You are in the groove at work. You know what to expect from others, what is expected of you, and the right people to go to for anything situation that may arise. Days get crazy, sure, but at least you can leave the office with a sense of purpose, control, and satisfaction in the daily grind.
And then you hear the words “reorganization,” “taking on new responsibilities,” “expanding your skillset,” “good for you,” or maybe “a challenge to help you grow.” Bottom line: your job description is changing and you may not have a choice in the matter. For some, this sounds great with no hesitation. For others, this understandably sounds daunting and overwhelming.
Can you change an employee's job description? Unfortunately, in situations like the above (reorganizations, department changes, and more), this is fairly common.
If you are an at-will employee, as many employees in the United States are, employers can usually change your job description, depending on state laws. (Check with your state to find out.)
But can a company just change your contract? Your employer cannot change the specific terms of a contract you've both signed. If your job duties are covered by a contract, your employer must ask you to sign a new one if they expect your work to change.
Your employer can change your schedule without your consent. The Fair Labor Standards Act offers no stipulations about scheduling, and there is no legal recourse for employees who are dissatisfied with changes in work hours.
Here are five steps to gracefully manage an imposed job description change.
When panic sets in, the thoughts inside our heads can be louder than the sounds around us. In the scenario of a job description change, it is important to zone in and listen to the details. And take notes! Never underestimate the power of taking good notes in an important business meeting or conversation.
Resist the urge to react on the spot. Give yourself time to process the change without saying something you could regret later. Don’t be afraid to ask for time in a calm, mature manner, even if your boss is pushing for an immediate response.
After you have taken a little time to process the change, compile a list of questions. What do you still need clarity on? How are the deliverables of your old job description being handled moving forward? Make sure you understand the expectations and deliverables of the new role. Now is the time to ask the questions and get the clarity you deserve.
At this point, you should have clarity on the new job description, and it is a good idea to look at the bigger picture. Do the changes in the job description help you get closer to your personal career goals? If they do, you are on track. If they do not, it’s time to strategize, which could include talking to your boss, pitching special projects in addition to the job description, finding a mentor or focusing on learning opportunities outside of work, like taking a class or joining an interest group. There is also the possibility that the new job description is very far from your future ambition, which is a good reality check to start looking for new opportunities.
Embrace the change and get started. If there are aspects of the new job description that require expanding your skillset, start learning. If there are aspects that require meeting new people, start networking. Whether this new job description is something you see as long-term or experimental, being open and willing to try shows a positive attitude.
Caitlin Larwood Collins is a content and social media consultant and freelance writer based in Connecticut. After eight years of digital marketing experience at large corporations in Manhattan, she decided to found her own consulting business, CaLaCo, focused on helping niche brands use content to tell their story, expand reach and drive action.
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