I woke up this morning with a scratchy throat. You know that thing you get when your body is fighting an infection? It’s not at all bad or disabling and I’m dosing up on mega vitamin C and echinacea, as they normally help me see bugs off pretty quickly. But it has been making me wonder what I’ll do if it turns into something more nasty.
Will I be a hero and work on regardless, or will I down tools and allow myself recovery time?
Serendipity being what it is, this is a topic that’s come up in sessions with my people these last few weeks. The common theme is indispensability.
But what does that mean, and do you see it the same way I do?
“They Can’t Do Without Me”
You can get trapped into thinking that your boss, or your business – even some of your social engagements – can’t survive without you. That they’ll fall apart if you’re not there to prop them up or contribute.
You tell yourself that it wouldn’t be right to let people down; to disappoint. You get yourself caught in all sort of emotional knots, feeling guilty and anxious if you even consider taking to your bed.
So you drag yourself in, imagining that you’ll get kudos from your boss from being such a stalwart. Everyone does it. They might look like shit and be miserable. They might make jokes about their man flu or whatever. But they’re there.
It’s in our culture to do this. Just look at the adverts for over the counter remedies that infer it’s okay to keep working through.
And, if you’re honest it makes you feel good to keep turning up, and getting on with whatever rubbish gets thrown at you. It allows you to feel wanted and important.
But, if you feel obliged to ignore an illness, isn’t there some doubt in your mind about your true value?
Aren’t there some deeper questions you’re needing to ask yourself?
Doormats get walked on
You can kid yourself that, especially in this economic environment, showing you’re indispensable by always being around means that you can’t be fired, or taken advantage of.
But I have news for you.
Companies can drop you in an instant, and hold no remorse at all for doing so.
Clients can take you for granted, and make no apology about it.
So quit feeling on behalf of others, and start feeling for yourself.
Putting Yourself First
Look at things a little differently. The UK Government’s Austerity Plan is scheduled to last for four years, meaning that you’ve got to take a long term perspective. Part of that is being able to keep going through tougher times than we’ve yet seen. You’ve got to be well to have the resilience to do that.
I know people who have battled to work in spite of bad viruses, because they thought themselves vital to some corporate situation. People who subsequently went on to develop post viral syndrome, or irreversible health conditions, or burn out, or some mixture of all three. And were subsequently unable to work for extended periods of time.
Can you afford to be that incapacitated for the sake of taking a few days in bed now? I know you think I’m exaggerating. I guess so did they at the time.
We can all take our health and wellbeing for granted. But, without them everything else is meaningless. If there’s one person to whom we must become indispensable before anyone else it’s ourselves.
Rather than being a trusty, loyal flunky, following the rules, and putting such huge store on turning up regardless, you need to get smart and think about what value you bring to your employer, to your entrepreneurial venture, or to the world that’s unique to you, and deliver it. To use Seth Godin‘s idea, you have to see yourself as an artist, trust that you bring something very special, and put it out there.
You then become indispensable, not for the hours you put in, or for your busy work, but for the difference that is you.
So, you become less dependent on your employer’s or client’s brownie points to feel that you’re a good person, because you know there’s value inherent in who you are.
In that scenario, taking a few days off to look after yourself is vital. It’s a way of nurturing and protecting what you bring.
So, how are you going to see things next time you’re ill enough to question going into work? Oh, and if I suddenly drop off the radar in the next few weeks, you’ll know what I’m doing.