For years, we’ve been hearing the same thing around the water cooler, at the bar or perhaps on the unemployment line. The economy is tough. Jobs are scarce. Companies are looking for employees that will do more for less. And yet, those with a steady job are still braving the words, “This is not part of my job.” These words can be an employee’s (or soon to be former employee’s) worst enemy and here’s why.
Tracy A. Cashman, general manager at Winter, Wyman, a staffing firm headquartered in Waltham, MA explains, “Unless you are an accountant and they are asking you to clean a bathroom, that statement [“This is not part of my job”] is almost always a bad idea.” Clients usually describe ideal candidates as those who will never utter those words, she explains. “These days all companies are looking for multitalented, team oriented employees who see the value in contributing to the overall business success of the company, whether or not something is in their formal job description.”
Darrell W. Gurney, career strategist and author at CareerGuy.com, explains, “In any economy, not just the challenged one we are in now, it is important for career professionals to practice good politics, good PR, and good manners.”
Responding to additional or unusual task requests at work with, “This is not part of my job,” can make you come off to an employer as lazy, selfish and uncooperative. “Bosses remember who makes it his [or] her job and who doesn’t,” cautions Patrick Scullin, managing partner at Ames Scullin O’Haire, Inc., an advertising agency in Atlanta, GA. “They respect people who give of themselves, especially in a down economy.”
So, it’s a bad thing to say. You get it. But what can you say instead when you genuinely feel the task being asked of you is outside your skills set or spills over your already very full plate? Here are four tips you can follow instead of saying, “This is not part of my job.”
1. Be candid.
Explain why you do not feel you would be a good person for the job, suggests Scullin. Do you need time to research how to complete the new task? Will it conflict with your existing priorities and deadlines? Clearly communicate all of your concerns in an honest and professional manner. Your boss will respect your honesty and reflect on your concerns.
2. Offer an alternative.
Don’t feel comfortable completing the task? Ask whether there is another task you can complete, suggests Scullin. This way, your boss knows you want to help, but that you want to do so in the most productive way possible.
Bonnie Hagemann, CEO of Executive Development Associates in Oklahoma City, OK., suggests you redirect the task instead of simply saying no. “It’s important to redirect the requester to a more appropriate solution,” she explains. “You still appear collaborative. The task still gets done, and everybody wins.” It is OK if a task is outside of your strengths, but be prepared to help find the right person to complete it. Never leave your boss out in the cold. Help in any way that you can. It will be appreciated and noticed.
4. Think before you write.
Jeff Gordon, founder of InterActive99 in Pasadena, Calif. cautions against making a hasty reply that can and will come back to haunt you. “If the request comes in via e-mail and you’re totally annoyed, get up and take a walk,” he suggests. “Remember, the person asking for help is not doing so maliciously or out of ill-intent.” Take the time to calm down and get your head in the right place. If the request comes in verbally, say you will gladly look into it and get back to them. Take a breather, think it through, and formulate your answer with a clear head.
Here’s a final word of advice from Scullin. “With the national unemployment rate at 9.2 percent, anyone with a job should want to do everything within his power to keep it. Even if it means stretching oneself like Gumby after a yoga class.” How’s that for workplace flexibility?