By Sarah LaFon
Borrowman Baker, LLC, BV Staffing + Consulting
Gallatin, TN

“I CAN’T take a break; nobody knows how to do my job except for me!”

Sound like something you might hear yourself thinking or saying?


Do you feel pressure to be available to your BV staff at all times, working while on a vacation, or forgoing vacation altogether? Perhaps the idea of an extended break from the office makes you anxious.

I’m here to encourage you not to fall victim to this way of thinking.  James R. Bailey (Professor @ George Washington University School of Business) calls this “the indispensability syndrome: a fallacious emotional urge rooted deep in our desire to be wanted and needed.” He points out we tend to “feel threatened by the realization that our work-world can continue without us.”

Indeed, it seems that many people feel this way.  A Glassdoor Employment Survey taken in 2014 indicates that 75% of American workers are not taking all of their vacation. And, of those who do actually go on vacation, 61% admit that they continue to work! There are many reasons behind this mentality. The most prevalent by far (a full third), was the perception that, “no one else at my company can do the work.”

In some cases, this may be true. You might be the only person who knows how to handle a particular work situation. But, consider that this perception is damaging to both yourself and your staff. If you elevate your own importance, then you end up smothering the people underneath, rather than allowing them to stand on their own. If you have been training / mentoring your staff, your absence will provide them an opportunity to experience something new, increase their skill set, and feel more empowered. And, confident empowered workers bring a new level of exciting energy and productivity to the workplace.

Let me give you an example of how this plays out with some of the most talented BV candidates that I encounter. I might be speaking with someone at the Senior Associate level, inquiring about their skills and experience, and they tell me that they are already accustomed to handling projects from beginning to completion.  The story will go something like this: “About a year ago, the Partner over my department left suddenly and wasn’t replaced for a while. Consequently, my manager and I suddenly had to pick up the slack. So, I learned how to handle all the parts of each project, including engagement letters, budgeting, analysis, review, leading meetings, interacting with clients, deliverables, billing… everything! It was scary at first, but now I feel confident that I can handle pretty much anything.”

The takeaway: as long as you have done your due diligence by hiring talented individuals whom you have subsequently mentored, you have nothing to worry about when taking a break from the desk for a few days (or even weeks).  As a matter of fact, you’re doing everyone a service by stepping away for a while; you get much-needed time to relax and recharge; your BV staff gets the chance to problem-solve and expand their expertise.

Take a break and delegate!

Sarah Lafon
Sarah LaFon