In my opinion, people who are irreplaceable should be the first to go. There are many different types of team players. Some people are the workers, the go getters who do anything and everything to make the team successful. Others are the mediators, some are planners, some are thinkers, and some just provide "glue". But the most dangerous of all is the irreplaceable member. You know the type, the only one that knows every system; the one who sits like a mystic in the corner, looking down on you with infinite wisdom. This person feeds on others' admiration; they want to be irreplaceable, to be told how great they are. This person will destroy your team and your organization.
If someone wants to be irreplaceable, they can be. Others usually give work to someone who requests it all; people, by their nature, are lazy. Eventually, the only person who knows anything and can get anything done is the irreplaceable one. When that person leaves, the shock is devastating. You can fool yourself into thinking they'll never leave, but one day it will happen. One day, "He who is Irreplaceable" will walk away and leave your team stranded and helpless.
Instead, the irreplaceable one's energies should be spend on education and teaching. The irreplaceable one must become a mentor, not a savior. Even at the expense of the project, the mentor should focus on his or her part and teaching others how to do thier jobs to the best of their abilities.
If you have someone that is irreplaceable talk to them about the problem. Let them know that they are pulling everyone else and are therefore hindering other's development. If changes don't occur, let them go. It will be better for your team in the long run.
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