Not-My-Job-itis

I stopped at the grocery store the other day to pick up a few small items. I didn’t need a cart – only a small hand-held basket, but there were none at the front door as there usually are. I found a store employee who was wiping off a self-checkout monitor and asked her where I might find a basket. She walked with me past several of the checkout stands until she found a basket that I could use. This woman was very friendly and helpful which left a positive impression with me.

The day before my grocery visit I was on an aircraft preparing to fly back to my hometown. In the row next to me were two seats without seat cushions. After a short delay a maintenance person for the airline arrived and installed new seatbelts for each seat. Then he left. The seat cushions still were not re-installed. After another delay, a supervisor showed up and surveyed the situation. Then yet another airline employee came and cleaned the seat bases and then repositioned the seat cushions.

Both examples cited seem relatively innocuous except for one thing. In each case the employees had a serious case of Not-My-Job-itis. The grocery store employee did not bother to tell a manager that there were no baskets at the front door. She was helpful in finding a basket for me, but apparently it wasn’t her job to see that the lack of baskets didn’t become a problem for the next customer (and when we left the store there still weren’t any baskets to be seen). In the airline situation the maintenance technician wasn’t able to clean the seat base – this evidently was someone else’s job. How easy it would have been for the technician to have installed the seatbelts, cleaned the seat base and repositioned the seat cushions.

Not-My-Job-itis causes inconvenience for customers. It causes inefficiency for the company which may indirectly result in higher prices for the customer. In an entrepreneurial environment Not-My-Job-itis is toxic and undermines the culture we are trying to create. One large company that seems to get it is Southwest Airlines. At the end of each flight I watch the flight attendants don latex gloves and move from row to row cleaning out seat pockets and preparing for the next flight. I’ve even seen pilots do this as well. Many old-line large companies are afflicted with Not-My-Job-itis as a result of union work rules. Non-union companies should avoid this malady at all costs.

As entrepreneurs we need to set an example for our team members. Whenever possible, we should pitch in and help our team with whatever functions need to be performed. When I walk through our corporate office and see a piece of trash on the floor, I bend over and pick it up. I see others do this as well. When I visit one of our apartment properties during a snowstorm, I won’t hesitate to grab a snow shovel or a broom to help clean the sidewalk. As the CEO is this my job? You bet it is! My job is to meet the needs of our customers and to be a role model for our team. If I’m not “too good” to shovel snow, then no one in our organization should be either.

The benefits of eliminating Not-My-Job-itis are many. And there is no downside to it. Our customers are the winners when we teach others that we are never too important to provide assistance wherever it may be needed.

This blog is being written in tandem with my book, “An Entrepreneur’s Words to Live By,” available on Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle (My Book), as well as being available in all of the other major eBook formats.

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