Overcoming the “it’s not my job” attitude

It’s Friday morning, you have two meetings, five high-priority emails to send and an interview to conduct before lunchtime. Any backlogged work that isn’t completed today means overcompensating on Monday. The new employee approaches you with a question about their project. At this moment, a choice must be made. You can either attend to the struggling colleague or dismiss them and continue sifting through the mountain of tasks before you.

The ‘it’s not my job’ mentality is a pandemic affecting all businesses.


The bystander effect
Social psychology dictates that the willingness of individuals to help a person in need depends on how many witnesses are present. In a nutshell, the more people around someone in a state of crisis, the less likely they are to receive help. The fewer people surrounding an individual in distress, the higher the probability of them receiving assistance.

Applying this idea to business, the more employees in an office that are near a distraught worker, the less likely they are to be accommodated. The truth is, this should not be the case. Just because someone else could help that person, doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t if you can.

Debunking the ‘it’s not my job’ viewpoint
Many hands make light work. Not only is the ‘it’s not my job’ outlook counterproductive, it can create a hostile work environment. Unwillingness to lend a hand can lower morale and negatively impact the productivity of your organisation. Working together will improve the efficiency of operations.

No man is an island
Most departments are intertwined and overlap. Somewhere along the line, you will benefit from the cooperation of other branches within the company.
Saying ‘no’ to a colleague can seem like the best course of action. After all, it means you can meet your targets, right? Wrong. You might achieve your short-term goals, but you will set your long-term ambitions back. Tunnel vision clouds the long-term impact of the choice you make. Openly refusing to assist can backlash and prevent progression within the business.

How you behave towards others at work will be remembered when internal recruitment decisions are made. Be a team player, it is important that you learn to encourage others because it demonstrates strong leadership skills.

Reasons behind the ‘it’s not my job’ mindset
Many employees are justified in dealing with the frustration of being stuck with additional tasks. This attitude results from an employee being overworked and unclear job responsibilities.

Be the change you want to see
If there is disarray at your workplace be proactive. Take control and try to think of creative and constructive resolutions to the issue, rather than waiting for someone else to fix the situation.

Stepping up and helping a co-worker might be challenging, but in the long-run, you will develop a reputation of being a reliable colleague. Senior members of staff in the organisation will respect your work ethic. Everyone loves a ‘can-do’ attitude. Therefore, increasing the likelihood of you being considered for a promotion or advancing to a higher role within your company.

Like any rule, there is always an exception
Sometimes declining to help might be inevitable. Instead of resisting hastily, politely refuse and perhaps suggest another co-worker that can assist instead of you.
If you are feeling overwhelmed by the constant requests from other colleagues, speak to your line manager and ask for a clarification of your job role and the extent of your responsibilities.

Remember, it is every employee’s job to improve the company’s efficiency. The task might not have been assigned to you, but your contribution will enable the business to continue running smoothly. The next time someone asks for your help at work, view it as an opportunity to benefit mutually.


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