Written by David Marceau, VP Sales for Ridgefield One, LLC.
Since going into the Staffing business, I’ve been baffled by the reaction candidates have towards a job description being an exact match for the actual work duties. We hear feedback like, “That’s not in my job description,” or “This isn’t what I expected.” The end result is the employee quits the job.
I’m of the school of thought that when you get hired to do a job, you go to work to do whatever the company requires to be successful (within legal and ethical guidelines). A good example is when Forrest Gump’s drill sergeant asks him, “What's your sole purpose in this army?” He replies uncertainly, “To do whatever you tell me, drill sergeant!” The drill sergeant barks back, “This is the most outstanding answer I have ever heard.”
I didn’t always think like that. I once had a job where I thought I was smarter than my manager and I could do things in a better method than I was prescribed to do. Essentially, I was re-inventing the wheel. Meanwhile the training I had received was acclaimed by Fortune Magazine as being the best in the field. So to be successful, all I had to do was to do what I was told.
I failed miserably at that job. The one thing I agreed on with my manager was that at the end of my first year I should leave, and I did.
The next time around, I decided that I wasn’t going to do things my way. I was going to do like Forrest Gump and do whatever it was my manager told me to do. This way, if I failed to accomplish the goals that were set out for me, it would be on my manager, not on me. I also figured that the reason that guy was the manager was because he had sat in my seat for many years and had figured out the business. So there was a chance that if I did things his way, I might just learn something.
You know what? I was wildly successful at that job. The other unplanned benefit was, when the manager got upset at my team, other employees received his stern admonishments, but I was usually in the clear. Most of my teammates would complain about the manager behind his back, but I was all right with him. We got along because I just did whatever he told me to do, the way he told me to do it.
I’ve taken this lesson forward and now try to apply it whenever possible. Here at Ridgefield One, we’re a small company and things can move quickly. Roles and responsibilities evolve as the company grows and often our employees are asked to do things that weren’t in the original job description. Those who can adapt do well and are happier and have a longer tenure than those who refuse to work outside a narrow, rigid interpretation of the original job description.
The same goes for the candidates we place with our clients. One consultant, for example, started work using a basic entry-level skillset. He did it well and accepted new challenges as they came along. This enabled him to turn a one month engagement into over a year of work. The client was happy with him and they got a lot of value out of him so they kept extending him.
Conversely, we’ve had people quit the jobs we set up for them because the job turned out to be something other than what they had expected and they refused to adapt to the new circumstances.
This has led me to declare that we should do away with the traditional job description. All job descriptions should be one sentence, “Do whatever it is your manager tells you to do.” I call it The Gump Description.
Sure, it’s good to have an overview of day-to-day tasks, and certainly managers and recruiters need to have some parameters around a general skillset. But in the end, it comes down to one thing. When someone is hired by an employer, that employer has a goal above and beyond whatever it is they’re hiring for. The employee is there to help the company be successful, whatever that means. Sometimes that requires everyone to pitch in and do things that weren’t in the original job description.