Why ‘That’s Not my Job!’ Is a Non-Starter

We’ve all heard it: A person given a task responds with indignation, “That’s not my job!” With the benefit of hindsight spanning over 41 years in government, I recognize that this retort can speak volumes about an individual’s personal commitment, and personal commitment is crucial to succeeding in today’s government workforce.

As part of the hiring process, applicants will be questioned in front of a panel of existing employees with a set of behavioral type questions. They are looking for responses that demonstrate the application’s commitment to supporting the organization’s mission.  If instead, their responses reflect an interest in self-gain or an unwillingness or inability to contribute to the larger team, that’s a non-starter. Some of us from “throw-back” years refer to these individuals as “siloed” staff.  They work from a “position description” only and do not allow room for corporate regimentation outside of that description.

“That’s not my job” has never resonated with me. During my long career, I did not see, myself as a subordinate of an organization, nor as a leader. Instead, I saw myself as the “point person.”  I recognized early in my career that to be an asset, an individual’s task is to answer questions and resolves complex issues. That has nothing to do with a job title or salary.

Brian Tracy, a virtual success coach, once shared three simple best practices for getting what you want: (1) Figure out what you want; (2)  find out how much it costs; and (3) buy it! Thinking in terms of career path, I would put this way: (1) Get to the place where you know what you want from your organization; (2) determine what it costs for you to educate yourself in business operations so that you have the answers that peers, external colleagues and stakeholders need; and (3) own your identity.  Simply put, get there, survive there, thrive there!

Using these best practices, I have been able to juggle my personal and professional commitments. I became better at developing and enriching my personal self-fulfillment.  I felt better equipped to recognize, plan and prioritize goals and objectives in my life, family, community and church. And I matured into a servant leader!


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