Why Managers Absolutely Hate to Write Job Descriptions

Apr 25, 2014

Every employee out there, no matter what their job, has certain tasks or responsibilities as part of their role that they enjoy doing.

Likewise, there are certain other aspects to the job that they .. enjoy quite a bit less.

Often their negative emotional reaction is strongly felt, and may be accompanied by an unprofessional facial expression.

A hard-and-fast certainty

I’ve worked in Human Resources my entire career, and personally have never liked being responsible for job evaluations. It’s a thankless task if ever there was one, and certain to impact the number of Christmas cards I received each year. But that’s another story.

Line managers have their own likes and dislikes as well, but it’s a hard-and-fast certainty that they don’t like to write job descriptions.

Why? Because they hate them, and will scowl at HR whenever they see us coming. We’re the folks who insist on bothering them with this administrative hassle.

Yep, that’s what most of them think. But why? What are the friction points that cause so many managers to grind their teeth when the subject comes up?

Many don’t see the point

Most view the writing of a job description as a make-work effort, when “everyone knows” the job already. So why do we need to fill out these forms, they grumble. Why do we have to write it down?

Or, why don’t you do it?

Many consider this onerous task as filling a need of Human Resources, not one of their own. So it’s not perceived as a necessity, not a priority and certainly the effort doesn’t help them. To be fair though, not everyone feels as strongly, but you’ll see this reaction often enough to sense a common behavior.

The formatting isn’t manager friendly

So-called HR “specialists” are always tinkering with the template form, seeking a better way to describe a job. But that “better” way usually results in a description preparation process that has grown overly long, tedious and a drudgery to follow.

After all, how many ways are there to describe the tasks and responsibilities of a job? Here is where HR consistently shoots itself in the foot, by making the simple more complex, the straightforward more convoluted and an easy recording job becomes a trying ordeal. At least that’s the way it looks from the manager’s perspective.

Some managers will take a different tactic and will hurry through the process, or will have the employees themselves do the work (a separate challenge), perhaps will ignore select sections of the form, will fail to properly complete others, etc. A real mess can be sent to HR. But it’s done!

Rumor: Better writers get better deals

Managers don’t look at themselves as writers, and they can’t seem to shake the bias that better written job descriptions result in higher job evaluation or market pricing scores. “If only I could word this right,” is a common self-criticism, as if the reader takes every turn of phrase as gospel.

So another reason for delay is because they know they’re not very good at writing descriptions, so they put off starting — just like a homework assignment.

They have better things to do

This is the bottom-line criticism, the core reason from many a complaining manager; “I’m a manager; I have a department/business/empire to run. I don’t have the time to waste writing job descriptions.”

In other words, you do it  — and they don’t much care who the “you” is.

Not a pretty picture, is it? But it doesn’t have to stay that way.

In my next post, I’ll focus on how you can salvage this mess. You might not be able to turn a frown upside down, but you can create a more accepting environment for preparing appropriate descriptions with a process that everyone can live with.

Or, you could go another round with your line managers.

This was originally published at the Compensation Café blog, where you can find a daily dose of caffeinated conversation on everything compensation.

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