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In 2008, I read Business Week’s article entitled, “Management by the Numbers,” in which they review how IBM has been building mathematical models of its own employees with an aim to improve productivity and automate management. I’ll let you read it and draw your own conclusions, but I realized that this article still rings true today.


After reading this article so many years ago, I learned a new workplace term that they’re using over at IBM. "Fungible" is a word used to describe workers who are “virtually indistinguishable from others” in terms of the value of their contributions in the workplace.

You see, IBM’s study is enabling them to identify top performers from average ones, with the latter being fungible—and I would assume that translates into expendable as well. In a time where layoffs continue to make the headlines, I guarantee management teams all over the country are getting in rooms and saying, “Who’s fungible on the payroll right now?”

Okay, so they are most likely not using the term, but they are having that discussion, I assure you.

How To Be Indispensable (Not Fungible)

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Employees must get on the ball and start doing two things if they want to keep their jobs:

  1. Produce quantifiable results that tie to the financial success of the company
  2. Market their success to those who determine if they are fungible

So, if you’ve been on autopilot when it comes to assessing your professional strengths, building your career identity, and marketing your personal brand (if you are unfamiliar with the career development terms I just used, suffice to say you’ve been on autopilot), then I encourage you to get started.

It takes a lot more to get and keep a good job these days, and there’s a whole new way to manage your career. If you need help learning how to be indispensable in your career so you don't end up fungible, I'd love it if you signed up for Work It Daily's Power Hour Event Subscription!

I look forward to answering all of your career questions in our next live event!

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