at Work

One can debate whether or not we are moving out of a recession; however, one thing that is certain – our current economy is centered on cutting costs. 85 to 90 percent of a business’ operating costs are comprised of labor expenses. As a result, companies minimize these costs by laying off employees.

For the workers that remain, job security is of great concern to them. Learn how to become indispensible at work. Below are some tips to build your personal strategic plan and maximize your value on the job:

Brand Yourself

Team BuildingOne of the best preventive ways to ensure you survive company downsizing is to create and market “your brand.”  Branding yourself is crucial when developing your personal strategic plan. The first step in creating your brand is reflection. Take time to define who you are and who you aren’t. Ask yourself questions like, “What sets me apart from my coworkers?” “Am I reliable?”  “Do people see me as trustworthy?” “Am I known for being responsible or a multi-tasker?” Write these attributes down.

Now that you have taken time to define yourself, use the adjectives or phrases that identify you and begin to live them. We live in a culture that is flooded with distractions; we are texting our friends, tweeting what we had for lunch, juggling emails, and updating our Facebook page. Amidst the onslaught of media and barrage of white noise, individuals that brand themselves and attract attention for their admirable characteristics (i.e. great listener, dependability) will have a decided advantage.

Be Excellent

Do you know what the biggest difference is between replaceable and irreplaceable employees? The answer is the employee’s willingness to go “above and beyond”. The work you produce should be excellent, not subpar. Never assume that someone else will pick up the slack. In times of downsizing, individuals will be proactive and will be looking out for their best interest. To be truly irreplaceable, you want to be the first person your boss turns to when he or she wants something done right the first time.

Take the Lead

Volunteer to take on new assignments and responsibilities that you are interested in or see being neglected. Taking the initiative increases your workplace participation and will put you far ahead of the competition and may earn you a job promotion or increase in pay. When taking on additional assignments and responsibilities, make sure they align with the company’s business strategy and whose outcomes will make a genuine difference within the company.

Honor Your Commitments

Prove that you are reliable. If you say that you are going to do something, you want your supervisors and your coworkers to know that they have nothing to worry about. It’s important to always inform others of what you are thinking, what you are doing, and what you have done. If you are unable to deliver what you promised, for whatever reason, it’s important that you communicate that to the stakeholders involved as soon as possible. Take ownership of all of your responsibilities. Luke Kreinberg, a career coach with San Francisco’s Work In Progress said, “You might disappoint, but if you take ownership for things that go wrong as well as things that go right, you will only strengthen the sense that people can trust in you.”

Be Positive

Attitude is everything.  If you constantly berate yourself with negative thoughts or fear of failure, your actions will begin to reflect what you think or feel. Project confidence, enthusiasm, and optimism in the work or projects you work on. You will notice that people interact and respond well to individuals who display positive and enthusiastic attitudes and will become contagious. If you ever feel overwhelmed or stressed, just take a deep breath and think of all the things you have to be grateful for. Positive outlooks correlate with increases productivity and efficiency within the workplace.

Learn to Adapt

We mentioned earlier that employers are looking for employees that go above and beyond their job description. If someone asks you to do something that you don’t think is your responsibility, do it anyways. Never say “that’s not my job”. This will not resonate well with anyone and will prevent any chances for you to grow in the company. When asked to do something, perform the task with pride. Consider everything you do to be valuable to the company – regardless if the task is or isn’t part of your job description.

Understanding Company Politics

Being sucked into company politics can be like playing with fire; however, if done correctly can be a strategic career move. When you are at work, look around and observe the dynamics in your environment. Ask yourself, “Who’s respected?” “Who’s not taken seriously?” “Who’s connected?” Try to immerse yourself in the culture of the fast-trackers at work. Emulate their actions, such as: arriving to work early, asking questions, volunteering for projects, etc. A great way to grow and succeed in a company is to hook up with the winners who are climbing their way up the corporate ladder.

Know Your Market

Demonstrate interest in your work. Companies often seek input from their employees and may offer bonuses to individuals who submit great ideas. It’s important that you know your company’s competitive advantages in relation to its competitors and be aware of any upcoming trends in your company’s industry. Knowing this information will allow you to generate ideas that may make your company more efficient, profitable, and competitive. Reading newspapers, blogs, magazines, trade publications, etc. is a great way to learn of what’s going on in your company’s industry. We also suggest signing up for industry-specific websites; many of them email newsletters that contain articles that may be relevant to your job, your company, the industry, etc. Social networking sites also prove to be a useful tool in researching industry trends. Social networking sites, like LinkedIn, a professional networking site, is a great place for professionals in all industries to learn and network from one another.

Demonstrate Leadership

discussion-groupGreat leaders are irreplaceable, but what makes a great leader? Leadership is not a one-time decision, it’s an everyday discipline. Heard the saying, “practice what you preach”? As a leader, people will watch and evaluate how close your actions match your words. Leading by example will earn you the respect and loyalty of the people in your organization. A good leader also recognizes and gives praise to individuals whose performance aligns with that of your organization’s mission and values. Recognizing people’s accomplishments increases morale and sends a message to others about what you, your team, and your company deem important.

Demonstrate your leadership skills by volunteering to head projects – big or small. When you and your team are able to deliver exceptional results, it looks good to everyone that was involved in the project, especially the leader – you. When you are consistently successful at leading a team, you will have demonstrated to your boss that you have the charisma to foster individual growth and morale within your team.

Continue Learning

Invest in yourself and your career. In today’s rapidly changing environment, it’s important that you take the necessary steps to ensure that you will be irreplaceable in the future. As companies merge, management changes, everything is redefined – meaning you will have to quickly adapt, which may require skills that you don’t currently possess. Take time to identify key positions within your company – positions you feel would give you extra value in the company. Enroll in seminars, workshops, or trainings that will provide you new tools or skill sets. Increasing your portfolio of skills, as well as engaging in a broad-range of experiences, can be your strength and will increase your value within the company. As your skill sets grow, share what you have learned and become a viable contributor to your company.

Be an Effective Team Player

An effective team player encourages and motivates its team to success. Come to team meetings prepared with information, ideas, knowledge, and experience that will be beneficial to the team to get the project done. Being an active participant in team meetings will encourage others to contribute their own ideas and thoughts. During group discussion, it is important that you are able to receive criticism without becoming defensive. Practice active listening by acknowledging, comprehending, and considering thoughts and ideas of your team members without interrupting. To encourage good dialogue, a good rule of thumb is to listen first and speak second.



All Business: A D&B Company. Black Enterprise, 1 Jan. 1993. Web. 21 July 2009. <http://www.allbusiness.com/specialty-businesses/minority-owned-businesses/349520-1.html>.

Lindstrom, Martin. “How to Be Indispensible at Work.” Parade 12 July 2009: 14-15. Print.

“Ten Qualities of an Effective Team Player.” Dummies.com. Wiley Publishing, 2009. Web. 6 Aug. 2009. <http://www.dummies.com/how-to/content/ten-qualities-of-an-effective-team-player.html>.

Ten Tips: Becoming a Better Leader. MindEdge Learning, 20 July 2007. Web. 24 July 2009. <http://leadership.atwork-network.com/2007/07/20/ten-tips-becoming-a-better-leader/>.

10 Ways to Become Indispensible at Work. Woman’s Day, 14 July 2008. Web. 21 July 2009. <http://www.womansday.com/layout/set/print/Content/Money/10-Ways-to-Become-Indispensable-at-Work>.

Bullying in the Workplace

conflict-managementBullies aren’t just found on the playground. As a society, we would like to think that when bullies grow up they have learned right from wrong, changed their behavior, and treat others with dignity and respect. Many do; however, some bullies never revert from their mean, aggressive behavior. As our society evolves, with its reliance on technology, many bullies are finding different means and different environments to continue their tyrant-like behavior.

Company of Experts was recently the target of a bully. The Company had an agreement with an independent contractor whose job would require minimal supervision/input from a few individuals via a weekly teleconference. Over the course of time, numerous issues began to surface. First, work submitted by this contractor was not completed, and in some cases, was never attempted. The blame was pushed upon the individuals this person worked with for reasons such as: “it was too much work,” “it wasn’t worth my time,” “no one asked me my opinion,” etc. Needless to say, not a lot of work was accomplished by this contractor. Individuals within the Company picked up the slack and worked long hours in order to meet project deadlines.

Second, the cost to finish this contractor’s projects continually increased. Not only was the Company paying the contractor’s salary, they were also paying the salary of the individuals that were taking on the contractor’s responsibilities. The contractor was originally hired because this individual possessed technical skill sets needed for specific projects. However, because the contractor was not doing their job, the Company was compelled to hire additional staff, who also possessed these skill sets, to complete projects that were neglected by the contractor.

Third, employees who worked with this contractor, and met via weekly teleconferences, were suffering from anxiety attacks prior to each meeting. When questioned as to what provoked these attacks, many answered that after each meeting they were assigned an extensive list of items/jobs by the contractor to complete before their next weekly meeting. They added that their “to do list” consisted of tasks that were part of the contractor’s responsibility; however, if they did not take it upon themselves to pick up the slack, the jobs would never get done. In addition, employees noted that if items on their list were not completed by the following teleconference meeting, the contractor would complain that the employees were not doing their job. As a result the contractor would say something to the effect of, “Well I can’t do my job if you don’t do yours.” Many employees would ignore other items/projects they were working on in order to complete the tasks that the contractor wanted done. The tension in the office was thick with worry that they would not finish their “to do list”.

Company of Experts determined it was in the best interest of the Company and its employees if they released the contractor. During this transition, the contractor was harassing employees via phone and email, inquiring the reasons for the contract termination. The Company notified the contractor to not contact their employees in any way, email or phone. The contractor retaliated and continued to harass employees and threatened harm to the Company and to the employees personally. When the Company released the contractor from service, they changed the usernames and passwords to the Company’s websites, newsletters, etc in fear that the contractor may try to “destroy” materials. Unfortunately, the Company forgot to remove the contractor from having access to the Company’s corporate blog and calendar. As a result, the contractor changed the username and password to these items, which prohibited Company access to these items, inevitably rendering them useless.

The cost in lost time due to stress, restoring damaged materials, documenting, researching our rights, defending the employees and the Company are great. Additional costs that can be incurred by companies that suffer at the hands of bullies are: increased cost of health insurance for employees, lost days at work, increased legal bills, talent turnover, etc. We think we are being polite by calling these individuals rude or difficult people, but these individuals are “Bullies”. Bullies (like the contractor in our story) create unhappy, unsafe, and unproductive work environments.

You may see several workshops titled “Dealing with Difficult People”. Company of Experts has refrained from developing any workshop with such a title. Is it rude, difficult, bullying, or harassing? Our online workshop “Managing Professional Relationships at Work” is a beginning to understand how others behave at work. The Company of Experts will address bullying at work in this workshop which is to begin in early September. Information regarding registration times, dates, curricula, etc. can be found by clicking here.

The Company wanted to become more aware of how to spot inappropriate, abusive behavior so as to protect itself and its employees. The Company began researching and uncovered several informative websites. One website, workplacebulling.org, had a startling statistic that read:

“A staggering 37% of the U.S. workforce is bullied at work (an estimated 54 million Americans).” This website lists the traits of individuals who are targeted by bullies:

  • Individuals targeted by bullies tend to be independent. The increased level of independence drives the bully’s need to control.
  • Individuals targeted have more social skills and are more likely to possess a high level of emotional intelligence (i.e. empathy – even for their bullies).
  • Targeted individuals also do not respond to aggression with aggression.

What Company of Expert has learned from this experience…

The conflict seems to be with the perception that people grow and develop as they age. We anticipate those who were Bullies in school will transition to adulthood recognizing that civility and courtesy are key factors to development and growth.  In reality, they may have actually become more of a Bully, therefore, becoming someone who stalks, harasses, and commit crimes that they can be punished for.  Still, other Bullies stay within the law. These type of bullies enjoy the attention they receive from their erratic actions.

The general response from legal consul is mediation. Unless, the person is violating the law, we look at both people as needing to be “fixed”.  This puts the Bully and the Target on an equal playing field, which sounds like a good way to handle this. In fact, most employers and employees are not trained to handle this complex issue. Our research has found that some websites and books recommend that you combat the Bullies on their level. Like you do for a wild animal, you get “bigger” than they are; which is an interesting concept. However, the problem with this approach is that this is not team-friendly.  Just because an employer removes a bully from the work environment does not mean that the bully won’t resurface in some way. As in our case, the bully retaliated and has continued to make efforts to harm and destroy the Company. Most HR departments and managers work to keep business flowing and maybe not be trained or have time to handle conflicts such as this. This leaves them feeling overworked and inefficient.

Resolving disagreements is difficult today for two reasons:

  1. We are emotionally stressed because of the weak economy, world ecology and the potential of terrorists’ threats.  This keeps people in reactive thinking which tends to close them off to creative resolution or to make them back away from engagement.
  2. We simply do not have the tools to civilly and cooperatively achieve sustainable resolutions to the problems which arise in organizations.

Will we ever change the inappropriate behavior of bullies?  Maybe not.  Bullies usually do not listen, are aggressive, and do not understand appropriate social behavior.  The decision is up to us.  We either accept a bully’s inappropriate behavior or become proactive in taking the necessary steps to discontinue a business relationship. Extreme cases may require having to refer the matter to legal counsel.

Working for a living is a basic for most of us. We can learn job skills and earn degrees to get the job that we want. Keeping that job and finding happiness there requires that we each have the interpersonal (or intra personal?) behaviors that are complimentary to how we want to be treated, to our team, and to the Company we work for. This fits into the lifelong learning category. We can do this learning in many ways such as reading, mentoring, coaching, modeling (how we teach others and how they teach us – our actions and interactions!) and workshops. Company of Experts has developed terrific programs that can help you develop your leadership style. In this new society, we each are leaders of our future – the path we choose is up to us. For workshops and programs that we offer – Leadership Development Institute (LDI) and the Center for Appreciative Inquiry. The Department Chair Institute is specifically tailored for our educational partners.