If you manage people, one of your biggest challenges is motivating your team and keeping them focused on what’s most important. It’s a challenge because people are people and are sometimes easily distracted. As a leader, however, you need everyone contributing and working together towards what really matters.
Of course, the most important thing for your team might look different depending on your business. Still, I’m guessing you probably spend a lot of time trying to build a culture that prioritizes taking care of your customers, and supporting each other. If you don’t, most of the other things you’re trying to accomplish won’t really mean much.
He’s a simple tip: If you find your team using these four words, you probably have some work to do. I’d even argue that if you ever hear them, your team might have a toxic culture.
“It’s not my job.”
Unfortunately, that’s a pretty common mentality for a lot of people when they show up for work. A lot of people like to have a very defined role with a list of tasks they can cross off. Everything that’s on the list is their responsibility, and everything else is someone else’s problem.
Except, it doesn’t work that way in the real world. Too often, a job description becomes an excuse to ignore anything that’s not listed as a bullet point. It’s easy to think that anything else is someone else’s problem. It’s easy to look at something going wrong and think “that’s not my job.”
Here’s the thing–if it’s important, it’s never not your job.
I love that phrase because it’s a reminder that if there’s something that needs to be done, and you’re able to do it, you’re responsible for it, even if it’s not your “job.” If you don’t know how to do it, it’s still your responsibility to figure out how, or who.
Imagine if you were shopping in a store and couldn’t find what you’re looking for. You might find someone working there and ask them for help locating whatever it was you want to purchase. Now, imagine if you did, and their response was to tell you “That’s not my job. My job is restocking shelves.”
Sure, that sounds pretty rude, and most of us can’t imagine hearing those words from an employee at a retail store. No reasonable person would say them. Instead, you’d expect the person to point you in the right direction, even if providing directions isn’t explicitly their job. Taking care of customers is everyone’s job. No one would want to shop in a store where it wasn’t.
The same thing is true for every business. There is no more toxic a culture than the mentality that something “isn’t my job so I don’t have to care about it.” The problem is, we often do just that, even if the words sound a little different.
I’ve written before about the story of an airline gate agent who I asked for help when my incoming flight arrived late, causing me to arrive at my connecting flight just as the agent was closing the door. As I hurried, I asked her to hold it open for just another second.
She didn’t, and I missed my flight.
“Ma’am, you saw me running towards the gate, why didn’t you hold the door?” I asked.
“You were too late. I have to get the flight out on time,” she replied.
“I understand,” I said. “It’s just that it wasn’t my fault that my inbound flight was delayed. I ran the whole way, and I was only steps away when you shut it. Can you at least help me get on the next flight so I won’t be delayed any further?”
“I’m sorry,” she said. “I have to get to my next gate to ensure that flight gets out on time as well. You’ll have to call and ask someone to help you.”
That might be the definition of an “it’s not my job” mentality. It’s also toxic. In the case of the agent, I’ve never flown that airline again.
The lesson is pretty simple: It’s everyone’s job to do the right thing for your customers. Your job, as a manager, is to be sure your team never uses those toxic four words. Or, more specifically, to motivate them that when it comes to taking care of your customers, it really never is not your job.