7 Ways to Ensure Your Employer Can’t Survive Without You

It sometimes is one of the great mysteries of the universe that the most obnoxious jerk on the planet gets promoted at work while the nicest folks seem to get laid off or stuck in dead-end jobs.

But it’s really not that big of a secret if you consider that Mr. Jerkface has exactly what the boss is looking for: bottom-line focus.

While the nicest people at work may pitch in on projects or even bring cookies every Friday, the truth is that if they’re not making real bottom-line contributions, they’re not indispensible to the boss. Nice is good, of course. But it’s not what keeps companies in business or bosses in their corner offices.

If you want to get that next step up the career ladder or keep from being shuttled from one horrible project to another, then you’ve got to make sure that the boss can clearly see you’re contributing to the bottom line. Without that part of the equation, you’re going nowhere.

Here’s how to make sure that no matter what your job, you’re focused on what is critical to your employer – and to your career success. Remember to:

• Never submit a proposal before knowing what it will cost. How many people will need to be involved? How long will it take before there’s a return on investment? Bosses want to hear how your proposal will improve customer service or how it lines up with the company’s initiatives.

• Be professional. Shooting an idea through an email that is peppered with smiley face icons or weird fonts isn’t the way to be taken seriously. Use “profit proposal” software that can help you correctly estimate costs and profits.

• Look to cut the fat. If you’re in a position that doesn’t put you directly in contact with profit-making projects, you can always look for ways to cut costs by streamlining processes or eliminating duplicate efforts. For example, with a little research you may discover cheaper phone services or learn that another worker is willing to repaint the office for much less than a professional service.

• Catch errors. Maybe you just shrug it off when you spot ineffective or defective work by others, thinking it’s not your job to oversee the product. But if you look at even one mistake as critical to the company’s bottom line, management will begin to depend on you to ensure quality – seen as very critical in today’s competitive environment.

• Keep customers happy. Maybe you’re only an entry-level employee with little authority. But you begin to notice a certain product is causing complaints from customers. You take the time to listen carefully to customers, learning of the exact problem so it can be reported to management. Your attitude not only retains customers and keeps them from defecting in anger, but you’ve saved management the time and trouble of trying to discover the product defect.

• Know what you cost. As you rise through the ranks you will earn more in your paycheck, but also become more costly in terms of benefits such as health care, vacation time and even a 401(k) match from your employer. It’s more important than ever that as you cost your company more, you also contribute more to the bottom line or find more cost savings.

• Write it down. Keep track of your cost-saving or revenue-generating suggestions by putting them in emails or reports to your boss. This will not only help you when preparing for your next performance evaluation, but can be evidence to future employers that you can have a direct impact on the bottom line.

During the Great Recession, the key performers who contributed to the bottom line were the ones who kept their jobs or were able to quickly find another one if they became unemployed. While the economy is improving, don’t forget the lessons learned if you want to make sure you’re not seen as non-essential to an employer.

Anita Bruzzese

Anita Bruzzese is a syndicated columnist for Gannett/USA Today on workplace issues and the author of “45 Things You Do That Drive Your Boss Crazy.” She has been on the Today show, and quoted in publications such as O, The Oprah Magazine, Glamour, Self.com and BusinessWeek.com. Her website, 45things.com, is listed on the Forbes top 100 websites for women.

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  • alexandralevit

    Great post, Anita.  Another suggestion for being indispensable is to find an expertise and do it better than anyone else in the company.  While everyone is replaceable, it’s definitely not as easy to replace someone who does something necessary but unique.

    [Reply]

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