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Employees: Why you must know your job description

Last updated on: June 9, 2011 15:03 IST

Employees: Why you must know your job description

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Brillian S K

Locked out of car, Indian Bank CMD slams door on regional head. The screaming headline got me startled for a moment. I was wondering is this for real? Is this happening in India?

A flurry of angry mails flooded my inbox. As I read each message, it was clear, this time the Boss had crossed all limits. The reality was shocking, beyond human logic and reason. Are these the kind of corporate leaders we look up to?

Had this occurred in the west, the media would have splashed it all over and the CMD would be running around apologising and extending an olive branch to the affected employee.

Such behaviour on a sporadic basis has been reported in the past, but the gravity of the situation is evident from the fact that the allegation is 'behaviour unbecoming of a top management cadre in the bank'. The poor manager, without any inkling of what hit him went ahead to apologise for not being able to fulfil his duties. After 34 years of dedicated service behind him, this was a bolt from the blue. Ironically it was the same CMD who had consoled the regional head on the loss of his wife recently, extending all support for the family in the time of need.

Brillian S. K, is an avid Public Speaker and an HR Professional with experience in Education, IT & BFSI sectors. He can be reached on brillian@gmail.com / http://in.linkedin.com/in/brillian


Photographs: Rediff Archives
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Way back in 2006 when I was in London on an official visit, I had to make copies of about 100 employee files. Being new to the office and needing a helping hand, I sought the office assistant's help. Imagine my surprise when the lady shot back an automated reply 'I need to check my job description, I am not sure if it mentions about this activity'. This would not have been accepted in India, but this was London and I did not have a choice... I had to manage everything from pulling out the documents from storage, wheeling them down to the photocopier, binding and carrying it back to the office without any support.

I recollect how early in my career I was eager to help and would chip in every time anyone needed help. I was trying to be nice and helpful always. During one formal meeting my boss casually passed on a trivial task, 'just hand it over to him, he will do it'. That day, I realised in my eagerness to help, I had let people take me and my job for granted.

In front of about 50 employees I clarified, loud and clear 'just because I have been helping doesn't mean that it's my job!' This helped, though I regret losing my temper, the message was clearly delivered and understood by the recipient. The above instances give us a reason to have a formal job description. Be it for hiring, be it for existing employees, having a job description helps in making people become accountable. Keeping it vague would result in blame game and a worst case scenario, as seen in the regional head's case.



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Do you need a job description? The answer is YES! Job Description (JD) clearly identifies and spells out the responsibilities of the job. While there may be some gray areas, or work that is not clearly known before you start, but once you start doing it regularly, ensure that your JD is updated.

JDs must include information about working conditions, tools and equipments if used, knowledge and skills needed, and relationships with other positions. JDs serve dual purpose:

1. It helps employees in understanding what the organisation expects from them

2. Provides the organisation a clear cut understanding of what to expect from the employees



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If the regional head of Indian Bank had a job description, he would realise that it was not a part of his duty to escort the CMD from the airport to the Bank. Nor was it mandatory for him to provide any alternate arrangement. While the definition of 'basic courtesy' can be interpreted by different people, differently, in simple terms it means being polite to the other person. With simple reasoning, I believe that the regional head did extend basic courtesy, the CMD expected 'basic courtesy' which was unreasonable, insane and absurd.

While this story got highlighted, there are innumerable stories that are untold. Thousands of employees suffer silently, as they choose not speak. The question, therefore, my dear friends is: When and where do you draw your line?

Though some would disagree about the need for a JD in the Indian scenario, organisations must begin to be realistic and ensure that every employee has a clear and written job description. This would ensure that such instances that cause national shame and embarrassment for Indians never see the light of day.



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