It is generally good to have a job description. This job description usually comes in two different forms. It is either 1. incredibly detailed, or 2. very crude and full of elastic rules: “…and anything assigned by the manager…”. Let’s call it a “flexible” job description.
Labor law, business realities and one’s sense of justice often clash. Therefore, it is the common sense, goodwill, professional determination, motivation and mutual human respect (!) of the parties that normally governs the relationship. Nothing more is needed, nothing less would suffice. Lawyers come to the fore when this power structure is sadly disrupted.
If I have to choose between the two types of job description (flexible or detailed), I always go for the more flexible contract. A flexible solution is certainly a problem if the management is not familiar with any management techniques other than Command & Control.
However, if the management is goal-oriented and provides all the support to achieve the goals, including its own personal leadership responsibility, a flexible description is very good for the organization. It leaves room for reaction, for individual professional decisions. Command & Control, on the other hand, ties the hands of the people at the company and results in an unresponsive organization that is unable to intervene and constrains decision-making mechanisms.
A detailed, comprehensive job description is actually an opportunity to hide from responsibility.
Problems versus compliance
We are unlikely to be able to solve many of the problems we face at the workplace in line with our job descriptions. No organization can produce guidelines for every situation, for every problem, with pre-defined scenarios and responsibilities. I witnessed many such attempts, and sooner or later they all ended up producing tons of non-processable and unaccountable manuals.
Is there a solution?
Let’s start with putting the words “employee” and “management” right.
This distinction is harmful and at the same time rightly upsetting to all people of good conscience. If we don’t want to be like that, let’s start by changing the way we talk.
Anyone with an employment contract is called a “worker”. If the management feels itself to be a privileged group, I have bad news: it is the collaboration between the servant leader and non-management that can produce sustainable business results. Any other solution leads to short-term exploitation. It might be effective for a while, but will inevitably fail.
Ego OFF, Support ON
The first step is to let go of the ego. Once we have done that, we can start thinking about what kind of organization we should build and how.
My favorite principle of the Agile Manifesto is the following: Build projects around motivated individuals. Give them the environment and support they need, and trust them to get the job done.
Where there is meaningful work, colleagues want to solve problems. It’s only worth doing with motivated people.
But motivation is not enough. Support is also essential. And this support should not be limited to a pat on the back. That’s not real support, that’s bull***t…
Support is when people who encounter problems are given the empowerment that enables them to overcome obstacles.
Motivation combined with bad management is actually harmful
One of the most tangible signs of a motivated colleague is their wish to solve problems, because they want to get the job successfully done. They often want to solve problems even without a shred of support from the management.
In the worst scenario, non-management does this out of fear (“if I don’t find a way to solve it, I’ll be fired”). This mostly occurs in organizations where the management always finds the person “responsible” for the mistakes, but this person is never one of them.
If it is not fear that motivates employees, but they still do not get the right support from the management, we find ourselves in an organization where much can be done, but almost always through detours, a system of favors. To use a popular term of conspiracy theories, a “deep state” is developed.
Unfortunately, such organizations are also doomed to fail, but for them, there is a cure!
First of all, the “deep state” must be eliminated. The only way to do this is through direct, honest, open and protected communication. Problems must be revealed and real, consensual answers must be given.
Be careful! Let us not confuse the concepts of consensus and compromise! Consensus can be sustained and developed. Compromise only waits for the right moment to fail, binding the parties to a status quo.
As a second step, job descriptions must be transformed into recommendations.
If someone keeps waving their job description around saying “That’s not my job! Everybody should solve their own problems! I’ve got enough!”, unfortunately, they are not really motivated to solve problems and cannot do the job effectively. We need people who fundamentally want to create value through their work. And once we find such people, they should not be squeezed into the limits of job descriptions.
For motivated employees, management support means that, regardless of their job description, they can discuss problems openly and honestly and then work together to find meaningful and actionable solutions.
Such an organization will thrive! In such a workplace, it will be a pleasure to work and create.