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One who considers himself too important for small tasks is often too small for important tasks.
(Jaques Tati)

ImageOnce in a while there’s a discussion where people are asking: “Is this task appropriate for my job?” (or role, assignment, or whatever) while they have to perform a specific task that seems to be a little bit outside their usual business.

Well, when we would live in an ideal world this question would be right and I would answer: “Yes, you are right. That’s not supposed to be your job. I’ll find the correct person/team to address this topic”.

Coming back to reality (especially while working for a project oriented company where the “start-up spirit” should still be the favorite way of working), statements like these would kill your business. For sure there might be tasks where there might be special training needed or there’re legal or other obligation that might explain why this task is not supposed to be done by the person asking the question.

An interesting thing about this is the fact that people usually do not have the problem cleaning their desk or to empty their trash bin in the office. The problem becomes more evident while if they have to work on tasks where the task is related to their current job description/role but might be seen

  1. as a downgrade (“I as a senior architect should not maintain a small system related diagram”)
  2. as something to be done by another team mate where the job description/role seems to fit better (“fill paper to the printer is an admin task, please ask the IT guys”)

Why does this happen?

For the two points there’s an explanation why this happens:

  1. People tend to do less lower hierarchy things the higher they are located in the company’s hierarchy. IMHO this is coming from the past as there was a strict hierarchical organizational structure. This is sometimes OK because they have plenty of other things to do then to make coffee.
  2. Many employees have seen (especially if the have worked at an enterprise in the past), that there’s a role for nearly everything (office department, it help desk, purchasing, …). Therefore, everything that was not related to their job has been done by somebody else.

What should be done?

Establish a philosophy that does not rely on hierarchies and job positions. Especially in a project oriented organisations it is important that employees should know that there’s still enough work to be done besides their main role.

Show then that there’s no task that cannot even be done by a manager (if the appropriate skill set is given).

Find the right way to delegate task to the right people or do the task by yourself if there’s nobody available who would be more suitable to execute this task.

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Post Author: Stephen

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