“That’s not in my job description”

2 minute read

For years I thought that the sentence “That’s not in my job description” was just something that happened in remote situations or movies about dysfunctional offices, until I found someone mentioning that to me directly with a straight face.

It’s something that caught me off guard. We were discussing a rather obvious thing in my perspective: we wanted to review some features for a product because they didn’t match the strategy for the product itself. “That’s beyond my salary range” was the answer: that person was hired to execute things, not define them, and that wasn’t just fine with him, it was all he wanted and was willing to block us to do anything about it.

I was baffled. That wasn’t just dysfunctional on a company level — and a red flag on the internal culture the managers there were setting up — but also on a personal level. I get that someone might not want to get into difficult discussions, but blocking others? That was an entirely different thing.

He was willing to make the company release a bad product because of the role he was hired in.

Which translates to: he feared something deeper he wasn’t aware of.

That’s why it’s not surprising that in recent years we’re discovering more and more the importance of soft skills and emotional intelligence. We’re still a bit far away to acknowledge them everywhere being on par of narrow skills, but we’re getting there.

Travis Bradberry outlines in this article a few traits that exceptional employees share:

  1. They’re willing to delay gratification.
  2. They can tolerate conflict.
  3. They focus.
  4. They’re judiciously courageous.
  5. They’re in control of their egos.
  6. They’re never satisfied.
  7. They recognize when things are broken and fix them.
  8. They’re accountable.
  9. They’re likeable.
  10. They neutralize toxic people.

The article mentions these as characteristics of “exceptional” employees. In my view, these are however characteristics of normal employees. And as junior professionals need to learn some skills, I totally expect that some of the items on this list need to be learnt and improved as well, that’s ok.

I’m also not 100% in agreement over a few items on that list. “Never satisfied” can be a good thing for example if it means “always improving”, but the negative phrasing can instead point to some unresolved issues. Also, I think that “They’re aware of their own emotions and manage them” should be on the list more explicitly.

What however we need to change is to consider these things as exceptional. They are exceptional only because today we hire blindly in terms of emotional intelligence.