You should know your job description of course, because it spells out what your are expected to do in exchange for the position you hold and the salary attached to it. It’s not a bad idea to actually pull it out from time to time and look it over and see if in fact there are things you should be doing but aren’t, and things you are doing that don’t show up in it.
This exercise can be very beneficial for a couple of reasons. Of most interest to you personally, it could result in an examination of the remuneration you receive from the employer if your position is graded anew, and you move up on the salary grid without necessarily having anything new added to what you are currently doing. Wouldn’t that be a nice recognition for the work you do? You bet.
Of course it could also be advantageous if you are feeling overwhelmed with your workload and can’t really figure out why, and then you discover that your workload has quietly increased and now includes significant responsibilities that have been slowly added. If there is no financial extra’s forthcoming, it may be that the person you report to hasn’t recognized either until you point it out that your daily workload includes things not on your job description. The result could be some of the things you have been doing are reassigned to others, and you are more than capable of handling what is left to you without any drop in pay. That could have the positive impact of making you happier and less stressed.
However, knowing what’s in your job description also reminds you what isn’t. And telling someone that what you are being requested to do falls outside or beyond it should be done with caution and care. So for example, suppose you and your co-workers are getting the place ready for a visit by your CEO who seldom makes it out to your field office. Everybody is pitching in and sprucing things up when your immediate boss spies a bag of garbage mistakenly left behind by the night cleaning crew. As the nearest person, your politely and respectfully asked to remove it behind public viewing and you snap, “Sorry, that’s not in my job description!”
Technically you are correct in your assertion. However, the impact of the words you’ve used and the tone in your voice may come as a shock to those around you, and even though you are right, you may be revealing more about your willingness to do something above and beyond your responsibilities, your commitment to teamwork, and if nothing else, it will strain the moment for all. So it becomes a question of you deciding whether the task being requested is worth standing on a principle of work for pay or standing on a principle of doing what would be most helpful when it’s within your ability to do so regardless of your responsibilities.
Imagine if all employees did only exactly what was in their job descriptions and nothing more – not one iota. (And let’s forget the famous, ‘other duties as assigned’.) Wouldn’t, “I’m sorry, that’s not in my job description” become pretty irksome! All those workers insisting on their 15 minutes breaks, 30 or 60 minute lunch breaks and not lifting a finger to do anything that impedes on THEIR time? Can you picture people posting their job descriptions at their workstations and checking it every time they were asked to do something to see if that piece of paper had it listed? Why give an 8 1/2″ x 12″ paper more power than it’s due?
Many times it is critical to not work beyond your job description. You may for example expose yourself to unwanted criticism and even legal liability if you do things beyond what you are required. Should you be trying desperately to fit in with your co-workers, doing more than you are expected to will backfire if what you actually being paid to do suffers. They may not appreciate being asked to pick up the mess you’ve left behind while your off blissfully doing something that isn’t what you were hired to do.
You know when a young, ambitious youngster is called up to a major sports team for his first game, the best advice he often gets from the veterans is to work within his capabilities and not try to win the game all by himself. You see the veterans know that if everybody contributes what is expected of them, the entire group has a better chance of winning. That same idea works in the world of everyday work. You do your job, let others do theirs, and if they don’t for some reason, it’s their supervisor’s job – not yours – to point that out and correct the action.
And that last point is equally important; know YOUR job description, and don’t make a point of thinking you know other employees duties. Quite frankly, knowing one’s own responsibilities should be more than enough.