How to Boot the “It’s Not My Job” Mentality

Written by Abby Nieten on November 15, 2012

Posted in Human Resources

Here at Formstack, everyone seems to switch roles or take on new projects they may have not been expecting. Developers are writing content, marketing folks are dreaming up new features and the support team is handling social media inquiries. The “This is a list of your job responsibilities; stick to them.” mentality is dead. And rightfully so.

Especially in a small team environment, tasks are often distributed to whoever can handle it at the time. Whether that means getting a team on a project or assigning someone who says, “I’ll take it!” – it has to get done either way. Being agile in this way allows for a company like ours to keep moving and improving. (Love when I can squeeze in a rhyme.)

Troubled with some ways you can boot that “it’s not my job” mentality? Here are some thoughts:

1. Take time to get to know your coworkers.
Culture is a huge proponent of a successful team. And I am a big believer that your product is a direct reflection of how your team functions together. If you work in silos (aka departments) and you stick to that segmented-team mentality, you will not only stunt culture growth, but you’re also trapping your employees, disabling them to think “outside the department box.”

Take some time to get to know people outside of your direct team. Find out what their passions are and you may find that they have some pretty powerful insight to what you’re working on.

2. Challenge flexibility. Gauge trust.
Change is uncomfortable. I remember when Formstack announced that they were going to move the development team back to being 20 feet away from my desk. I don’t hide my emotions very well – so naturally, it was a bit awkward.

But you know what – it turned out great. We’re all in one crazy, nutty-filled room, but it works for us. Sometimes testing the flexibility of your employees will allow you to see who is onboard with the direction the company is going and what the trust levels are. If your whole team is hesitant to what the leadership team is doing, perhaps deeper discussions need to be had.

3. Allow for independent creativity.
Earlier this week, I had read a friend’s post on caring for your office introvert. The Susan Cain video in the post is incredible. Although it was all insightful, there was one thing that did stick out to me the most. It was the fact that if you disable someone’s ability to think creatively alone, you may stunt their ability to grow and provide fruitful insight for your company.

So next time you’re about to have a brainstorming meeting, set expectations for goals ahead of time and task your team with inventing ideas on their own. Even if it has nothing to do with their direct role, allow them to attend the meeting prepared with their own ideas. From there, you can start the brainstorming with everyone sharing their thoughts individually.

4. “Failing is good for me.”
Failing is inevitable. However, although greatly known in the tech industry as something “positive,” in a work environment – it can cause a lot of anxiety. Let your team know that if they want to try something new, if they want to work on a project they don’t have much experience in, that it is okay to fail. Sometimes that fear of letting everyone down is just enough to say, “No. That’s okay. I’ll just work on what I’m familiar with.”

Although these are a few things you can do today to boot the “it’s not my job” mentality, you must push through every day to inspire your coworkers. Figure out how you can share the main company objective with every single individual.  Don’t just ask how their role is affecting company success. Ask how their passions, creativity, and insight can keep moving the company forward. There is a wonderfully remarkable difference.

It is only through that kind of understanding and connection that you will continuously engage your teams and create an environment where collaboration and agility become less of an anxious headache and more of an adventure.

Have other ways that help? I’d love to hear them!

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