Job Description

I'm Not Going to Do That

Several years ago I was helping a fortune 500 company develop the media elements for some ground-breaking eLearning projects. We were trying things we had never done before and it was causing everyone on the team to stretch. It was invigorating and exciting to explore ideas and use resources in ways they had never been used. Everyone on the project had an impressive skill set walking into the situation, but everyone still had to grow and expand.

Most people get excited about advancing their skill set in their area of expertise, but something odd happens when you ask some people to step completely out of their role.

One of the people on this team responded with an all-to-common phrase when someone implied that he could take on a particular responsibility. He said, “That’s not in my job description.”

I have heard that phrase uttered many times in my career. In general, I have always found that phrase to be a bit arrogant. When I asked this individual what his concern was about fulfilling this new task, he said that, as an employee you have to draw the line somewhere or the company will just keep asking you to do more and more things outside your role. And although this is a reasonable concern, I tend to believe that the need to remain valuable, and be a team player, should be more serious considerations than whether or not you are doing something outside your normal role. I personally tend to think that if we are going to draw those lines, they should be saved for requests that are illegal or unethical. But whenever I have seen that phrase used it has been when someone is being asked to do something they perceive as below them.

At the heart of any formal job description is an implied requirement that if written out would read something like, “Do whatever you can to help the organization be successful in its mission.”

I heard a statistic recently that if you are working for a company and you work 10% longer than the other employees, you have a dramatically increased chance of getting a promotion when one becomes available.

Sometimes the difference between basic prosperity and real success is in that extra 10%. And it’s safe to say that this principle applies in a broad range of areas in your life.

Back to the job description.

This last weekend we promoted our in-house recording studio, called Thick and Mystic Media, in the monthly St. George Street fest. Four of our employees, one employee spouse and one employee girlfriend all convened together to work in the booth. We had games, we played live music and we even had a drawing to win a brand new electric guitar. And amazingly, none of the people there were part of our marketing staff, they were simply employees willing to step outside of their normal role to help the company succeed. I am personally grateful to each of them for their willingness to take the time to be a part of it. And of course they are all much younger than I am, so it speaks to how their personalities will help them succeed in their long-term career goals.