Tuesday, August 07, 2018

That's not my job!


What are the most self-damaging statements a young professional can make?

As a young man starting my work life, I joined a forging company. Like everyone else of my age, I had big dreams of making an impact, earning respect and rising up the ladder quickly. Like most others, I thought that people up the hierarchy probably didn't deserve the status they had earned. I knew for sure that hard work and sincerity in my work was the key to success. Very soon, I had many people reporting to me and some of them were my father's age! I became a Shift In-charge managing the maintenance function and had one particularly highly talented electrician in my team. This man was an expert trouble-shooter who, as legend had it, could tell the problem by smelling a circuit board.

At the top of the plant hierarchy was the General Manager, who became the Vice-President of the Group in just about 2 years that I was there. He had risen from a plant supervisor to the Vice-President in less than a decade of joining the company. Legend also had it that he could tell you that a particular bearing set was worn out on hearing the press "cry" while passing by the factory in his car. The comparison with my expert electrician was stark and made even more conspicuous because of the fact that both had joined the company together at the same rank!

This VP gentleman, however, could also tell the problems in an account statement, give expert opinion on raising debt from the market and help the marketing interns reach out to new clients. The Electrician stayed, more or less, where he had been.

The key difference between the two men was the single statement "That's not my job". Mr. VP made it his habit to reach out to other colleagues over cups of tea and made an effort to understand their work. He made sure that he was available for any "menial" work in any department at any level.

In my considerable work experience at different levels, I have seen those people moving up faster who haven't held themselves chained to their allotted work. Statements like "Am I supposed to do all the work?" or "Why don't you do it yourself if you think you can do better?" don't go down well with your manager. But more importantly, these statements are damaging their own future career more than anyone else.

My advice to young and not-so-young professionals is to cross-skill and up-skill before you get out-skilled!