When the statement “It’s not my job” is spoken, it generally carries a negative connotation. It hints of “I don’t want to help you any further”, “I will only do what is expected of me”, or “that’s not part of my job description”. Let’s look at the team concept. In any sport, is a team consistently successful based on individual effort alone? While individual effort can make or break a single game, it requires a team effort to experience a winning season. Why would it be any different in the workplace?
Every time I have heard a fellow coworker or anyone in previous companies I worked at say “it’s not my job”, I cringe. Maybe I’m too quick to cringe, but people that do this in my view are essentially saying, “don’t bug me, all I do is work here.” People need to take collective responsibility at organizations – they need to have the thought process that says, ‘the person is asking me to do something I don’t know how to do; either I can ask for training in this or I can find out whose job it is in the organization’, if it the task doesn’t have an owner, the thought process should be that the employee is happy to take it on. Or should it???
Here is the other side of this: It reminds me of a company a friend told me about. They had this really great culture where everyone from the CEO down, took full and collective responsibility for what happened at the company. Everyone answered the phones; when a courier turned up anyone who happened to be around would sign for a package; people in finance and admin roles stayed close to the core of the business and ‘got’ what the business did, they knew who the customers were, so they could engage with them too. This created a really strong culture that came to be at the heart of the organization. But as the company grew, it was decided that there needed to be more organizational structure and individual responsibility so workers could be more focused on their respective roles. A mantra of ‘that’s not my job’ was encouraged to focus on individual responsibility because work responsibility seemed to be too loose or informal.
Most managers would not support the idea of employees saying ‘it’s not my job’. Whatever the size of an organization, if every part of it can be encouraged to live and breathe what it does; rather than be head-down and siloed in their own role or department, that kind of culture will shine through and really contribute to a company’s success both internally and externally. If you care about your company, the next time you hear this, don’t walk away, get to the root of it, find out whose responsibility it is, and more importantly, that the work indeed gets completed.