“That’s Not My Job!” – Flexibility in the Workplace

This is a story about four people named Everybody, SomebodyAnybody and Nobody.

There was an important job to be done and Everybody was sure that Somebody would do it. Anybody could have done it, but Nobody did it. Somebody got angry about that, because it was Everybody’s job. Everybody thought Anybody could do it, but Nobody realized that Everybody wouldn’t do it.

It ended up that Everybody blamed Somebody when Nobody did what Anybody could have done.not_my_job

Something like this probably happens in most workplaces, at some time or another. There’s a job that nobody wants to do, because:

  • it’s boring/time-consuming/gross/thankless/menial
  • everyone is already busy
  • it’s not in their area of responsibility
  • they’ve already done it and feel it’s someone else’s turn
  • they lack the skills or training to do it

In a competitive job market, employees typically don’t have the luxury of saying “That isn’t my job.” If you’re tempted to pass the buck, consider the consequences:

  • Important tasks may not get done at all. When it comes to cleaning, maintenance, and other routine tasks, leaving the mess for someone else can also lead to compromises in safety and efficiency.
  • If undesirable tasks get pushed down the chain of command, the people at the bottom end up doing all the lousy jobs and are less likely to stay. When those people leave, guess who gets stuck doing their jobs?
  • Bad attitudes are contagious. Refuse to pitch in, and your co-workers are sure to remember it next time you need help with something.
  • Be the person who says, “Sure, I’ll help with that,” and your boss is more likely to remember who looks out for the good of the company during the next round of layoffs.
  • Become cross-trained in different tasks or functional areas and you’ll get a reputation as the “go-to” person. You’re more likely to be considered for collaborative projects with other teams or internal moves or promotions.
  • You were hired to solve a problem or fill a need, not just to do tasks. Find a way to solve a problem and you’ve demonstrated that you can be valuable to the company no matter how much the job changes.

not my job 2If you legitimately don’t have the time or training to take on extra work, look for other ways to contribute and ease the workload on the entire team. You shouldn’t be expected to take on unrealistic workloads or tasks in which lack of training could present a hazard to yourself or others, but your first response should be finding ways to demonstrate your value to the company even if it means stepping outside of your job description.


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