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Elizabeth Fuss Arnott, SPHR  I have been working in Human Resources for 23 years. Since 2011, I have been certified as a Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR).  I have a BA in English and a Master of Jurisprudence in Labor and Employment Law from Tulane Law School. I live in the Pacific Northwest with my husband Luke and our cat, Poirot. I write about HR, non-profits, the art of managing people and Neurodiversity in the workplace. I'm available for employment, contract work, consulting, coaching and training virtually and in the Portland, OR area. Please email me at for more information. 

  • Writer's pictureElizabeth Arnott, SPHR

The Battle Cry of "That's Not My Job!": When to Advance and When to Retreat

We've all heard it. "That's not my job!" And then we reply, "See that last line in your job description? The one that says 'other duties as assigned'? That means we can give you anything to do and you have to do it." Oh wait. That was HR in 2005.

Now we listen more to employees, right? And maybe the employee has a point. Obviously a job description can't possibly include every possible job duty that is assigned. But where do we draw the line for what is included in "other duties as assigned"?

If you hire an employee as a receptionist, and then you have him start cleaning the bathroom regularly, he's probably not gonna be jazzed about cleaning toilets - especially if it was never in the job description or discussed with him.

A job duty that's significantly different from the job that the person was hired for, requiring different skills, different clothes, different risks - those are not the job duties that go under "other duties as assigned." That's when you must retreat! Stop. Reevaluate the situation.

But for example, if you give the receptionist the additional duty of distributing the mail, in addition to opening the mail, that's something that could be assumed to be under "other duties as assigned" and you can go ahead and advance with adding it to the employee's job.

So evaluate - is this an extension of what they are already doing? Or is this something that requires a different skill set all together?

If you are adding a new regular duty, ideally, you will meet with the employee, explaining what you need from them, and update the job description ahead of time - before you have them start doing the new thing. Respecting their time, their expertise, their value as an employee.

So what's your response when someone says, "Hey, that's not my job!"? Instead of defensively pointing to the "other duties as assigned" line, sit down and talk with them. What is the new duty? How does it fit into their day? What are their concerns about doing it? LISTEN. Then reevaluate the situation with what you know after talking to the employee.

I can hear some of you shouting at me now "I don't have time to coddle these employees! We are paying them to work. They need to do what I tell them." Consider the lost productivity that will happen if you don't listen to the employee. Consider the lost time when the employees spend time complaining about their jobs to each other. Consider the negative morale that will result from not including them in the discussion. Do you have time to lose that productivity? No? Then you have time to talk with them.

It's quite simple, really. Respect begets respect. Respect your employee. Respect that they have expectations based on the job they were hired for. Talk to them. Include them in the conversation. Respect.

And then you will have both won at the war of work. At least for now!

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