When the Linchpin Gets Linched

Are Companies Ready for Linchpins?

Every once in a while a I read a book where 7 pages in, I get chills.  Linchpin is a book like that.

You may be familiar with the New York Times Bestseller, Linchpin by Seth Godin.  A few weeks ago I finished reading his book.  Seth Godin is an entertaining, thought provoking, and fantastic thinker as well as writer.  Coupled with Daniel Pink’Free Agent Nation, this is an entrepreneur’s dream.  Both encompass what I believe working in a creative and innovative environment where you are constantly pushing yourself, can do for you as an individual but also a business.

Linchpin, Seth Godin & Human Resources

Is the working world  and specifically human resources ready for this book?

Seth Godin claims that the workplace is very similar to a factory. Assemblers work in a continuous production line. The task that these assemblers must repeatedly fulfill is a straightforward one. Work is planned, managed, and measured in factories. In the white collar world, companies manage with a factory mentality the following ways:

  • Planned. TPS Reports.  Excel spreadsheets.  Conference calls and little creative thought.
  • Controlled. Time clocks, 9-5 working hours, corporate monitoring of your email as well as internet activity.
  • Measured. Discussions that have a constant focus on ROI.  Focus group meetings, analytics, spreadsheets and reporting.

Companies have no loyalty and employees are often outsourced, laid off, and terminated in favor of cheaper, faster, and better machine or man.  And along came the linchpin to change all that.

Linchpin Definition

A linchpin is a person who becomes indispensable to an organization.  In short, no man or machine can replace the creativity and genius a linchpin adds to their organization.  Without this linchpin, the organization suffers in many, many ways.  Godin surmises that because a linchpin is so important and essential to an organization, a linchpin can avoid lay off, outsourcing, and termination.  They are too important for the organization to be without.

In some circumstances, I agree with Godin.  Linchpins are special.  They are protected but linchpins can also be linched.

Are Companies Ready for Linchpins?

Companies need linchpins, but they don’t want them.  Because linchpins represent change, fear, and risk.  And for large, segmented organizations, this is bad.  Because linchpins are a hassle and they remind managers what paper-pushing factory workers they really are.  And most managers hate to be reminded about much anything, let alone they aren’t the best.  This is why the linchpins get linched.

It’s happening more than you know.  Creative and valuable employees who are forced out of organization because of their creativity, expertise, or community mostly because of fear.  And this fear is masked by managers giving less than stellar performance reviews and write ups to those would be and wanna be linchpins.

How do I know?  Because in 2009, I worked to be a linchpin in the Fortune 500 organization, but fear got the best of them.  Fear of social media.  Fear of me working as a third party recruiter on the side.  Fear of me being bigger than the brand. So instead, I see myself as an industry linchpin rather than for a single organization.

Is your organization ready for a linchpin?

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Jessica Miller-Merrell

Learn more about Jessica Miller-Merrell, SPHR, SHRM-SCP, the founder of Workology, a workplace HR resource, and the host of the Workology Podcast. More of her blogs can be found here.

Reader Interactions


  1. Lori Ford says

    What a great book! The only problem is that it has sat on my nightstand with just a few chapters still to read. We have monthly Linchpin meetings in OKC. I’ll invite you to the next one. It may be Thursday. : )

  2. Connie Glover says

    Thanks for linking to and reinforcing the points from my blog about corporations and their respective H.R. departments being ready for linchpins. They have a lot of catching up to do!

    • Jessica Miller-Merrell says


      Thanks for the comment. I found your post interesting because I think that Godin’s book is very much about HR without being an HR book. Your post is the first one I found that integrates the two which is what his book is really about.


  3. Carrie says

    This book is also sitting on my desk screaming at me to pick it up… it shall be my new poolside and plane companion this month!

    Not sure how much you and I have discussed my life prior to AT&T; but this is something I also used to struggle with and is not easy to vocalize when 1) you ARE human resources 2) you want to maintain your confidence and professionalism and 3) you know you should take your lumps gracefully so that you don’t come across as a narcissist and aren’t expending energy where there is no benefit… It’s a definite balancing act for sure to be able to recognize when what you bring to the table is going to be mutually beneficial vs. simply creating fear while you are labeled the boat rocker for recognizing efficiencies and being the catalyst for change.

    One of my favorite sayings is about the fact that people are NOT actually adverse to change, because we create it and experience it all the time. People are simply adverse to the change they don’t like, aren’t comfortable with, are scared of, didn’t initiate, etc…



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