How to change the “that’s not my job” mindset

Dec. 9, 2019
Everyone in the company should be willing to go above and beyond the call of duty on a daily basis.

“That’s not my job!” is a phrase that has gotten under my skin since I began my career in industrial distribution, and especially since I became a manager. I found it humorous and thought-provoking when recently I came across a sign that read: “This is a 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 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.”

If you see a problem that could be resolved or that needs resolving, inquire about the issue and propose a possible solution. 

I’m not sure of tale’s origin, but imagine your workplace if no one uttered the phrase “that’s not my job.” Imagine how productive and efficient your workplace could be! There are a few ways to change the “that’s not my job” mindset and remove the phrase from everyday use within the company. First, an employee must acknowledge the bigger picture in a given situation. Second, the employee must show initiative and must act. Last, the employee must not be afraid to act and ask questions. Eliminating “that’s not my job” from daily use could lead to multiple benefits for the company as a whole.

I have always trained and cross-trained employees to know the purpose of their job function and how it affects the bigger picture of the company they work for. I have found that when an employee knows the importance of their function and how valuable it is to the overall process, they have a greater sense of pride and accomplishment. The employee needs to know that what matters is not only completing their current task or finishing an assignment off their desk but also showing initiative. Sitting idly by may give the impression that you are not busy or, worse yet, lazy.

About the Author: Mark Hamilton
Mark Hamilton is a branch manager for Motion Industries and has been with the company for 25 years. He is a 31-year industry veteran with a bachelor of science degree in engineering technology. Visit or for on-site and online training courses, from industrial maintenance to safety to stress management.

Regardless of the economic climate, all employees must show value and worth. You can show greater value to your company by taking initiative, asking for more assignments, and helping a fellow employee. In fact, one of the best ways to help your company is to ask questions. If you see a problem that could be resolved or that needs resolving, inquire about the issue and propose a possible solution to the problem. Never should an employee just walk by an issue and assume that somebody else will handle it. If a problem is identified, then it should be addressed immediately rather than being allowed to fester and possibly grow.

Everyone in the company should be willing to go above and beyond the call of duty on a daily basis. I have learned as a manager that this mindset should never change. If we stop uttering “that’s not my job,” overall satisfaction in the company will improve. Furthermore, avoiding that detrimental phrase could possibly lead to benefits for the whole business. Not only could job satisfaction be improved, but also jobs could be saved simply through volunteering to go above and beyond.

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