March 2016 President's Blog: That’s Not My Job
How often do you hear the phrase “That’s not my job”? I have heard this numerous times during my working life. I’ve even said it a few times. It can be very frustrating, especially when you are trying to complete a project and you can’t seem to find anyone that will help. Now I am not saying that this is always a bad thing, there are definitely times when this is warranted. For example: if you were going in for surgery you would want the admittance clerk to say that about performing surgery and leave the surgery up to the doctor. This is a bit of an extreme example, but I have run into this in different organizations that I have worked for over the years with people who were more than capable of completing a task and said task falls well within their level of authority, but for whatever reason doesn’t feel that task is part of their job.
I’ve spent a lot of time over the years wondering what makes people take this stance when it comes to helping out their fellow coworkers. At first I thought that it had something to do with the size of the organization, but I don’t think that is it. Of course the “That’s not my job” mentality may not present itself very often in very small organizations. I haven’t worked in very small organizations, but I’ve worked in larger organizations. I’ve worked in medium and large size organizations and from what I can tell, the “That’s not my job” mentality can rear its ugly head anywhere.
The major factor that I have found that causes capable people to spout the words “That’s not my job” is work overload. Once bosses, teammates, and employees start saying “That’s not my job” I have found that it is not so much about if the requested task is their job, so much as it is “I’ve got too much to do.” “This isn’t that important to me.” “This is very low on my priority list.” “I don’t have time for this, go find someone else.” You can see how it is much easier to say “That is not my job”.
I really believe that most of the people in this situation would like to help if they didn’t feel as though they were overloaded as is. These people are there to do a job and most want to do the best job possible but as a matter of self-preservation they start throwing out the “That’s not my job” objection in order to make sure that they can do the best job for what they are clearly responsible for rather than taking on something that isn’t as clear of a responsibility. As we have all probably discovered, every project or task that we take on takes time away from every other project that is already on our plate.
So if you are responsible for people and/or projects either directly or indirectly and you start to see a rise in the objection from people saying “That’s not my job” it would be worth taking a look at their workload. Since there isn’t a literal red flag that pops up over someone’s head when they start to feel overwhelmed, taking note of them saying that it’s “not their job” can be a good time to take notice and examine their workload and try to help them not feel so overwhelmed.