It’s Not My Job!

How many times have you heard that statement? It doesn’t seem to be limited to a specific vocation, enterprise, business, organization or industry. Where did it originate? Since prehistoric times, the natural course of action must have been team-based (my presumption-¦I wasn’t around back then). There were no predetermined “jobs” or “positions”-” individuals rose to occasion based on necessity, or perhaps physical ability. Some evolved into leadership roles, others became “followers,” however, it would seem that all activity was focused on a common goal -” food, shelter and perhaps the preservation of life.

What happened? At some point, the teamwork aspect was diluted by preoccupation with individual performance versus team performance. The actual word “job” was derived by alteration of the obsolete Middle English (circa 1627) word gobbe (lump) to the obsolete jobbe (piece). Both indicate a portion, part or piece of work, or something produced as result of work.

By now, you’re probably wondering what my point is. When the statement “It’s not my job” is spoken, it generally carries a negative connotation. Right, wrong, or indifferent -” that is my opinion. It hints of “I don’t want 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 again. 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? We all have our specific duties and responsibilities, similar to a defenseman, outfielder, linebacker or other position (or job?). It is the exceptional efforts that take us to the next level. I’m certainly not advocating that we abandon our roles and responsibilities, or perform tasks we aren’t capable of. My suggestion is that we leave our comfort zone, offer our assistance, share our ideas, and become participating, contributing members of the team. Some individuals hold onto their job with stranglehold, considering themselves irreplaceable. This can stifle creativity, team development and growth. The questionable result that is evident with this line of thought is obvious -” if you are “irreplaceable,” how can you ever be promoted?

Our Japanese counterparts have embraced the team concept and have experienced astonishing results. Self Directed Work Teams and Kaizen Events are documented successes. The emphasis is on the team, not necessarily the individual. Should we consider replacing “it’s not my job” with “Can I help you find someone that can assist you?”, “Explain your issue so I can assist if possible”, or “Let’s share this with the team and formulate a solution.”?

It’s all of our jobs to create and maintain a safe and healthy workplace, produce quality parts on time, and meet and/or exceed the expectations of our customers, owners, and ourselves. This is best achieved by team commitment, team performance, and most importantly -” your focused, team oriented contribution.

Let me close with a final thought.

It’s not my job to run the train, the whistle I can’t blow.
It’s not my job to tell how far the train is allowed to go.
It’s not my job to let off steam, nor even clang the bell,
But let the damned thing jump the tracks, and see who catches hell! -Author unknown

John W. Bul, CMRP, is Commercial Manager- Michigan Operations for Webasto Roof Systems Inc. He can be reached at [email protected].