Get Rid Of “It’s Not My Job” Syndrome!

THE ATTITUDE of “I’ve put in my time and that’s it” happens every single day in companies big and small.  Is it happening in yours? Did you know that 50% of workers today would rather be someplace else?  And another 20% take out their frustration every day and may be doing more harm than good. What about your people?

I have found that employees get this way when they are bored with their job, or feel like a faceless cog in a big wheel’ or don’t understand how “what they do” specifically contributes to the goals of their department or business unit.

How can you, as a manager or business owner prevent “It’s not my job” from happening?

Three Strategies to Engage Employees and Keep Them Engaged

  1. Communicate the importance of what they do.

Every supervisor should be able to state a meaningful purpose for his department and the work that is being done. Here is a short but powerful statement that was developed by a manager for her five-person benefits group.

“Benefits are about people. It’s not whether you have the forms filled in or whether the checks are written. It’s whether the people are cared for when they’re sick, helped when they’re in trouble.”

It is a statement with the focus on the end result—serving people—rather than on the means or process—completing forms. How well do you communicate the importance of what is being done in your department? How well do you build pride especially with your front line workers?

  1. Recognize the importance of recognition.

The motto of many supervisors is: Why would I need to thank someone for doing something he’s paid to do?  Workers repeatedly tell, with great feeling, how much they appreciate a compliment. They also report how distressed they are when their supervisor is quick to criticize mistakes but not acknowledge good work.

A pat on the back, simply saying “good going,” a dinner for two, a note about them to senior executives, some schedule flexibility, a paid day off, or even a flower on a desk with a thank-you note are a few of the hundreds of ways supervisors can show their appreciation. Money may get people in the door but it doesn’t keep them motivated to go the extra mile. Here are simple, inexpensive ways to recognize employee.

  1. Tap into the importance of involvement.

    There may be no single motivational tactic more powerful than asking for people’s input. An accounting manager presented a list of customer complaints at a staff meeting. She then broke the group into teams to find ways to eliminate these service glitches.

Getting everyone involved in problem-solving accomplished three goals. It brings the customers to the center of the department’s day-to-day operations; it lead to greater ‘buy-in” when changes had to be made in a process, policy or procedures; and finally it said to everyone that they and their ideas are valued.

As one very proud production line worker, in an automotive plant, said to me:

“They only looked at what we could do from our neck down…now it’s for what we can do from our neck up.”

Smart Moves Tip:

It is true that most people must work to survive and money is certainly a motivator — but up to a point. For your employees to commit to and achieve great things, they need to experience purpose, recognition and involvement. As a manager you can provide that. It costs you nothing. And you will gain engaged employees who are working together to increase productivity and profitability.


Marcia Zidle
Marcia Zidle
Marcia Zidle, The Smart Moves Coach, is a national known board certified coach and keynote leadership speaker who guides organizations that are planning, or in the midst of, ambitious growth and change. As a career strategist, she works with professionals, managers and executives who want to build • shape • brand • change • vitalize their careers. She’s been selected by LinkedIn’s ProFinder as one of the best coaches for 2016!Her clients range from private owned businesses to mid-market companies to professional service firms to NGO’s. With 25 years of management, business consulting and international experience, she brings an expertise in executive and team leadership; employee engagement and innovation; personal and organization change; career building and development; emotional and social intelligence. Your Future Starts Now With Marcia!

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  1. “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.”

    I can drag someone to do something, but often they won’t do what I want unless I first do it myself. To get the horse to drink, I need to drink first.

    I keep finding that it’s not what you do, but how you do it that gets you results. You can give some one recognition verbally — but when you show them with a pat on the back or even a fist bump, there is a much bigger impact.

    “All the world’s a stage” is still very valid today. People say it’s not their job because they feel you’re just passing the buck. So, don’t pass the buck.

    • Chris, leaders need to model the behavior they desire in their people. It’s not what you say, it’s what you do that has an impact.

    • Agreed. I say quite a bit that a leader must be likable, understood, and desirable to emulate. And to be emulated, the leader must be easy to emulate. Desirable behaviors aren’t enough. They have to be behaviors that are easily adoptable. For instance, I advocate analytical behaviors that mirror engineers — but there are not that many out there that have the capability to do so.

  2. You want to get rid of the “its not my job” mentality?


    Get rid of uncompensated overtime.

    Otherwise, all this article is, is a call for people to be worked to death.

    Who needs to sleep? Who needs family time?

    ” 50% of workers today would rather be someplace else”

    Of course, People want to live their lives. They want to see their families. They want to play with their kids. They want to have fun (you know, that stuff that doesn’t make money). People need to maintain their health, their property, their relationships….they can’t do that if they’re working 100-150 hours a week.

    • Time is a finite asset that we all have the same amount of. If you want to rise to the top, then a 40 hour work week is probably not going to do it. It is really a matter of what you feel is important for you to spend your time assets on and that varies from person to person.

    • Kenneth,
      I often talk about the difference between priority management (what’s important to you)and time management (how to cram more into your day)