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TipsForSuccess: "It's Not My Job!"


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"It's Not My Job!"

According to an Inc. magazine survey, most executives hate hearing this statement: "It's not my job."

The same survey found most employees hate it when they are pulled off to do someone else's job.

For example, the employees of a famous restaurant in Los Angeles are members of a labor union. They dislike doing other people's work so much that their union contract covers this point. "We will not do anyone else's job."

So if someone drops food or dishes on the floor, the food servers, busboys and cooks may not clean up the mess. The restaurant manager must either clean the mess or call in a janitor.

The restaurant owner said, "I was eating with a group of friends to celebrate my wife's birthday when a waiter dropped a bottle of wine. He just looked at the mess and walked away. No one would clean it up because of the union contract. So I got up from my meal, grabbed a mop and cleaned up the wine while the restaurant employees, and my friends, all watched."

Another restaurant has the opposite problem. These employees are not union members and do not have a union contract, but the place is a mad house.

You walk in and see a full restaurant, but no workers. Everyone is off doing something else. The chef comes out of the bathroom, notices you standing there and yells at a busboy to help you. The busboy wipes his hands, grabs two menus and takes you to a messy table. The hostess runs over and helps the busboy clean up while you watch. Your waitress runs by to answer the telephone. Everyone is doing all the jobs.

So which approach is best? "No one may do other people's jobs" or "Everyone should do all the jobs."

Of course, neither approach is correct.

The best way to work this out is with one of two solutions.

First Solution

"Anything in an organization is your job if it lessens the confusion if you do it." -- L. Ron Hubbard

For example, you work in a doctor's office as a file clerk. You notice the receptionist is scheduling two patients while the telephone is ringing, and three kids are on the floor hitting each other. Would you lessen the confusion by helping? Or would your assistance just increase the confusion?

In this case, it would reduce confusion if you stepped in and helped. Even though you are the file clerk, it IS your job to assist. You get the kids to quiet down and then answer the telephone. The patients schedule their appointments and the receptionist thanks you.

Another example: You work at a newspaper selling ad space. Someone bursts into your office and says, "Three government agents are here and they want all our files! What should we do?"

Do you get the files? Call an attorney? Have a discussion with the government agents?

Because you have nothing to do with the legal branch of the newspaper, it is NOT your job. Taking action would ADD confusion. You wisely say, "Go tell the boss" and you go back to work.

Second Solution

What should staff members do if ordered to do something that would ADD confusion? For example, a restaurant manager asks the chef, "Please stroll around the tables and chat with customers. They'll love it!"

Yet chatting, instead of cooking, would cause confusion, especially in a busy restaurant. The chef knows his job is to lessen, not cause confusion, so he refuses. How can he cook meals if he is strolling around the restaurant?

So what should an employee say to a boss who gives an improper job assignment?

"If an executive asks you to do somebody else's job -- don't. Say, instead, `Am I transferred?'" -- L. Ron Hubbard

So when the restaurant manager asks the chef to stroll around and chat with customers, the chef says, "Am I transferred? Am I now the host?" The restaurant manager, seeing his mistake, says, "No, sorry. You're the chef. Go back to work."

You get your boss to look at the big picture so he or she makes the best decision.

As another example, you are hired to set up computers for an insurance company. You are working under a desk when your boss comes over and says, "When you are done there, please install this alarm system on every door and window in the building." You say, "With all due respect, I need to ask you this. Am I transferred to building maintenance? I'll be happy to wire the alarm system instead of setting up computers, if you like, but I have ten more computers to set up today." The boss realizes the computers are more important and says, "Forget the alarms. I'll make building maintenance do the work."

On the other hand, the boss may wish to transfer you to building maintenance. "Yes, you are transferred." You can then say, "No problem." Or you might say, "I'm open to doing the alarm work and move to the maintenance department, but I would first like to discuss the conditions of this new job."


You can solve every question about "Whose job is this?" with the first or second solution above.

Whenever you wonder if you should do a job, ask, "Will it reduce confusion if I do it?" or "Am I being transferred to a different job?"

If you are a boss, ask the same questions. "Will it reduce confusion if I get this person to do it?" or "Do I want to transfer this person?"

Your answers will give you the correct decision.

Copyright © 2007 All rights reserved. Grateful acknowledgment is made to L. Ron Hubbard Library for permission to reproduce selections from the copyrighted works of L. Ron Hubbard.

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