dondigitalia

That's not my job!

22 posts in this topic

I'm getting really tired of hearing this. Where does this attitude come from? I really don't understand.

Of course, one should take care of his own job responsibilities first, but what about when one's workload is light and somebody else needs a little bit of help? Whenever one of my coworkers is swamped and I don't have much on my plate, I'm always willing to pick up the slack, and I don't regard it as a sacrifice on my part. I regard it as doing what, on a fundamental level, we are all paid to do: act on behalf of the interests of our employers.

Why, then, do I hear so many people say, "That's not my job!" in response to requests from others? They get really nasty about it, too. I hear it all over the place, even from people whose work ethic and job performance I generally respect. Am I missing something here? Is it ok to refuse a coworker assistance and then turn right back around and finish a personal phone call and browse eBay for the next three hours? Or am I justified in the offense I take when I observe this going on in my office?

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I'm getting really tired of hearing this. Where does this attitude come from? I really don't understand.

Leaving aside the influence of labor unions on this, I think the attitude is reflective of character. Part of your own character seems to be oriented towards accomplishment, and with an attitude like that you probably enjoy getting the work done. Some people simply lack that drive -- they do not value what you do -- hence extra work is just an imposition to them.

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Leaving aside the influence of labor unions on this, I think the attitude is reflective of character. Part of your own character seems to be oriented towards accomplishment, and with an attitude like that you probably enjoy getting the work done. Some people simply lack that drive -- they do not value what you do -- hence extra work is just an imposition to them.

Do you think there is a reason to pass a moral judgment on these kind of people, or is it just different-strokes-for-different-folks? Why or why not?

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Do you think there is a reason to pass a moral judgment on these kind of people, or is it just different-strokes-for-different-folks? Why or why not?

An attitude as you described would not endear such a person to me, but I would not be wont to pass out moral judgments on such limited information. Moral judgments are a big responsibility and I would want to know a lot more about the person's circumstances.

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An attitude as you described would not endear such a person to me, but I would not be wont to pass out moral judgments on such limited information. Moral judgments are a big responsibility and I would want to know a lot more about the person's circumstances.

I understand. I have worked with most of these people for several years (I'm currently back in DC for a couple of weeks working in my old office rather than my house in San Fran), so I know them pretty well. The "other information" you lack is probably the reason I have a definite dislike and lack of all-around-respect for some of the that's-not-my-jobbers, but find others to be good people in general and don't take their attitude in this area too seriously.

Thanks for your replies, Stephen. The reason I posted this was because I noticed how strongly I reacted when some people took this stand, whereas with others it was only a mild annoyance. Thinking about it in the context of everything I know about my coworkers, personally and professionally, has helped to determine the objectivity of my feelings.

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I'll add that my emotional response to "That's not my job!" can vary from an emotional (and often physical) eye-roll to annoyance, to disgust, to pity, to anger depending on the particular individual.

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I would think a key piece of information in attempting such a judgment would be: what sort of boss/management do you have? If your co-worker went out of their way to help get the job done, would this be recognized and rewarded?

If not, then you could hardly blame them. But you might wonder what they are doing sticking around in such a job. (and of course, there are legitimate reasons for doing this on a temporary basis)

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The reason I posted this was because I noticed how strongly I reacted when some people took this stand, whereas with others it was only a mild annoyance. Thinking about it in the context of everything I know about my coworkers, personally and professionally, has helped to determine the objectivity of my feelings.

I don't know if this at all corresponds to your situation, but as someone who greatly values productiveness, I sometimes just naturally expect others to do so too. Any negative response I may have to discovering the lack of that value in someone, is usually proportional to how much I expected better from them.

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It depends on the job; its hard to judge without context. If its something that you think people might be doing as a career, then yes, that is a bad attitude to have. But if its just something where most people will be temporary workers looking for a bit of cash on the side,(eg fastfood, or other jobs which are primarilly filled with college students), then I dont really blame them. If I was working harder than others at a job I was only doing for the money, I would expect to be paid more than them. If this didnt happen, then I'd finish my work and do something more fun (eg browse the internet or make a phone call). Why would you want to do the job of 2 people yet only get paid for the work of 1, unless you either a) enjoyed the job, or :) had aspirations of promotion?

It's the management's fault for not having some kind of performance based pay, not the workers.

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It depends on the job; its hard to judge without context. If its something that you think people might be doing as a career, then yes, that is a bad attitude to have. But if its just something where most people will be temporary workers looking for a bit of cash on the side,(eg fastfood, or other jobs which are primarilly filled with college students), then I dont really blame them. If I was working harder than others at a job I was only doing for the money, I would expect to be paid more than them. If this didnt happen, then I'd finish my work and do something more fun (eg browse the internet or make a phone call). Why would you want to do the job of 2 people yet only get paid for the work of 1, unless you either a) enjoyed the job, or :) had aspirations of promotion?

It's the management's fault  for not having some kind of performance based pay, not the workers.

As a real-life contrast to the attitude expressed here by Nodrog, I offer a portion of a post I made in another thread a while ago.

**************************

When I was of age I ran, not walked, from my home, and I worked the midnight to 8am shift at the post office while going to school during the day. The mail packages section was broken down into several functions: loading the conveyor belt with packages; sorting the packages on the belt into bins for each state; separating the packages from the bins and loading them into bags for cities; loading the bags onto other conveyor belts; etc. Everything worked on a ticket basis; you would get a ticket for completing one task in each of the functions, and a given person would work one function on each shift.

Some of the workers were relatives or friends of the supervisor who dispensed the tickets, and these people magically accumulated the required tickets after just a couple of hours of work, and just sat around contemplating their navels for the remaining hours. Me, I figured that if I was going to be there, I was going to work, so when I finished one task I moved onto another section. It was not unusual for me to first load up the conveyor belt, sort out and throw the packages into bins, push the bins to the different areas for each state, and then sort out the cities into separate bags. A one-man show, all performed with a dozen lazy characters just lying around.

Truth is, after the first day or two I no longer noticed these other "workers," and just went about doing my jobs. It became a challenge for me to see how quickly I could perform each task; how well I could learn to toss the packages into the right bins; how well I could remember the order of the cities within the bags for the states, etc. I made up my own challenges and enjoyed this otherwise relatively mindless work. This work was a stopgap measure, and I made the most of it.

******************

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I would second the spirit of Stephen's last post.

I worked as a lawn-care person for two different companies and in both had people that I labeled as "skaters". I never let them effect my own output, and it paid off. Both owners of these companies offered me a partnership in their specific company. One of the owners that lived in New York (Niagara Falls) while I was living on the west coast offered to pay for my move back and make me a partner. Although I was very happy with both offers, lawn-care is not my passion so I turned them both down.

A good owner would recognize your abilities and reward you, I would.

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...But if its just something where most people will be temporary workers looking for a bit of cash on the side,(eg fastfood, or other jobs which are primarilly filled with college students), then I dont really blame them....

I do blame them. If they have this kind of attitude, whereby they're trying to do the least amount of work to "get by", that's an attitude that is going to harm them in the long run. They'll get used to being lazy. They'll become the kind of people who gripe to management that they have more than their "fair" share of work. Instead of focusing on their work, they'll end up thinking about how little work they can possibly do. I really think this kind of attitude can be harmful, especially if one learns it at a young age. To be fully human, one must take pride in one's work.

If they are actually more productive than their coworkers and aren't being rewarded for it, they can and should look for another job. But in the meantime, doing the best they can at their present job will in the long run serve their own interests best.

I much prefer a job in which I have lots of work to do; there's nothing more demoralizing than coming to work wondering what the heck I can find to do today. If I don't have enough to do, then I either go ask my boss what else I can do, or else find more work myself. Even if I don't get "credit" for doing this work, or earn any more money, it will help build good habits, it's more enjoyable, and I'll learn about something new. The same goes for doing things outside of my "job description". It's an issue of selfishness.

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If I was working harder than others at a job I was only doing for the money, I would expect to be paid more than them.

Well, I do - most of them, anyway. But that's really beside the point. How much employee A makes is none of employee B's business and should have no affect on how much effort employee B chooses to expend.

Why would you want to do the job of 2 people yet only get paid for the work of 1, unless you either a) enjoyed the job, or :) had aspirations of promotion?

What about option c) a work ethic. I'm getting payed to work, not shop online, so why not see if anybody needs help before I move on to personal activities?

It's the management's fault  for not having some kind of performance based pay, not the workers.

What makes you think there isn't performance-based pay? It's interesting that you mention this. I've been with the company for 4 years, gotten 5 raises in that time, two of which involved an actual promotion. The owner of the company began consulting me before making major decisions (mostly because I was one of the few senior employees who was willing to tell him when he was wrong); in addition to rewarding me monetarily, he rewarded me by respecting my mind. Then, when I decided to change careers and return to school, to avoid losing me entirely, he completely restructured the infrastructure to allow me to work from 3000 miles away.

The worst of the not-my-jobbers (there are three especially bad ones) have been there the longest (all over 10 years) are the most vocal in complaining about how long it's been since they've gotten a raise, and how little respect they are given by the boss. Go figure!

Also, what difference does being a "career job" make? All productive work is a source of self-esteem. When I was 15, I had my first job working the drive-thru at Long John Silver's, and you know what: My drive-thru ranked 2nd out of all the Long John Silver's in the country. I'm still proud of that today, even if it was a fast food temporary job!

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I do blame them.  If they have this kind of attitude, whereby they're trying to do the least amount of work to "get by", that's an attitude that is going to harm them in the long run.  They'll get used to being lazy.  They'll become the kind of people who gripe to management that they have more than their "fair" share of work.  Instead of focusing on their work, they'll end up thinking about how little work they can possibly do.  I really think this kind of attitude can be harmful, especially if one learns it at a young age.  To be fully human, one must take pride in one's work.

This is absolutely true.

About five years ago I quit a job at a small startup company in no small measure because the work they had for me to do was no longer challenging to me. I could have stuck around and collected a (decent) paycheck, skating along. But I could feel myself "getting flabby", and that bothered me, so I jumped ship to another job that's been pushing my limits ever since.

Productivity is an attitude that can and should be cultivated in any job. I have yet to find a job, including working at McDonalds, that can't be done more effectively by applying thought to it.

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I do blame them.  If they have this kind of attitude, whereby they're trying to do the least amount of work to "get by", that's an attitude that is going to harm them in the long run.  They'll get used to being lazy.  They'll become the kind of people who gripe to management that they have more than their "fair" share of work.  Instead of focusing on their work, they'll end up thinking about how little work they can possibly do.

I am curious about this point. You are saying that, even if you know for a FACT that management will NOT recognize or reward one's hard work, one should still work hard? This conflicts with my sense of justice. In justice, if someone wants the full potential of what I can give them, they had BETTER be prepared to PAY for it.

As I said in my example, that person should be looking for other work, unless there is some extenuating circumstances. Would you say that the person who "shrugs" at work and is looking for another job is still not doing the proper thing?

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Productivity is an attitude that can and should be cultivated in any job.  I have yet to find a job, including working at McDonalds, that can't be done more effectively by applying thought to it.

Very nicely said. And the key is you have to value both the thought and the result. Being more effective, even for a mundane task, has to be something that matters to you. And you have to take pleasure in applying your thought. This sort of productiveness is really an issue of character, and values.

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I am curious about this point. You are saying that, even if you know for a FACT that management will NOT recognize or reward one's hard work, one should still work hard? This conflicts with my sense of justice. In justice, if someone wants the full potential of what I can give them, they had BETTER be prepared to PAY for it.

As I said in my example, that person should be looking for other work, unless there is some extenuating circumstances.

I don't think these two points are at all incompatible.

If you think your current employer is not rewarding you properly for the work you do, you should go out and look for another employer. But that doesn't mean you should do less than your best work even before switching jobs.

The psycho-epistemology here is critical. Productivity involves training your subconscious to look for better ways to be, well, productive. Deliberately choosing to be less productive because you think you aren't being adequately compensated involves training your subconscious to look for ways to be less productive and get away with it. That training carries over into your next job. At best, you will have to spend time and energy uprooting bad work habits. At worst, you will fail to do so and will damage your productivity at future jobs.

Justice suggests that you should move on from a job where you are not treated justly. It does not require you to take actions that lead to internalizing bad work habits. That only damages you, not the unjust employer. (Besides which, think of it this way. If you maximize your own productivity, you will also be maximizing the size of the hole you leave behind when you leave. Work hard. Make them depend on you. Then leave a giant smoking crater behind when you walk out to a better job.)

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Being more effective, even for a mundane task, has to be something that matters to you.

This just made me think of another point, probably as a result of being part way through rereading The Fountainhead. A first-handed approach to your job involves you, and the task at hand. Worrying about how other people will respond to your work (will I get a raise from my boss) is an insertion of someone elses' consciousness into your work flow. It's a form of second-handedness.

I'm quite sure that when Roark was working in Guy Francon's office, and Coating was using him to get clandestine assistance on his building designs, Roark never considered doing a half-assed job on his engineering and field work in retaliation for his unjust treatment. Instead he did the best work he was capable of, both at Francon's and later at Snyte's, and when he was in a position to open his own office he did so.

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The psycho-epistemology here is critical.  Productivity involves training your subconscious to look for better ways to be, well, productive.  Deliberately choosing to be less productive because you think you aren't being adequately compensated involves training your subconscious to look for ways to be less productive and get away with it.

That's a good point. Of course, I am inadvertantly smuggling in some other context from my last job that rather changes the situation from what I have presented so far. Enough threadjacking, I will start a new thread.

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I am curious about this point. You are saying that, even if you know for a FACT that management will NOT recognize or reward one's hard work, one should still work hard? This conflicts with my sense of justice. In justice, if someone wants the full potential of what I can give them, they had BETTER be prepared to PAY for it.

I think the right thing to do in such a case is to look for another job, but to continue to work hard at the company he is at. To me, justice means that if I accept a paycheck, I should be willing to work hard. (Presumably, when I took the job, my understanding was that I'd be giving my best in return for the agreed-upon salary.)

In other words, I'd say that they ARE paying me for my full potential as long as I keep getting the paychecks - since it's what I agreed to accept.

I'm not advocating that anybody make himself into a martyr and sacrifice his interests for a badly-run company. And it's always possible to make a mistake and accept a job with a company that turns out to be a bad one. Ultimately, one's recourse in such a case is to leave.

It might be fair to the bad company if I stayed around and didn't work hard, I suppose, but I think the long-term effect on my own psychology would be terrible. I'd probably turn into one of these cynics whose motto is "work sucks." And I don't want that to happen: I've known too many people like that.

As I said in my example, that person should be looking for other work, unless there is some extenuating circumstances. Would you say that the person who "shrugs" at work and is looking for another job is still not doing the proper thing?

Yes, I agree fully that he should be looking for other work, but I'm not sure exactly what you mean by "shrugs". I take it to mean somebody who has decided to not work very hard because he doesn't care about that job any more. In that case, no, I don't think he's doing the right thing. I think the right thing to do is continue to work hard while he's looking for another job. Or else, if the company is so bad, I think he should just leave before he has found another job.

What it comes down to for me is that when I accept the money they're paying me, I should work hard in return, because that's what I agreed to, and that's the kind of person I want to be. If it comes to be that they're not living up to their end of the bargain, the right thing do do is terminate the trade, rather than give them shoddy work in return for the abuse I'm putting up with.

I think the most important thing here is that one should never stay in a job he doesn't like, or where he isn't treated fairly.

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dondigitalia, it sounds like you have a great employer and the not-my-jobbers are being lazy and only harming themselves. Ignore them and continue to do the best job you can. You will be rewarded and they will not. However, just to play devil's advocate for a moment...

I've had the experience over and over again where I was eager to do anything, 'my job' or not, and had mountains of other people's busy work piled on me as a result. Instead of being rewarded, I was often taken advantage of. When I would say no because I was too busy with my own work, I was punished for having a bad attitude or not being able to handle the work load or not being a 'team player' since I had always done it before.

I think it often depends on what kind of work enviroment you are in. If it is a positive one where people are recognised/rewarded for hard work, productivity and taking initiative, then 'not my job' are three words you should never say or hear. If you are in a negative work enviroment (which, in my experience, seems to be the norm), I really can't blame someone for not wanting to pick up the slack if it isn't their responsibility and they are not going to be recognised for it, or worse, punished by their own manager for doing someone elses job.

I agree, totally, that you should be as productive as possible in your job. However, you can't drop context either. There are those who do have bad attitudes, who do want to get away with doing as little as possible, but I think the incredible negativity in many work enviroments is perpetuated by managers and executives, who often don't notice who is working hard, really feeds into that. At my last job, I was actually punished for suggesting to an executive how the company could do something more efficiently and save a great deal of money. Hence, my now being self-employed -- my hard work, ingenuity and productivity is very tangibly rewarded in my own bottom line, not someone elses who may or may not appreciate me. I know as Objectivists, we want to see businesses as positive places, but the sad truth is that coporate culture as a whole is a reflection of the entire culture as a whole -- a mix of good, bad and horribly toxic.

I know the suggestion here is 'find a new job', but that is easier said than done, especially since many times you don't know what kind of enviroment you are going to land in next. While I changed careers and became self-employed because I couldn't deal with working for/with people who were lazy/stupid/unjust/political players/etc., not everyone can change jobs so easily. While 'not my job' is often the result of second-handed thinking, I think it can also be simple self-preservation.

As an aside, I've found that people who really bust butt in 'crap jobs' like fast food, restaurants, retail and the like actually do get recognised more than in an office enviroment. I think it is easier to see someone who is sweeping floors and doing extra work that is physical. When I was a teenager in those low level jobs, I was always rewarded for being productive and taking on additional work. Later on in 'real jobs' it seemed the opposite -- the more I did, the more I was taken advantage of and underappreciated with few exceptions. My last job was the worst, where I was hired as an executive assistant, doing the work of a high end marketing consultant, but getting paid (and treated) like a low level office clerk.

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Without trying to bring in too much unrelated context here, I have to second what Helen is saying.

"That's not my job" is often a means of self-preservation. I have both seen and worked in environments that operated under what I called "Danish law." If you did something for someone else, you would be expected, by the management and everyone else, to do that thing FROM THEN ON. If you took on too many such responsibilities, it would interfere with your ability to do your original job. And if you then became overwhealmed, and failed to do anything - be it your original job or not - then you would be disciplined and written up as a bad worker.

And, of course, no recognition would be given to you for taking on these additional responsibilities.

In such an environment, "That's not my job" is the only way to stay alive.

I dealt with this attitude in my first job, at a library. I would help out my co-workers only to find that I then was EXPECTED to do their jobs for them. They would be on the internet while I was doing THEIR jobs for them.

I eventually took one of the main offenders aside and explained to her, "When I help you out like that, it is a gift to you. I expect that you will appreciate this gift and do your best to make sure I don't have to keep giving it to you. By this I mean you have to do your job as if I wasn't there to pick up the slack for you. If you're genuinely in need of my help, and I'm not doing anything else, then I will of course lend a hand. But if I see you slacking off while customers come up to your desk, I won't come over to help... even if I have nothing else to do. Is that understood?"

From then on, I only very rarely had to remind her of the nature of what was and wasn't my job. She worked hard when I was around and didn't try anything else. The other people in my position got together with me and made sure to present a united front to management that we would assist the other desk only when our judgement said it was a good idea. Thankfully, management relented.

Eventually, that "main offender" developed a good understanding and needed no more reminders. I pulled her butt out of the fire enough that she was grateful to me and we got along just fine from then on. I never had any more problems from that kind of attitude again. (at least, for that employer)

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