My most hated phrase – “It’s not my job’ and how to challenge it

Unhappy young couple having an argument
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Have you been discussing something that needs to be done; whether a full project, parts of the project or voicing a change that needs to happen and heard the immortal words: ‘It’s not my job’? The last person who said that to me got a very short sharp response about how his job was to ensure the success of the project, company and team… Once the initial disappointment fades, However; it always makes me think about the reasons why we hear that phrase and what to do about it… The largest factor that leads to this attitude in team members in my experience is a lack of motivation.

As leaders, we are tasked with motivating and inspiring our teams in various different ways. In my line of work this can come from direct mentorship, hands on participation in the platform, providing business insight and showing direct correlation of input to success and providing clear objectives and goals amongst many others. When that motivation is not forthcoming or seemingly non existent, it is all too easy to blame the team member and put it down to ‘bad attitude’, ‘negative outlook’ and/or ‘not being a team player’. Don’t get me wrong – this is sometimes an issue that we have to deal with and occasionally remove this from the team, but it’s not as common as you may think. If we can find the root of this attitude, we can often turn a team member around and improve the team as a whole in a renewed approach. It could be your attitude or influences in your team or company that is prompting this that will continue to be a problem or indeed grow as a much bigger problem over time. It’s the cause that is your answer, not immediate response to behaviour. It’s our job to navigate this and motivate team members, teams, organisations, audiences etc.

This can be a particularly hard issue to tackle if this attitude is coming from senior members of staff, the tone is set by your management team and you can feel a little overwhelmed at the task of managing these attitudes, but the same principles remain.

This shouldn’t be confused with inappropriate use of skills – if a person is not trained to work a potentially dangerous piece of machinery, they should not! However, nothing stops that person from enabling that to happen using the skills/experience they do have.

I’ve read many blogs on this issue and have found that the emphasis is on telling a team member how they should think or behave rather than how we as leaders can create compelling visions, strategies and objectives that motivate and inspire our teams to buy in to the delivery and therefore take the collaborative responsibility to deliver it. If I was a team member being told ‘your attitude needs to change’ – I very much doubt I’d immediately do so if I’m already thinking ‘what’s the point?’

 

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