Avoid These 4 Words If You're Hoping to Get a Promotion This Year

"that's not my job"

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Laura Berlinsky-Schine2.3k

“That’s not my job.”

Any busy professional, no matter what their age, career experience, industry or occupation, has thought those words at one time or another. But saying them out loud could get you into trouble.

Being asked to do work outside of your role or current responsibilities is frustrating. You may not have the time or energy. You could be swamped with other tasks — tasks that actually ARE part of your job description.

But you don’t want to sound like you’re not a team player. And if you say “that’s not my job” to a supervisor or colleague, you’ll sound like a poor sport, as well as severely jeopardize your future and reputation.

What should you do instead?

Be honest.

If you’re swamped, simply say so. Let them know that you’d love to help, but you’re overwhelmed with urgent tasks at the moment. If your manager is the one assigning the new responsibilities, ask which tasks are higher priority, so you can reorganize your to-do list as needed. Or, suggest, you tackle the additional duties once you’ve completed the more urgent work.

It’s also possible you don’t have the skillset to complete the work. If that’s the case, tell the individual that you don’t have any experience with these particular responsibilities but that you’d be happy to learn, if they or someone else might be able to show you. 

Suggest collaborating.

It’s possible that you’ll be better equipped to complete the job if someone else helps. Propose this as a solution, or suggest that you do part of the assignment and another team member (maybe even the person asking) does another portion — again, reminding them of everything else you have on your plate. 

Set limits.

Another possible solution is to agree to the job while setting limits on the time and energy you are able to put into the project. Phrase it politely. For example: “I’d be happy to help, but I’m really busy with X, Y and Z at the moment. I can certainly put in a couple of hours, though — I’d just need to get back to my other project at [TIME].”

There might be occasions when you simply can’t do the work the other person is asking of you. If you can’t do it, say so. Just avoid being rude (or saying “That’s not my job”). Explain what’s preventing you from completing the task, and, if you can, suggest alternatives, such as additional resources.


This article reflects the views of the author and not necessarily those of Fairygodboss.

Laura Berlinsky-Schine is a freelance writer and editor based in Brooklyn with her demigod/lab mix Hercules. She specializes in education, technology and career development. She also writes satire and humor, which has appeared in Slackjaw, Points in Case, Little Old Lady Comedy, Jane Austen’s Wastebasket, and Funny-ish. View her work and get in touch at: www.lauraberlinskyschine.com.

What’s your no. 1 piece of advice for dealing with tasks outside of your job responsibilities? Share your answer in the comments to help other Fairygodboss members!