“Not in my job description”

OK. It’s official. I’m tired of this phrase. (Just heard this from a ward secretary in a normally vibrant, happy-go-lucky hospital.)

  • Not in my job description
  • They don’t pay me enough to do that
  • If they want me to do that, they’ll have to pay me more
  • Blah, blah, I, blah, me, blah, Me, me, me, I, I

“Not in my job description”, in all of its forms, is destructive. Don’t use it. It doesn’t help anyone, and, in fact, it hurts you.

Simple analogy… A ship is in a horrible storm, tossing and turning in mountainous waves. Rain pouring in. The ship can’t be controlled. What’s the next step? Get rid of the least important cargo. Start throwing stuff overboard. Are you that piece of cargo? If the ship starts sinking, are you the one they’ll get rid of?

If you are the cargo that’s thrown overboard, it’s not some conspiracy against you. It’s not your gender, your ethnicity, your haircut, your political stance, or your job title. It’s much more simple than a plot. It’s just a matter of – to get this ship sailing in the right direction, we have to get rid of the least valuable cargo. And that least valuable cargo is the stuff that only fits into a single purpose, a single task, or a single job description. If we can use the cargo for multiple things, even outside of it’s normal uses, then let’s keep it. It may come in handy.

Sure, there are times when something is outside of your power, your influence, your knowledge, etc. And sure, there are times where you are working on something more important than what you are being asked to do. But there are better ways to say it.

  • “Actually, I don’t know the answer to that, but So-and-So might be able to help. Try extension 2345. They should be able to help.”
  • “You know what? I’m sorry. As a secretary, I can’t take verbal orders. But let me get his nurse for you.”
  • “Normally, I’d help you and send off that fax, but I have heavy patients right now. Sorry.”
  • “Aw. I wish I could help. But I don’t even know where to begin finding an answer to that.”

You can say “No” without saying “It’s not in my job description.”