It’s just about me – How to avoid a ‘not my job’ culture in the workplace.

Human Resources 27th November 2023

If you have ever had to deal with a ‘not my job’ colleague, you will know just how frustrating it can be. Worse though is if that same mentality seeps into the overall culture because it can be more than frustrating, it can be financially damaging and ruin the reputation of your business.

“Not my job, mate” – the silo mentality.
We have all encountered the kind of employee who is focused solely on their own job role and refuses to do anything beyond that. The idea of the brown coat clad worker, leaning on a shovel and saying ‘not my job, mate’ to any request is entrenched in British culture. While those outdated stereotypes are thankfully long gone, the danger of that kind of silo mentality is still with us.

As with any attitude-based issue in a business, the ‘not my job’ culture can spread very quickly and it can lead to some serious morale, loyalty, and productivity issues amongst the team. You end up with an employee who is just going through the motions and doing the bare minimum. They may well perform their core duties, but they are doing what’s known as ‘silent quitting’. They arrive, they complete the minimum required and they go home … nothing beyond that. The employee is disaffected, dissatisfied, just there for the salary, and usually rather unhappy at work. They fixate on their own role to the exclusion of everything else because it is what pays the bills. They become an enclosed silo of activity where their only benchmark is the completion of their own duties.

The toxic effect of focusing solely on their own areas can lead employees to fall victim to a version of group thinking that then creates a larger team silo. This is particularly prevalent in bigger businesses or institutions where department size creates a sort of clan mindset. At its worst it, creates a work environment where the response of ‘sorry that’s the responsibility of another department’ is the default position. If left to grow it can become endemic to the entire workplace culture.

‘Not my job’ mentality is toxic and pervasive and if you think you are seeing it develop, or already know it is there, you need to deal with it.

What can be done to prevent silo mentality?
Part of the issue with dealing with a silo mentality situation is that practically speaking, the employee is performing to an agreed standard and if you ask for more from them, they will simply point to the key performance benchmarks for their job as evidence that they are working. No harm, no foul, the work has been done. However, minimum effort is hardly a desirable benchmark and when a workforce is operating this way it is almost impossible to develop or grow the company.

To prevent and reverse the effects of silo thinking you may need to accept some uncomfortable truths. If just one employee is behaving this way, it could be for any number of legitimate reasons. If several employees are behaving in the same way it indicates a culture problem, which may mean starting, not with the employees, but with the environment they work in. Some of the sources of silo thinking can be:

The goals and vision of the business are not clearly articulated to the workforce
A lack of clear communication between departments
There is not enough understanding of the workload and skillsets of others
Team members don’t see the value of others
There is competition for resources, budgets, attention from management, and similar issues, that result in a lack of sharing of responsibility
Employees feel success and achievement are not recognised or rewarded
There is a problem with remuneration, contracts or working conditions causing dissatisfaction.

If these conditions are the cause of the problem, then the way to deal with it is to first recognise the source of the dissatisfaction and then reverse the factors causing it.

These are a few ways in which we can work with you to change your company culture:

Training and team building across departments
Individual growth and career planning for employees
Rewards and recognition strategies
Conflict resolution
Organisational reviews and contract reviews
Improved onboarding processes

Employees who are developing, or have developed, a silo mentality will not break out of it by simply being told to do so. After all, as we mentioned earlier, they have rarely done anything wrong contractually or in terms of their workload. Beating the ‘not my job’ mindset is most likely to be about reviewing your approach and working towards creating a more inclusive, focused, environment. That change starts by shifting the attitudes of the individual workers. There is a wonderful adage that very neatly displays the approach needed – ‘What is good for the bee is good for the hive’. Once your employees see that their best personal interests are in alignment with the goals of the business, the silo mentality should begin to break down.

If you think you might have a problem with ‘not my job’ thinking, we are happy to talk about reviewing your human resources approach. Call us on 01604 763494 and let’s see how we can help get you back on track.

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