That’s not my job: Words to be Wary of in the Workplace

that’s not my job

That’s not my job: 4 Career Limiting Words That Will Hurt You Professionally

According to many articles on career advancement and behaviors, 97 percent of employees have a Career Limiting Habit (CLH) that keeps them from achieving their potential at work. Most employees do not realize that they have slipped into these behaviors, and many would be surprised at the negative impact it is having on career goals. 

When researching what the top behaviors are, a list keeps showing up that includes these five:

  1. Unreliability
  2. “It’s Not My Job” mindset
  3. Procrastination
  4. Resistance to change
  5. Negative attitude 

In a perfect world you can snap your fingers and change all five at once. Unfortunately change is a process and may take time in order to beat all of these. So, if you had to pick one to work on right now, which should you immediately change? While being unreliable made it to the top of the list, some career coaches feel that the mindset of “it’s not my job” may be even more damaging to those who wish to become higher achievers. 

As per a recent article: “This attitude is so prevalent in the workplace and, if you have ever worked with a person like this, you know how frustrating it can be. This is not the mindset of a team player. This is someone who is simply checking the box—doing the minimum required to collect a paycheck and unwilling to stretch beyond their tiny little bubble.”

Another reports: “That’s not my job” (aka, I don’t do things that are outside of my job description) is a mindset, and if someone has it, I’d suggest not hiring that person. People who think they should only have to do what’s on their job description aren’t utility players, and your organization is likely too lean to afford employees who only want to perform in a narrow box. 

Why do we say these four career damaging words? The referenced article suggests there are three reasons employees may get into this habit:

  1. They do not feel empowered to make decisions
  2. They think they are being unfairly compensated for the challenges at hand
  3. They are not particularly motivated

Of course, there are things that truly are not your job. Some things require special training to perform or may have legal or safety consequences if performed by someone who is not authorized or licensed. While this is not something you should take on if you are not qualified, it’s important to understand that this career-limiting habit is referring to the overall mindset of people who unreasonably resist taking on additional work even when it’s truly needed for the success of the team. There are times when we all must do a little more to support others, even if it’s not specifically a part of our job description. This is what it means to be a member of a team.

Other than stopping saying “that’s not my job”, there are other habits to develop to show that this is not your mindset:

  1. If you are not sure how to solve certain problems, ask the people you work for how they want you to handle those types of issues when you encounter them. By increasing your skill set you become more of an asset to your company and are more likely to be promoted.
  2. If you identify something that is not working or needs improvement discuss it with your manager. When doing so, take the lead in solving the problem. Avoid the mistake of identifying a problem then leaving it for someone else to fix.
  3. If you are being asked to do something that is outside of your job scope and are not able to do, assist in finding the person who can get the task completed. 

The next time you find yourself in a situation at work where you want to say “that’s not my job”, stop and consider the alternative responses. Your future career will thank you for it.



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