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Combating the "It's Not My Job" Mentality

There are three words no executive should ever utter: not my job!

Such a thought came to me as a colleague was relating a story about an executive who had gotten in the habit of ignoring assignments that she perceived were not worthy of her time. As a result this executive was causing an already overburdened staff to work even harder. No matter. This executive continued to doing less while others did more.

Leaders do what the organization needs them to do and so even when they perceive that such a task â€" give a presentation to a community group, visit a low-volume customer or participate in employee orientation â€" is not worthy of their executive attention, they do it. Failure to do it lets the organization down.

The "not my job" syndrome is destructive to an organization. What can you do to prevent it from hurting morale?

Set clear expectations. Make it known that in your organization, people are expected to do their jobs as well as be open to doing things when necessary that might not fit their job description. This is especially true in smaller organizations where bosses do many different jobs just to keep the organization running smoothly.

Be a good example. The top leader should be the first to volunteer to take on more work when the situation demands. That means, the CEO may have to visit a tough customer, a head of purchasing may need to negotiate a key contract, or a marketing officer may need to pitch in with creative on a new campaign. Such assignments should not be undertaken to undermine the authority of others; they must be done when the organization needs their best and brightest to take charge. [Note: Such measures are temporary; if senior executives are pressed into extra service, it may be time to hire more people or put more capable managers in key positions.]

Hold people accountable. When an executive pulls the "not my job" excuse, his or her boss must act immediately. The boss must say that such behavior is not tolerated. The organization needs people who are willing to be flexible


The Exceptions to the Rule

Are there times when you or a colleague would be justified in turning down an assignment? Of course. If you're so overloaded that taking on more work would jeopardize the team's ability to perform, then it may be appropriate to assert the right to say no. In those situations, seek a work around solution--off load assignments and workloads to others.

But what if you just hate the assignment--or don't feel it's your strength? If that is what the current job requires, then either suck it up, or leave. Complaining about it, at the same time you avoid it, demonstrates that you may have managerial competencies but you have none in leadership.

This is a lesson that senior leaders who leave large organizations to start their own businesses soon learn. There is no one to delegate to; the entrepreneur, at least in the beginning, does everything from make the coffee and buy the office supplies to raising capital to closing a deal with a new customer.

Saying it's "not my job" is a lame excuse. It is another way of saying, "I am too good for this." To act on such an impulse is not only selfish it is short sighted. It sends the signal that you hold yourself above the work and others accountable for results. And that is not only a failure of leadership; it is a lack of executive competency.

John Baldoni is an internationally recognized leadership development consultant, executive coach, author, and speaker. In 2011 Leadership Gurus International ranked John no. 11 on its list of the world's top leadership experts. John is the author of nine books on leadership including his Lead By Example: 50 Ways Great Leaders Inspire Results and Lead Your Boss: The Subtle Art of Managing Up. Readers are welcome to visit John's website, www.johnbaldoni.com

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