Nothing can be more irritating to a customer, coworker or a leader than to hear someone spout off, “It is not my job!” As a customer, I don’t care what’s in your job description. What I care about is your ability to help me. As a coworker, I’m more interested in a collaborative team effort and the success of our company. As a leader, I consider your talents to be of value to the overall objectives and expect you to step up when needed. (And as your leader, when you give me that kind of attitude I’m inclined to consider helping you find a different job in a remote location.)
“It’s not my job” has become a phrase that people use to excuse themselves from additional or undesirable work. In some workplaces, it is used as the “invisible force field” that people invoke as they quote their job description and successfully avoid professional responsibility. It is nothing more than the mantra of the lazy.
Let’s stop right there. I’m going to suggest that we look at the phrase in a new way. When an employee says “It’s not my job” - they are right. Whatever is being asked of them is not their job. It is no one’s job. Because, none of us have a job. That would be true if we worked in an environment that promoted personal and professional responsibility vs job descriptions and commands. Our role as leaders is not to force or enforce job functions. We are responsible to equip quality, productive people that have a mission-oriented mindset, not a job mentality. They hear of a need and immediately consider “how can I best achieve the desired results?”
The right environment gives permission to workers to say, “It’s not my job - it is my mission… to wow the customer, help my coworkers succeed, and move our company to the leading edge of our industry.” That attitude and atmosphere is what separates progressive, growing companies from those that are struggling to make a profit.
There are FOUR WAYS TO PROMOTE A MISSION MINDSET:
1) Create An “On-A-Mission” Environment.
Don't manage the job descriptions, lead the people. Here are some quick tips for changing the focus of the work environment.
- Identify the "Why": The Purpose gives meaning to the project.
- Switch from a Top Down approach to a Side by Side Culture.
- Model and Expect Engagement. Communicate frequently that business growth is driven by personal growth.
2) Coach Employees to Identify Their Role with the Mission.
Yes, there are specific duties and tasks that each of us are assigned and accountable to complete. Don't stop there. Help your employees see the bigger picture and encourage them to consider how their role compliments the misison.
Skip Weisman wrote about this in a great article “Eliminating It’s Not My Job Attitudes”
He said: When everyone in the company understands the ultimate outcome or purpose, everyone’s “job” is to contribute to it by applying their unique talent and skill in their “role.”
3) Cross Train for Stellar Outcomes
A team success becomes more important than an individual success. When employees have a better understanding of other’s roles and can function in that role when called upon, they are more open to doing what ever it takes to accomplish the mission.
4) Correct the Chronic with a Conduct Policy
There will be times that you must address the person that refuses to be mission focused and hold them accountable to a standard that is higher than they prefer. You do not want to ignore this issue or it will become your problem. To keep this conversation from being personal, make it a matter of policy. My friend Monica Wofford has a great perspective on how to accomplish this in her blog, “What Happens When That’s Not My Job Becomes That’s Not My Problem.”
-- Steven Iwersen