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When An Employee Makes Himself Irreplaceable, He Must Be Replaced!
Does this sound like an oxymoron? In reality, it’s not.

Last month we talked about the philosopher who likes to confuse things just to fix them and come out the hero.

This month I want to chat about the hoarder. The hoarder is the person who keeps vital aspects of his team member’s roles within the company to himself, by not giving anyone full control of their position or department.

That’s because the hoarder believes that if people can’t completely do their jobs without him, he will become irreplaceable. Therefore, he stays involved by not letting them act without direction from him first.


After all, how can you let someone go who holds the key to every door at your company?

In addition to job security, the hoarder is seeking power and feeling 100% vital to the future of the firm. His thought process is, “If I can hide the treasure (in this case power or knowledge) where only I have the map to find it, I’ll maintain control.”

But what good is that treasure to your company if he decides to leave?

A top manager at one of our companies was determined that he had to keep his fingers in everything each of his team members did. He was extremely intelligent, which made it possible for him to manipulate his team into feeling like they needed him to do their jobs properly.

He even went as far as to design (at first glance) a wonderful plan for everyone to follow to drive company growth. However, nowhere in the plan were there any job descriptions or accountability metrics. (If these had been in place, people would have been totally in charge of their departments, and they could have grown individually within the company.)

Essentially, his plan was really to leave his team out of the plan.

No wonder our weekly meetings became a train wreck. Like the philosopher, the hoarder did all of the talking about what was going on in each department, instead of letting those hired to manage those departments explain what they were going through each week, and what each person needed to make his or her department run smoother.

It seemed like in every single meeting, we were going over the exact same things we talked about at the meeting before. And very little was getting done as everyone was waiting on the hoarder for direction.

So even though decisions were made collectively at the meetings, the hoarder would change them behind the scenes to reflect the way he wanted the company to operate. It became a one-man-show. (And not a good one at that!)

And no one – the company included – was winning as a result.

I honestly believe that he meant well – that most of his efforts were subconscious, rather than premeditated. He probably believed that maintaining complete control and having his fingers in everything was what was best for the company. Even if in reality it wasn’t.

After a couple of years of total confusion amongst the team members (and horrible company results), I decided to let this manager go. Once he was gone, we found that no one really knew what they were supposed to do, or even how to completely do their jobs, as he never provided them direction or let them in on what their job descriptions even were.

Worse yet, he never gave them the authority to do their own jobs by themselves. Not surprisingly, we discovered the reason for the lack of instruction was to maintain dependence on him to do their jobs completely.

After he left, it didn’t take long for these weekly meetings to change for the better. Communication increased. People started talking about what was going on in their own departments and asking their co-workers to make necessary adjustments as a result. In fact, we couldn’t believe the hidden talent the company had all of that time! It just wasn’t allowed to be shown while the hoarder was in charge.

Getting back to reality: The only true way to advance at your company is to train someone to take your place, so that you can move up the ladder (or onto other, more important things).

Why? If no one’s been trained to do what you do, you must stay there and do it yourself.

However, to a hoarder, training someone to take his place is too scary. He looks at the situation as though he would be out of a job, for he just trained his replacement.

In our case, just the opposite happened. Because the hoarder had put himself in a position of irreplaceability, we had to replace him before more damage to the company would be done.

Make sure the managers at your company are training their subordinates to take total control of the department they are in. That way, the manager, his subordinates, and the company can all grow in the process.

Also, watch for the manager who tries to make himself irreplaceable. For if he does, he must be replaced.

It’s not easy or enjoyable to make the necessary adjustments in your staff. However, you must for the future of your company is on the line!

Damian Lang owns and operates several companies in Ohio. He is the inventor of the Grout Hog-Grout Delivery System, Mud Hog mortar mixers, Hog Leg wall-bracing system, and several other labor-saving devices used in the construction industry. He is the author of the book called “RACE—Rewarding And Challenging Employees for Profits in Masonry.” He writes for Masonry Magazine each month and consults with many of the leading contractors in the country.
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