I hate the words “not my job” yet I find myself thinking them several times a day.

I like helping people. I like figuring things out. A long time ago I worked in a bookstore, and I actually enjoyed helping people who would come in and want me to find the book they needed based on the color of the cover and a vague description of the title and knowing that it was the same author who wrote that other book about that thing. It was only after they left that I would laugh with the other booksellers about how much easier it would be if we just organized the books by color.

What I don’t like are people who expect me to solve their problems for them without the barest acknowledgement that they are their problems and not my problems. There is a line between doing something for someone else because it’s your job and doing something for someone else because they can’t be bothered to do it themselves.

I think one issue is that people don’t understand what people who work in “communications” do. So apparently the assumption is we do everything. I also think people who work in “communications” are often like me, they want to help, so then they become the person who has the answer for everything (or can find the answer for everything – even if it’s a book based on what color the cover is).

Some examples:

I have become the knowledge expert on formatting things like PowerPoint and Word documents etc. I don’t mind helping format something the first time around. I don’t mind demonstrating how to fix something in PowerPoint or use a formula in Excel. And of course I don’t mind reviewing documents to make sure it adheres to corporate brand standards. But only one of those things is technically “my job.” What I do mind is showing someone over and over again how to format a document because they can’t be bothered to learn how to do it. And I really mind that half the time when I’m trying to figure something out, I’m using the help function or Google anyway, so it’s not like I’m really an “expert” so much as a person who knows how to look stuff up.

I don’t mind showing people where things are on the intranet. I get it, it’s a big place, there’s a lot of information. And as hard as I tried to make navigation as intuitive as possible, I know that not everyone will be able to find things all the time, and as the “owner” of the intranet, they’ll call me. What I do mind is their inability to (a) learn where the search button is or (b) bookmark the page they’ve asked about five times in the last month.

I don’t mind helping plan a Sharepoint site. I don’t mind being the liaison with IT because I understand the technology better (ie I speak both English and IT). I don’t mind uploading documents to the site and drafting and sending communications to the users of the site. What I do mind is being expected to solve the problem of how to add users to the site when I’ve already communicated what the process is per IT (which doesn’t include me) and then when two months later the process is deemed unacceptable, take responsibility for coming up with a new process when I don’t control the process.

It’s all of these little daily annoyances that add up that make this a not that fun place to work. Sure, this stuff happens everywhere to some extent. But it seems so few people are willing to take accountability, to take action. Everything is someone else’s problem. And I hate doing that to people. But at the same time, I feel I must push back at some point or all I’ll be doing is everyone else’s job and I’ll never have a chance to do my job. Do the things that make my job meaningful – not just for me but for the firm.

So yeah, I probably won’t actually say the words “that’s not my job”, and I’ll probably still find a way to help solve the issue. But I’ll be damned if I’m just going to figure out someone else’s problems for them.