“Not my job” syndrome
"If you don't turn your life into a story, you just become part of someone else’s story."
This "Not my job" syndrome automatically disappears from the vocabulary of the managers right at the moment they realize that no matter where and for whom they work—they first and foremost work for themselves. And for their development.
However, this “Not my job” syndrome is widely spread and may increase even more if it is not adequately tackled by team managers.
And adequately means this - before jumping to conclusions, just have a frank conversation about this syndrome with the people in your team. This way it does not go unnoticed. But it also creates a safe space to have an honest conversation about what we can change.
There is absolutely no reason for this "Not my job" syndrome to exist in a well-performing team. Especially when there is no clarity of who should be responsible for some additional work that needs to be done in the team. The person who might take on the responsibility might be the person who is the least busy right now. It might be the person who has the most experience. No matter what the principle is for determining whose job it is to do something extra, it is more important for the team to have the right attitude that there is no such thing as "Not my job" when it's my team's job.
People usually want to do a good job. If the "Not my job" syndrome appears, it could be a signal that people are overloaded. But it could be also a tool for revenge by someone who has previously wanted support to get their job done, but nobody helped.
If everyone in your team only does the work that is written in their job description, it is like having a room full of solo entrepreneurs. Everyone looks at his agenda, there is no sense of belonging. There is no teamwork.
This “Not my job” syndrome can be a signal that there are too many changing priorities in the company. It can signal that people feel that there is no fair distribution of the current workload. But it can also mean that people react emotionally to triggers outside their work environment.
Anyway, when you notice the "Not my job" syndrome in the daily meetings, the last thing you want to do is to blame your people. Before they understand you, you must understand them. You must consider what causes this syndrome. It may be a protective reaction. Just inertia. Or a combination of all this and something else.
But it is also possible that it is a red flag that will take you to the maze of office stalkers and procrastinators. These are the people who say they are busy, but they spend most of their time spreading rumors and retelling half-understood stories from other colleagues.
These people contact new colleagues and give a quick impromptu presentation of "who's who" in the office. They also spend 75% of their time in non-productive work–gossiping, stalking, etc. That is why these people constantly postpone the projects they have to complete. That is why no one relies on them to deliver something of value. However, these people also have a positive role - they have the function of social glue in the office. Sometimes this feature is more of a hindrance than a help when combined with the inevitable effect of a broken phone, which is generated by almost every new story they tell.
Analyzing the "Not my work" syndrome can lead you to those office characters or others you do not even know exist. However, they exist, and they even have internal company labels created years ago by already retired employees. They outline the internal subcultures in different departments.
No matter how large the constellation of office characters that contribute to the existence of the "Not my job" syndrome, the job of the managers is to create an environment in which people are proactive and eager to embark on new projects.
Of course, one of the best ways to do this is to ask yourself:
How do I "help" this - to have the "Not my job" syndrome in my team?
The first way you "help" this problem to exist is by role modeling it. You say "this is not my job" often. Either verbally or just mentally. The people in your team listen with their eyes. It does not matter what you say. It is what you do.
The second way you "help" this problem to exist is by ignoring it. Even if you think that it is not acceptable for any activities to end up in a vacuum of responsibility and clarity, you leave them that way. You just sit in this vacuum. So, at some point, the little snowball of "Not my job" turns into an unpleasant avalanche, in which the line "Not my job" sticks to almost anything new that needs to be done.
The third way you "help" this problem to exist is by not encouraging people to take responsibility for things from this "Not my job" avalanche. They take risks, sometimes successfully, sometimes not, but the act of taking responsibility itself deserves to be acknowledged and recognized as a behavior that you value and encourage.
The fourth way in which you "help" this problem to exist is by publicly punishing all the mistakes that have been made while taking on new tasks. You probably do it with good intentions - to make a point, to set high standards, etc., but you do it in the worst possible way—by pointing fingers in public.
In every way of how you "help" this problem exists is a solution to the problem. But only if you take action against your own "helping."
On the other hand, if you hear "Not my job" in some of your team meetings, it could be also a good signal. It could mean that the people in your team are not afraid to express their opinions. They are not afraid of conflict, and they are ready to have thoughtful disagreements.
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