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“It’s Not My Job” and other Workplace Frustrations

By Rob Wolff, Vice President

I’ve had more conversations than I can count with business leaders where the topic quickly turns to frustrations with employee attitudes and core knowledge.  Whether it’s a complaint about Millennials, or the dreaded “back in my day…”, it’s all too common to see and hear frustrations that revolve around employee behavior.  These aren’t new complaints, I’ve had my share of similar challenges throughout my career, as has just about anyone who’s managed people.

I was with a very capable and motivated leader recently who seemed ready to jump off a bridge if one more person on his team replied to a request with “that’s not in my job description.”  While I agree that I would have never replied to a manager that way at any point in my career, it’s easy to blame the employee, or her mentors/instructors – even her parents for the lack of drive or grit. But, is it really someone else’s fault?  What is our role in this “dysfunction”?  Why don’t these “bad apples” know what to do and just do it? 

As leaders, it’s our job to develop our teams. While it’s certainly important to set a positive example, your team can’t possibly simply intuit what they should be doing in a wide variety of situations just because of what they observe in you. There are too many different situations that can arise, and too many different ways of perceiving what they see you do, for that to be effective.  Add to that the fact that you can’t possibly spend all day with every employee, and it becomes clear why there’s a need – make that an obligation – to teach and coach your employees on what they should and shouldn’t do.  It may seem like we just showed up for our first day of work and knew exactly what to do, how hard to try, and how to prioritize, but the truth is we learned over time – sometimes we learned the hard way, but we learned.

The Fundamentals System is comprised of 8 areas of focus to help you fully manage your culture, but there are two areas that are the starting point for any successful culture – defining what you want your culture to be, and creating the opportunity to teach it over and over again.  We learn and sharpen our skills through repeated practice – through repetition. Taking my colleague who’s frustrated by the “not my job” attitude, addressing that problem may not be all that difficult.  If one definition of his culture is to ensure that his whole team goes above and beyond every day, then when they teach that topic, they can cover how harmful and limiting the “not my job” attitude is on a personal and organizational level. Without being intentional about teaching, how likely is it that any given leader would proactively engage her/his team in thoughtful discussion about core elements that drive success?  More likely it would only happen as a reactive response to a problem or failure, and then it would probably be a one-on-one conversation vs. a team-wide discussion.

Without a formalized structure in place to help ensure that everyone understands key priorities by discussing them and teaching them, an organization’s strategy has to boil down to “hope and osmosis” – hope that we hired people who already understand everything you want them to, and osmosis so that those who don’t already have that knowledge can absorb it by watching you. Incorporating regular, simple, and straightforward teaching about what’s important and why it’s important is a sound strategy to help drive consistent results that align with your expectations. While that may sound like a lot of work on top of an already full plate, it can be accomplished in roughly 15 minutes a week.  Over time, that 15 minutes of teaching can help create a team that is aligned and focused on actions and activities that will make your business more successful.

If you’d like to learn more about how the Fundamentals System™ can help you to build a high-performing culture, click the button below.  Or join us at our annual Culture Summit later this month!

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