When to Say “That’s Not My Job”

Ask almost any manager in any industry for a list of their top five pet peeves, and somewhere on the list you’ll find this one: employees who decline a task by claiming the said task falls outside of their slated job description. The phrase “that’s not my job” is widely considered a career killer, especially at the junior and entry level when employees haven’t had much time to pay their dues, show off their “real” talents, or prove their worth.So when you’re asked to tackle a project, it’s usually smart to roll up your sleeves and pitch in instead of hiding behind the job description printed in your employee handbook. Like this:
  • Boss: “Let’s work together to move these boxes!”
  • Billy Badworker: “That’s beneath my dignity as an accountant.”
  • Sally Soon-to-be-Fired: “I’m a marketing associate, so I don’t move dusty old boxes.”
  • You: “I’m on it!”
  • Boss: “Our receptionist is home with the flu, so let’s all take turns at the front desk.”
  • Billy: “That’s not my job.”
  • Sally: “I didn’t get my masters so I could answer phones all day.”
  • You: “I’ll take the first turn!”

When It’s Wise to Say No

 Despite the negative hype surrounding this phrase, there are actually some occasions when it’s smarter, safer, and healthier for your career to say no. When this happens, decline the task respectfully, and if you’re asked, be clear about your reasons. Here are a few times when the instinct to excuse yourself is a good one.
  • Boss: “Be a team player and get behind the wheel of that overhead crane/forklift/box crusher/meat slicer.”
  • You: “I’m not certified to operate that piece of equipment.”
When it comes to dangerous machinery, you’re the only one who truly knows what you are and are not certified to handle. (Bosses should keep track of this, but sometimes they don’t.)
  • Boss: “I need you to pick up my dry cleaning/clean my house/entertain my friends.”
  • You: “I’m on the clock, and that’s not related to work.”
Sometimes busy mangers get overzealous about delegating their responsibilities, and it’s okay to remind them of the boundary between work and life.
  • Boss: “Our company is failing the client, but our reputation will be safe as long as we choose one team member and throw him under the bus when we miss our deadline. You’ll do the dirty work. Just stand up during the client meeting and put the blame on Johnson.”
  • You: “That’s not right or fair, so no thanks.”
Don’t accept tasks that betray your personal integrity. This may seem like a no brainer, but in the moment, the pressure to comply can be intense.

When Saying “No” Isn’t Enough

If you’re constantly being burdened with tasks that your training, ethics, common sense, pride, or job description won’t allow you to accept, it may be time to start looking for another job. You’re the only one who can make this decision, and when you do, MyPerfectResume will be standing by to help. Visit the site for the resume building resources you need to hit the road and find a job where you’ll be given the respect you deserve.