Imagine working in a very poorly run organization. Suppose it's losing market share, management doesn't deal with incompetents, backstabbing is rife, or supervisors use performance reviews as tools of abuse. Problems are so prevalent that good people leave. If they can't leave, they give up and wait until they can.
Vanished long ago is the pride you once took in outstanding performance. Now, each day provides a fresh stream of frustrations as you try to work around behavioral or procedural obstacles.
It's beyond physically tiring. Your soul is tired. But sleep doesn't come easily. When morning mercifully ends another difficult night, another difficult day begins. Weekends once provided relief, but six months ago, your boss started expecting six-day weeks "just for the time being." You don't know when that might end, if ever.
It's all so fixable, if only they would replace this supervisor or that, terminate these people or those, get a new marketing VP who knows something about marketing, or a CEO who can actually spell "CEO." Or cancel those three projects, which everyone knew were wrongheaded at the start and which are now consuming resources so badly needed elsewhere.
Then one day, you suddenly realize that fixing this mess is just not your job. It isn't your job to determine who should be terminated, or whether a new is CEO is needed, or how to manipulate some slacker who doesn't even report to you, into doing something constructive that might help unblock you. You realize that if you can't work because others refuse to work, your responsibility ends.
At first you feel relief, but relief turns to uneasiness, as you ask yourself, "Where does my responsibility end? Is it OK to do nothing just because someone else is doing nothing?"
It's a puzzle, but it has a solution. Here are three guidelines to help you find the limits of your responsibility.
- Know the definition of your own job
- It's difficult to know where your responsibility ends if your own job description is unclear. Review your job description with your supervisor to clarify it or to align it with your actual job.
- Refrain from supervising other people's subordinates
- It's not your It's not your job to correct
substandard performance on
the part of people who aren't
your direct reportsjob to correct substandard performance on the part of people who aren't your direct reports. If the performance in question affects your own efforts, consider reporting it to your own supervisor or to the responsible supervisor.
- Refrain from doing other people's jobs
- Occasionally you might be asked to cover for someone who's temporarily unavailable. That's fine on a short-term basis, for a defined interval. But it isn't your job to do other people's jobs unbidden or indefinitely. Learn to let that go.
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How does this happen?
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Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
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- Very little is more frustrating than having someone else claim credit for the work you do. Worse, sometimes they blame you if they get into trouble after misusing your results. Here are three tips for dealing with credit appropriation. Available here and by RSS on August 22.
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- When things go wildly wrong, someone is usually designated to investigate and assess the probability of further trouble. That role can be risky. Here are three guidelines for protecting yourself if that role falls to you. Available here and by RSS on August 29.
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- The Power Affect: How We Express Our Personal Power
- Many people who possess real organizational power have a characteristic demeanor. It's the way they project their presence. I call this the power affect. Some people — call them power pretenders — adopt the power affect well before they attain significant organizational power. Unfortunately for their colleagues, and for their organizations, power pretenders can attain organizational power out of proportion to their merit or abilities. Understanding the power affect is therefore important for anyone who aims to attain power, or anyone who works with power pretenders. Read more about this program.