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