No One is Indispensable

January 31, 2019
The lesson from this story is how dangerous it is to become so obsessed with your goals that you cut other people off and isolate yourself from the world.

This is the story of Andrew, an extraordinarily talented accountant. Andrew was a brilliant and ambitious young man who wanted to be successful and indispensable in his job. He finished college with good grades, so his professors put in a good word for him at a prestigious company. He started working there as an assistant.

Andrew was always the first one to arrive and the last one to leave. He wanted to completely immerse himself in everything that the company did. His goal was to know everything and to be so efficient that the company would consider him indispensable. That’s why he gave it all he had every day.

Andrew’s work was really high-quality. Consequently, his boss decided to give him a raise. Just like he did in his former position, Andrew excelled in every way. This time, he worked even harder. When he wasn’t working, he was reading about his work or trying out new strategies to be even more efficient. His coworkers respected him, and he was doing extremely well.

“Passion is a positive obsession. Obsession is a negative passion.”

-Paul Carvel-

A new responsibility

The story goes that everyone was talking about what a fine employee young Andrew was. After only two years, the Board of Directors decided to make him chief financial officer (CFO). There was no one better than Andrew to fill this role.

When Andrew started his new managerial role, he became even more obsessed with perfection. He started working 12 hours a day, not eight. He started to have inexplicable fears. For some reason, he believed that everyone else wanted his job. After all, the salary was great and the position was really prestigious. Andrew started to distrust everyone.

As a director, he had to manage other employees. However, the story goes that Andrew became very suspicious. He wasn’t a good leader, he didn’t offer a lot of guidance, and didn’t give good instructions. In fact, he gave as little instruction as possible. He thought that if he gave too much information to his employees, one of them might end up knowing as much as he did and try to take his job. It wasn’t long before no one asked him anything at all.

A man working on a laptop.

An unexpected change

The story goes that everything went well for Andrew for a few years. One day, however, the president of the company asked him to train John. John was another young man who the company hired to be Andrew’s right-hand man. They thought Andrew needed help because he seemed overwhelmed with his workload. Andrew, of course, wasn’t happy about it.

Andrew did the same thing with John as he did with all his other employees: gave him very little instruction. John noticed it but didn’t bring it up. Instead, he set out to find things out on his own. He decided to learn from people in other departments. He asked around and was able to gather enough information to fill in the gaps in his training.

After five years, the Board of Directors announced that they were looking for a new CEO. Andrew, who was in charge of many important things, thought that his big moment had finally arrived. The Board of Directors decided on two potential candidates: Andrew and John.

The lesson of the story

Much to everyone’s surprise, the Board of Directors chose John as the new CEO. Andrew couldn’t believe it. No other employee was as efficient as he was. He didn’t understand how he had lost. The Board of Directors explained that he was irreplaceable as CFO. No one could do that job better than he did, so he should stay in that position.

A while later, the finance team was invited to a training workshop. Andrew wanted to go, but he couldn’t make it due to his huge workload.

A stressed man at his desk working.

Unfortunately for Andrew, the employees learned to use the company’s new computer programs during the workshop. Since he didn’t go to the training, he didn’t know how to use the programs and his ignorance quickly became obvious. He couldn’t adapt to the changes.

What’s more, the new software took care of many of the things that Andrew had specialized in. Andrew’s skill set had become obsolete. Due to his many years of service, the Board of Directors reassigned Andrew to another position but didn’t fire him.

Andrew’s story teaches us that obsessions can blind you and often make your worst fears come true.

Leonard, A., and Conrad, A. (2018). The Story Of Stuff: How Our Obsession with Stuff is Trashing the Planet, Our Communities, and Our Health- and a Vision for Change. Free Press.