HR Insights, HR Management

The Most Overused Phrase in Just About Any Work Environment

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“It’s not my job!”

Let’s face it: it’s probably the most overused phrase in every work environment – corporate, non-profit, your kids!

I was under the impression this wasn’t really used anymore and that it was just an old joke, an urban legend. But it’s not. People are still really using this.

I speak a lot in the fall and I make a joke in one of my presentations about HR not wanting to plan the company picnic – “It’s not our job!” — and we all get a big laugh. My point is, it should be your job. You should want to plan the company picnic – it will get you noticed – so own it, do it better than anyone has ever done it, and make it EPIC!

“It’s not my job!”

I have a friend that shared a little story about this type of attitude this past week. She has a younger sister who is lucky enough to have an administrative job paying a decent wage – no college education but she’s found good work, not great pay, but decent benefits. She can eat and pay her bills. Sounds like a lot of people in the world.

My friend, though, shared that her sister, who is 27, called her to complain about her job – again nothing new; that’s what sisters are for (so you can bitch about life and move on) – but this issue really was more of a “this-is-why-your-life-sucks” issue that became a was a “It’s not my job” issue.

Her sister, who is an administrative assistant, was complaining because in her office she has to use a fax machine to get some of her work done and the freaking fax machine wasn’t working. My friend’s response: get it fixed. Simple enough. Her sister’s response (and I quote): “It’s not my job!”

“It’s not my job!”

If it’s not your job, then who the hell’s job is it? Whose f***ing job is it to fix the damn fax machine?! Oh, that’s right — it’s Ted the Fax-Machine-Repair-Guy who we keep on staff full-time and pay a salary so when our one fax machine breaks down, he can run over from playing solitaire on his computer and make sure you’re up in running in minutes!

NO!!!! You do it! It is your job, and it’s your job because it’s no one else’s job. That how the real world works. When it’s not in your job description, and it’s not in somebody else’s job description, you do it. You’re an adult; that’s how it works.

“It’s not my job!”

Hearing it makes me want to shoot people. No, not figuratively — literally.

I know it’s not in my job description to shoot people, but I’m a team player that way. I’ll happily pick up the gun and the bullets and put idiots out of their misery. I’ll fill that need for my company, because it makes me feel good that I can pick that up and no one else will have to do it. I’m in HR; I’ll get my hands dirty.

FILL THE VOID PEOPLE! In every one of our work environments, we have voids, and those voids need to be filled by YOU – not someone else – YOU. Your organization is waiting for you to fill that void.

No, you are correct; it’s not in your Job Description. That’s all right. Come here, give me a crayola and I’ll add it to the bottom if that makes you feel better.

There – how’s that? – now go do it.

This originally appeared on the blog The Tim Sackett Project.

Tim Sackett, MS, SPHR is executive vice president of HRU Technical Resources, a contingent staffing firm in Lansing, MI. Tim has 20 years of HR and talent background split evenly between corporate HR gigs among the Fortune 500 and the HR vendor community – so he gets it from both sides of the desk. A frequent contributor to the talent blog Fistful of Talent, Tim also speaks at many HR conferences and events. Contact him here.
  • Mvarghese

    Ha.  Seriously.  My favorite response when people say that is well, we are all in this together, we can stand in a circle and point at the problem or someone can fix it.  Are we the titantic going down together?

  • ChadV

    That’s a great rant!  I’ve always felt that way, but I have worked in some environments where this was simply not allowed. I was once told that I was taking someone else’s job from them by making simple fixes which needed to be made in order for me to do my job.  The company preferred me to wait and endure the downtime rather than be productive and proactive. Or rather, the UNION did…I imagine the company would have preferred me to be working while they paid me.  This is why every job description I have written contains that beautiful caveat “And any other duties as required.”  

    There…it IS in your job description!

    Get back to work.

  • J Tate

    My favorite response when people say this is, “It all pays the same.  You’ll still get a paycheck.”