It’s not my job

I hate the phrase “it’s not my job.” It’s something I’ve heard in the darker corners of large companies, and it’s a big reason why I exchanged security for the chaos of smaller companies. That phrase is loaded with a lazy, irresponsible attitude and flags the shiftless lout uttering those words as a roadblock as clearly as any safety orange traffic barrier festooned with flashing lights.

It’s also a mantra that I’m trying to embrace.

Why this isn’t a career limiting move

When you’re an employee (as opposed to a customer) you get to see everything that goes into a product. All of the acts of heroism and the compromises that go towards finishing a product and getting it out the door.

We focus on the work to be done, the mountain of tasks between where we are and “product complete.” And then onto the next project.

My problem is that my field of view gets wider and wider. I see more things that I could improve, and then things related to those things, and on and on.

I’m a training manager. My job is to build a high quality, scalable training program that helps ensure customer success.

Or even lays the foundation for customer success, since we’re going to be the first contact that most users have with our company and product.

Full schedule, full plate, full hands. All of that. Worrying about anything else takes my focus away from what I can get done.

Too many distractions

But then I see that we really need a knowledge base, and online help. Those things are important, and they’re near and dear to my heart.

But that’s not my job.

I’m digging in my heels for two reasons: to focus on the core aspects of my job, and because I want to get away from the hero culture. Yes, still.

So what can you do when it’s not your job?

Understand what you’re being measured on and focus on those responsibilities. Consider how what you do contributes to the success of your company. Find the things that are blocking your path to success.

After you figure out what success looks like, the next trick part is figuring out who can help remove those blocks, and how you can build a relationship with them. What can you do to help them?

(What I’m trying: building relationships with marketing, product management, and support; anyone who will be creating customer-facing content.)

4 thoughts on “It’s not my job

  1. It’s not really my job to comment about this. Yet I feel like someone ought to do it.

    You’ve done a nice job of describing the tension between wanting to help out wherever you can (which makes you more valuable to the company) while focusing on the things in your job description (which represents the company’s take on what your value is to them). Working through this tension is part of being a true professional.

    I like your solution: Find the roadblocks and cultivate relationships with the people who can remove them. Let those people see that you’re an ally, and never interfere with their ability to do what’s in their job descriptions.

    1. Thanks for the comment, Larry. That’s a great summary, and I really like the addition of how our value is perceived by others. Which is another argument to get out there and work with other teams.

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