How much are favors costing you? Holding team members accountable for their roles: when staff members can't finish their daily tasks or special project work, a persistent cause is that they are voluntary and repeatedly completing the work of colleagues in other divisions.

Author:Rahban, Sharon
Position:Management & Careers

How often has an employee voluntarily taken on the workload of colleagues in other divisions, explaining, "I'm doing them a favor"? In this case, the word "voluntarily" means that the employee--and your department--is not getting anything of value back for this additional work. This can be a frustrating situation for a manager who wasn't consulted in advance.

In many cases, staff members aren't getting their daily tasks or special project work done on time. Many factors may contribute: The workload is sometimes simply too great to be supported by the number of employees assigned, a new major endeavor creates scheduling issues, a key employee leaves, or a key contractor fails to perform. And a fixture on this list is the persistent problem of staff voluntarily and repeatedly completing the work of colleagues in other divisions.


On the face of it, this behavior doesn't make sense. Why make this voluntary effort? When asked, employees often say:

* The colleague in the other department was not properly trained.

* The colleague was trained but still does not understand what is expected or needed.

* The colleague has had some training but refuses further training and claims that a certain task is not part of his or her job description.

* The task was passed on by the employee's predecessor or by other coworkers, and the employee's original training included the expectation that this type of work would be done for colleagues.

* The employee sympathizes with a colleague for having a workload that's too heavy and is trying to be kind by offering to help.

* The employee's coworker convinced the volunteer staff that the additional work is actually part of the employee's duties, and the employee never confirmed this with his or her manager.


The effort these employees make to remain customer service-oriented is laudable, and this behavior does have some benefits, including making the employee who completes the work seem like a team player--capable, trustworthy, and easy to work with. The employee may feel a greater sense of accomplishment once all his or her tasks are completed, perhaps in addition to happiness from being able to help someone else. Many employees who volunteer to take on additional work also feel strongly that "if you want something done right, then do it yourself," so finishing tasks for others appeals to their sense of getting the job done correctly.


Feeling better about one's...

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