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Does your company suffer from the “not my job (NMJ) syndrome?”
When was the last time you heard someone being asked to do some task that wasn’t outlined in their job description, only to respond with, “That’s not my job?”
Yup. I believe it. It’s an all-too-frequent occurrence that employees draw the line in the sand or draw a box around themselves, refuse to do some task, and say, “Not my job.” They take longer to explain why it’s not their job and what their job is than to actually do what was asked of them. That’s a problem!
What causes this knee-jerk reaction? (Or maybe it’s not really knee-jerk?)
I can think of a few things.
- Silos. When those “non-physical barriers” are established in your company, it’s easy for employees to feel like they don’t need to help out. It’s easy for them to say that the task belongs to another department, one for which they are not accountable.
- Leadership. Sadly, this silo mentality (and it is a mentality; again, there are no physical barriers from one department or business unit to another) is created by leaders within the organization, advocating that we only do what we need to do to ensure our unit is successful. There’s this notion that what you do doesn’t impact me or my work, and what I do doesn’t impact you or the customer in any way; the department or business unit simply operates in its own box.
- Core values. When core values aren’t defined or clearly communicated, employees don’t know what behaviors are expected of them. When everyone knows the values, it’s tougher to claim the “not my job” excuse.
- Communication. When roles and expectations are not clearly communicated, problems ensue, without a doubt! When employees understand the work that other departments or business units are doing and how that fits into the bigger picture, into the purpose, it’s easy to get on board to help when help is needed
- Purpose. Without knowing the company’s purpose and the common goal toward which everyone is working, employees don’t have a sense of urgency to pitch in for the greater success.
Here are a few options to help overcome the NMJ Syndrome.
- Job descriptions. Put less emphasis on specific tasks and make them more about outcomes, not only for the individual but also for the company.
- Core values. Make sure they are defined, communicated, and lived every day.
- Communication. Be open and candid about values, guiding principles, purpose, and expectations.
- Performance reviews. Include core values as part of the performance review. One of the metrics you might include is around servant leadership.
- Journey mapping. Really? Yup. Use the maps to help employees see where and how, working together, they all impact the customer experience.
- Model the behavior. If leaders do it, employees will, too.
- Collaboration. Encourage situations where departments or business units work together toward a common end goal. Get cross-functional teams involved when there are issues or projects.
- Appreciation. People who are recognized and appreciated are more apt to want to do more. It’s self-perpetuating.
What am I missing? What else would you add?
I’ll end with this fun story about whose job it is, in case you haven’t heard this one yet.
This is a little story about four people named Everybody, Somebody, Anybody, and Nobody. There was an important job to be done and Everybody was sure that Somebody would do it. Anybody could have done it, but Nobody did it. Somebody got angry about that because it was Everybody’s job. Everybody thought that Anybody could do it, but Nobody realized that Everybody wouldn’t do it. It ended up that Everybody blamed Somebody when Nobody did what Anybody could have done.