As work schedules and job requirements are changing around the globe these days, one of our authors reflects on the flexibility required by so many jobs. With or without COVID-19, CX and EX are always key priorities.
At one of my previous jobs, one co-worker really stood out, and not necessarily for a good reason. As soon as he was hired, it became clear that he didn’t care about his job at all. And while first impressions offer room to change, this colleague was resistant to change, even after multiple advisory and disciplinary conversations.
At this job, there was sometimes very little to do, but even when there was a lot to do he still managed to ignore it. On top of that, he wouldn’t follow through with any request that his managers gave him. He was simply not a good fit for the job.
The story that summarized his experience was an incident with a customer shortly after he started. A customer asked him if he could help her pick up something that she couldn’t manage. It was a simple request that would have taken only a minute or two to fulfill. You’d expect a typical response to this kind of request to be “Absolutely I can help you with that!” or “I have to do x,y, or z, but afterwards I’d be happy to help you!” But his response wasn’t anywhere close. Instead, he said…
“Sorry, I’m not going to help you with that. It’s not in my job description.”
Obviously, that was the wrong thing to say. The customer was understandably upset. Anyone who has ever done a job in retail can relate to having to complete tasks outside of their job description, and while it might not always be fun, it is important to help out wherever is needed. This goes beyond retail work: most jobs require people to occasionally do things outside of their job description. The former coworker above didn’t seem to understand (or care) that it was good for him to help — both good for the customers to experience and for the managers to see. You want your managers and coworkers to trust you with tasks that you are given. The people you work for and with want to see you go above and beyond what’s required, because that’s how you provide good service, maintain good working relationships, and potentially get promotions.
He didn’t last much longer at the job, but I got an outside perspective of the benefits of working beyond the job requirements. Beyond the potential to look good in front of your managers and the possibility of a promotion, it also shows your coworkers that you can help them out, too. It encourages team cohesion, which means that the next time you need to do something that’s beyond your job description, a colleague is more likely to step in and help you out. It circles back to the golden rule: treat others how you want to be treated. Sometimes you need to put in extra time to get the job done: it’s what a professional does.
Beyond any of the job requirements, any of the good impressions, or any of the potential promotions, it’s just good to help out your fellow person. When I was talking to one of my closest friends about this topic, he put it perfectly: “I would help someone lift something if they randomly asked me for help on the street, so why wouldn’t I do it if I had time to help at work?” I think that speaks volumes. There are plenty of times in life where we all have to step out of our planned day to help others one way or another. It’s good to do that when we have the time: help take the neighbors dog out, make a meal for friends when they’re feeling unwell, or helping someone move into a new house. It’s important to be able to perform outside of your job description and daily life plan because, if anything else, you’ll learn something new and gain some experience you might not have gained otherwise. Additionally, assisting others is just a good thing to do.
There are times at any job where might you have to stay longer than you were expecting; it happens when you need to get stuff done. It’s not always fun or convenient, but it is important. When it comes to a point that you are constantly working overtime, it might be good to take a step back and realize you don’t have to take on every extra responsibility. When I was at the job I’ve been writing about, I couldn’t always help people, but I could find someone else to help. It’s all about balance.
Soon after the incident described above, my colleague approached me to ask what to say to customers who wanted help for something that he (technically) wasn’t required to do. I told him that if he was so busy he couldn’t help or didn’t know the answer, he should try to find someone else who could. But, if he could help that customer he should just take the small amount of time to go and help her. For me, it comes down to respect. Respecting the job, respecting my colleagues, respecting my managers, and most importantly respecting the customers. In the end, I don’t think the coworker I mentioned had much respect for any aspect of the job. Still, hopefully, he learned from the experience, and hopefully, he can look back and learn from his mistakes. Wherever his next opportunity is, I hope he learns that to be a great employee and colleague you have to just roll with what happens, even if the tasks aren’t necessarily in your job description.
If you’re seeing this kind of issue, it might be time to both review your employee engagement strategy and to re-evaluate your employees’ customer service training.