Are You Just a Number? Putting your work-life situation into perspective. 1

You love your job. You’re great at your job. Your colleagues lean on you. They depend on you. You are invaluable.

Not to be mean, but…

You’re not invaluable.

You’re just a number.

A number that can be replaced.

So many of us feel as though our contributions to our employer are invaluable, but really, in the grand scheme of things, you’re just a number and can be replaced just as easily as my granddaughter can count 1-2-7-10.

Am I bitter? Did I just get fired?

The answer is no to both of those questions, but I am a realist. If you are one of those people who dedicate their blood, sweat, and tears (and everything in between) to your employer, then I hope you’ll read on.

Veronica’s Epiphany

Me: Highly paid Office Manager, working 15-18 hour days, but receiving bonuses and kudos for going beyond the call of duty.

Them: A junior mining company whose promising upswing into the industry began to fizzle almost as quickly as it started.

Me: Deciding to move to Ontario where our project team was located, and continue to support the company, while helping the project team get a leg up.

Them: Unable to afford to replace me financially and emotionally, the CEO loved the idea that I would continue my role remotely, and contribute to the project in a more hands-on way.

The Break-Up: The VP of Human Resources (the department I helped create, by the way), wanted to look good in the face of the CEO and recommended that they force me to hand in my resignation and switch me to contract. Why? To save the company the $25,000 bonus I was to be paid in less than a month.

Long story short, with the company’s future unknown, the CEO bought what the VP was selling and I handed in my resignation.

I was devastated. I was hurt. I was angry. I no longer had the money I planned to use for my move and down payment on a new home. I sat in a corner and licked my wounds.

Enter my wise old friend Jeff. “Veronica, you can’t take this so hard. Business is business, and your company has to look out for what’s best for them.”

“But I gave them my heart and soul, Jeff.”

“Yes, well now you know exactly what your sacrifices can get you.”

Leave it to good ole Jeff to kick me when I am down. Leave it to good ole Jeff to be so damn smart, and so damn right! Ugh!

Although the hurt I felt from my company’s “betrayal” stung as if I had just dove into a pool of a thousand jellyfish, I had a new outlook on my professional life—I was just a number.

This is the part that separates the men from the mice.

How do you perform in your career/job/profession going forward?

Are you going to have a “who gives a shit” attitude?

If you are, then you might as well stop reading, because I don’t know if I can save you from your ignorance.

I have always been one who doesn’t believe in “business integrity.” You either have integrity, or you don’t. There should be no distinction. Integrity, is integrity. If you ain’t got it, don’t come to my pool party, and keep your sorry face away from my desk at my office. I have no patience for you—and if you think I can’t see right through you, then you are sadly mistaken. I’ll treat you with just as much respect as the next person (based solely on that whole “we are all God’s children” thing), but you will not get one past me, nor be written into my Will.

If you work a conventional job (meaning, you don’t own your own company), then you should be bound by the guidelines laid out when you accepted the job. I expect that you will give your everything when you are doing your job. But…

The big but…

Don’t lose sight of the fact that you are deserving of life balance. Do not kill yourself because you think you are invaluable. If you are so amazing, then don’t you think you deserve to have amazing life balance?

As I watched a colleague of mine burn himself out at Mach speed, I said to him, “I love and respect you dearly, but you need to realize that you are just a number. If you were hit by a bus tomorrow, we would all mourn your death, but… the company would keep moving on without you. You have to look out for number one. There’s only one you, and if you kill yourself for your job, and not leave anything for the family you have created, then they (and you) are the only losers. Not the company.”

Do you remember that highly paid Office Manager at the beginning of this story? Psst… that would be me.

Do you know what she did? She turned down an offer to earn double what she was earning before, and actually took a very large step back in her career.


Because she realized that money wasn’t everything, and she had been killing herself to the detriment of her daughter.

Do I have to work outside of traditional office hours now? Yes, but very rarely.

Do I work those extra hours and hold it over everyone’s head? No. No, I do not.

I give my company my everything when I walk through those doors, but I give myself and my family my everything when I leave that place each evening.

Maybe your situation isn’t as cut and dry as mine, but hopefully you will take a few things away from this:

  1. Understand that you are not irreplaceable
  2. Put your life under a microscope and find a way to create balance.
  3. Look both ways before you cross the street so that the bus doesn’t hit you.

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