‘Not my job’: When day-to-day work de­fies job de­scrip­tion

The Fresno Bee (Sunday) - - Job Market - — Marco Buscaglia, Ca­reers

For four years, Beth Lawrence man­aged the needs of one of her com­pany’s largest clients. “They’d call me and ask me to fill an of­fice sup­ply or­der, they’d call me to ask for a free sam­ple of what­ever new prod­uct we were sell­ing and they’d call me to hag­gle over their in­voice,” she says. “They didn’t call every day but it felt like it. It got to the point where they’d call and email so of­ten, I knew what they’d want be­fore they’d even ask.”

Great cus­tomer ser­vice, right? The rep­re­sen­ta­tive of a large of­fice sup­ply com­pany who con­sis­tently serves her client’s needs? What’s the neg­a­tive?

Well, for one thing, serv­ing the client’s needs wasn’t in Lawrence’s job de­scrip­tion, “Oh, no,” she says. “I was an ad­min­is­tra­tive as­sis­tant for the sales de­part­ment. My job was to set up travel, make sure peo­ple fol­lowed the re­im­burse­ment process and help run the day-to­day ins and outs of the of­fice.”

What started out as Lawrence’s fa­vor to a co-worker on a two-week va­ca­tion turned into a four-year re­spon­si­bil­ity. “It was sup­posed to be a fa­vor when he was out of the of­fice be­cause we were short-staffed that week,” she says. “But when he got back from his trip, he kept for­ward­ing me their re­quests and he’d say ‘hey, you know this. Do you think you can han­dle it for another week?’”

Stay in your lane … or not

Stephen Rosen­stein, a ca­reer coach in Mor­ris­town, New Jer­sey, says ex­tend­ing your job out­side of its de­scrip­tion can be frus­trat­ing and in many cases, de­mean­ing. “When it’s part of the old cor­po­rate struc­ture, which would be women do­ing ba­sic tasks for their male coun­ter­parts, it can be sex­ist, even if that’s not the in­ten­tion,” says Rosen­stein. “Com­pa­nies need to be aware when they’re hand­ing off re­spon­si­bil­i­ties to other peo­ple. They need to know that the peo­ple they’ve hired to do one job are ac­tu­ally do­ing that job and not ab­di­cat­ing that role to some­one else.”

Rosen­stein rec­om­mends talk­ing to the per­son who is mak­ing an un­fair re­quest and sim­ply point­ing out that it’s not your re­spon­si­bil­ity. “Most is­sues are re­solved at the per­sonal level,” he says. “When that doesn’t work, you get HR in­volved.”

Rosen­stein ad­mits that some peo­ple en­joy do­ing tasks beyond the norm be­cause it shows they’re ready for more work and sub­se­quently, more money. “If you show you’re ca­pa­ble of do­ing work beyond your job de­scrip­tion, that’s a plus,” he says. “That helps you in the long run.”

No credit

Still, it’s im­por­tant to make sure that you want to do the work and get credit when you do it. “It was a struggle to even get ac­knowl­edg­ment from my boss about my ex­tra work,” says Lawrence. “When I wrote it in dur­ing my self-re­view, he told me that what I chose to do as a fa­vor to some­one else wasn’t part of my eval­u­a­tion. He told me it didn’t mat­ter.”

Lawrence says she took care of her co-worker’s client un­til he left the com­pany for another job. “When the new rep started, she han­dled ev­ery­thing,” Lawrence says. “And when the old guy tried to steal away their busi­ness, they didn’t budge. I guess that helped. Do­ing so much for them, I just fig­ured they knew they weren’t go­ing to get the ser­vice from any­one else, even their orig­i­nal rep.”

Some peo­ple en­joy do­ing tasks beyond the norm be­cause it shows they’re ready for more work and, sub­se­quently, more money.

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