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THE PERILS OF NOT KNOWING YOUR RESPONSIBILITIES

Posted by Tim Bryce on November 2, 2015

BRYCE ON MANAGEMENT

– “Nobody is driving officer, we’re all in the back seat.”

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I recently read an interesting survey made by the Gallup organization titled, “Obsolete Annual Reviews: Gallup’s Advice” (Sep 28, 2015), which studied how cognizant workers are of their assigned duties and responsibilities. Interestingly, they found only 50% really understood this. The rest only had a mild interpretation or no idea at all. Gallup’s study was based on 50 organizations and 2.2 million employees. In addition to employees, managers also were not sure of their worker’s duties. This may help explain why companies are lagging in productivity. The Gallup report contends productivity gains of 5% to 10% can be realized simply by having workers understand their roles.

In addition to the fundamental duties and responsibilities of an employee, it is not uncommon for workers to misunderstand their various project assignments. Consequently time and money is lost as employees try to delineate their responsibilities, including their relationship with co-workers.

In this day and age, it is hard to imagine a company without such things as organization charts, job descriptions, and employee handbooks (aka, Policy Manuals), but evidently there are still companies not using this documentation. There are also those institutions who develop job descriptions so generically, employees are at a complete loss as to what they mean. Employee performance reviews should also be performed regularly, be it annually, bi-annually, or whatever. This allows the manager and the employee to review the worker’s performance, clarify their responsibilities, and make corrections as required. Finally, priority lists are useful for communicating to workers the precedent of job assignments thereby encouraging workers to row on the same oar.

It is not unusual for some companies, who make use of such documents, often find employees ignore them, as they do not want to feel encumbered or restrained, preferring instead to be unfettered and uninhibited. Of course, this is a reckless form of management and does not promote teamwork where everyone knows what their responsibilities are and how to work together.

Aside from these regular documents, it is also wise to define the methodologies of the business, representing the work breakdown structures and sequencing of work. Perhaps the best known methodology is the Assembly Line whereby products are mass produced by assembling components in a specific sequence. There is little point in having an assembly line if the workers do not understand what their duties and responsibilities are on the line; it will simply be counterproductive. Instead, each person in a methodology should know “Who,” is to perform “What” task, “When,” “Where,” “Why,” and “How” (aka, the “5-W’s + H”). In addition to specifying how work is to be performed, thereby improving productivity, defined methodologies are useful for improving the quality of products by specifying the acceptance criteria for each stage within the assembly. Methodologies overcome the classic problem of, “If you do not know where you are going, any road will take you there.” They define assignments, responsibilities, and provides direction for projects.

The Gallup study is startling, and hints at a basic management flaw in business. I see these forms of documentation as fundamental to the running of any business. As the study suggests, people want to know their duties and responsibilities, feeling insecure without such knowledge. As I have touted on more than one occasion, workers want to lead a worthy life, they want to believe what they are doing has purpose and meaning. This can only be achieved by communicating what is expected of them. Without it, they will flail away on project assignments, inevitably performing the wrong tasks and producing the wrong work products. They may be efficient workers, but if they are performing the wrong tasks in the wrong sequence, they will be counterproductive.

I am certainly not a proponent of Theory X “micromanagement,” however, the manager’s mantra should be “never let it be said, a worker doesn’t understand his/her responsibilities.” It should be considered an inherent part of any management program.

The point of the Gallup survey should be obvious: “Shapeth up, and geteth thine act together.”

Keep the Faith!

Note: All trademarks both marked and unmarked belong to their respective companies.

Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M&JB Investment Company (M&JB) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at timb001@phmainstreet.com

For Tim’s columns, see:   timbryce.com

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Copyright © 2015 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

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8 Responses to “THE PERILS OF NOT KNOWING YOUR RESPONSIBILITIES”

  1. [There are also those institutions who develop job descriptions so generically, employees are at a complete loss as to what they mean.]

    ^^^^ Once again, you have hit upon a flaw of the current system of management in place at a number of companies.

    I recall asking these type of questions in high school business classes, and receiving varied answers regarding management methods that made no sense to me then, and still make no sense now after 30+ years as a professional, and now as a retiree.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Wayne Brown said

    Prior to retirement from the corporate world, I witnessed a “globalizing” of job functions across international cultures. The premise on which this was done is that the corporation had people performing the same function world-wide. That assumption was only partially true as it was driven in functionality by the available resources in a given market. In other words, the job took on different responsibilities based on the limits of the market resources as a testing base. Not all markets had the resources to perform all tests. Consequently, the job descriptions were written very generically in order that they might fit the “international model”. As managers in the present, we recognized that these descriptions and responsibilities were flawed by the desire to package them nicely in one little bundle. Even the employee filling those roles recognized it. Unfortunately, those descriptions were soon tied to the annual evaluation process as points of evaluation which totally complicated the managers ability to evaluate and show the performance of the employee in his/her role. The real danger lies in the future employees and managers who assume these roles and have no awareness of the variable–soon the job description in all its erroneous traits defines a job which is dysfunctional at the local level. The proverbial “tail wagging the dog”. ~ WB

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Tim Bryce said

    A G.P. of Asheville, North Carolina wrote…

    “A really nice article, I too can not conceive of any organization without such basic tools in today’s organisations however I was reminded of a company I worked for in 1980. I asked for a Job Description and was told by the owner “Its what I say it is, and that changes daily”.and it did.”

    Like

  4. Tim Bryce said

    A W.M. of California wrote…

    “I see this all the time and it is a major validation about how conflict gets started with mis-matched expectations!”

    Like

  5. […] THE PERILS OF NOT KNOWING YOUR RESPONSIBILITIES […]

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  6. Rachel Inman said

    This is a great article and an issue that I have seen time and time again in the corporate world. I service in the military for 15 years where jobs roles were very clear and the result was high performing teams. Every role since has had flimsy, if any clear roles and responsibilities; very wasteful

    Liked by 1 person

  7. […] in the Workplace” “Our Sense of Professionalism” “When Havoc Strikes” “The Perils of not Knowing Your Responsibilities” “Democratic Management” “Are We Getting […]

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