That’s Not My Job!


I recently participated in a water fitness class at a city indoor pool and we were delayed starting because the new instructor had to get a lifeguard to tighten the tether ropes. The fitness instructor’s explanation of why she couldn’t perform this task (even though most instructors do) was “That’s not my job”.

It reminded me of a Human Rights hearing I attended with a client. The young immigrant had been terminated and was claiming discrimination on the basis of place of origin. Interestingly enough, her claim was directed toward her supervisor, who was also an immigrant, but a different nationality than the young employee. The position was janitorial in nature and the employee was responsible for cleaning the bathrooms at a large local tourist attraction. She had been caught “dozing” on the job and, even though the job required working on Sundays which she knew when she started with the organization, she suddenly decided that she was no longer available to work her scheduled Sundays for “religious reasons”. The culminating incident was when she refused to empty the trash in the bathroom. Her response? “That’s not my job.” Seriously? Your job is to clean bathrooms, but you draw the line at emptying the garbage?

It got me thinking about what this country would look like if Canada’s first waves of immigrants said “That’s not my job”. Those people who came and settled this country probably never even heard those words, much less thought about saying them. They worked hard and did whatever they had to do to make a better life for themselves and their loved ones. We all owe them a huge debt of gratitude!

So why are people today so concerned about working “outside” their job description? Is it laziness, indifference or something else? There are likely a number of possible explanations:

  1. Perhaps there really is a misunderstanding about what the job entails. Is there an updated job description? Does the supervisor review it with the employee and update it at least annually? Is the supervisor open to the employee’s recommendations for changes to the job content?
  1. Maybe it’s a simple “failure to communicate”. Does the employee think that someone else is responsible for those duties? Has the employee been properly oriented and trained to perform the duties? Has the supervisor clearly communicated the need to have the job duties performed by the employee?
  1. It could just be a lack of engagement on the employee’s part. Perhaps the employee feels that he or she already performs above and beyond the call of duty. More likely, the employee just feels that his or her efforts aren’t properly recognized. Often, supervisors and managers are so consumed with their day to day duties, they forget to attend to their duty of people management. Employees need attention on a regular basis. They crave feedback from their boss – good, bad or indifferent. They want to be recognized for their successes and they want to know what they need to do to be more successful.

At the end of the day, it is the supervisor’s responsibility to ensure that employees have the tools and the training that they need to do their job, that they receive the coaching and feedback required to attain higher performance levels and that they are appropriately recognized and rewarded for their contribution to the organization.

If your company is challenged with orientation, training, employee engagement, performance management or total compensation, please contact Salopek & Associates to discuss how we can support your organization in these areas which are vital to your continued success.

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