Could you not take my job?
February 15, 2015 8:35 PM   Subscribe

My boss had me write my own job description. I wrote a wicked awesome one. Now everyone wants it. But it's mine...How do I politely tell people to step off?

My new boss had us write job descriptions when she came in last year, so I decided to write a job description for the job I really wanted (and didn't necessarily already have). We had a lot of back and forth, but came to an agreement about the description - and it is a pretty great job, totally something I can do and think is fun. But apparently other people think it's fun too and I've gotten every variation from accusations of stealing someone else's job ('I wanted that job!!') to someone actually just cutting and pasting portions of my job description into their job description. There isn't really that much job to go around - it's sort of a one person thing and I don't really need help with it. My boss has been good about defending my position, but I'm totally floored by this continued attempt to take my job. How do I politely tell people to step off? I've never experienced anything like this before and I'm really perplexed by it.
posted by Toddles to Work & Money (12 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
This is something your boss should be dealing with. Everyone should have their own job description and their supervisors should make sure they are sticking to them. You do not have to solve this one one on your own beyond saying, no thanks I don't any help with this. It's in you boss' job description to straighten this out.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 8:45 PM on February 15, 2015 [13 favorites]

I would just say, "step off'! This is my job. Do not be so polite that you let other people take your job. There is no politeness when they are being jerks to you. Just say, "step off!" and smile. Then of course go to your boss and tell them that others are interfering with your workload by finagling.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 9:04 PM on February 15, 2015 [4 favorites]

Your boss has a job description. Others are trying to fill it. Who wrote the description is irrelevant. You need to take this up with your boss, and/or be really good at that job. You don't really get to call dibs, ordinarily.
posted by pompomtom at 9:05 PM on February 15, 2015 [4 favorites]

I agree this is really all your boss's decision and responsibility. If coworkers come to you directly asking to work on your tasks, handle them as ThatCanadianGirl described. Otherwise, it's outside your purview.
As pompomtom said, writing the description doesn't necessarily seem like it would give you dibs on the tasks in perpetuity. Again, it's your boss's call. Luckily, it sounds like they're on your side, so things should work out well.
You should just focus on doing your job as best you can and ignoring any annoying actions from your coworkers.
posted by Fishkins at 9:22 PM on February 15, 2015

I would just say, "step off'! This is my job. Do not be so polite that you let other people take your job. There is no politeness when they are being jerks to you. Just say, "step off!" and smile.

I agree with all of this except the "smile" part. Workplace bullies are not much different than schoolyard ones. Unfortunately there are a ton of people in the world who take politeness as an invitation to walk all over others. It's a nice fantasy that they'll eventually "take the hint" and back off, but no- they need to be firmly told.

The thing is, if you are polite for too long, they may just push and push until you blow up, and then try to put the blame on you. It's much better to set expectations up front- specifically, that you are an unpleasant person to fuck with. I know from experience how bad it can get if you fail to do this.
posted by drjimmy11 at 9:22 PM on February 15, 2015 [6 favorites]

My boss has been good about defending my position

So your boss agrees this is your job, and yet others are trying to take it from you? I think this kind of negates the "it's not really your job" answers.
posted by drjimmy11 at 9:24 PM on February 15, 2015 [3 favorites]

I can't tell from your question exactly how these folks are operating, but these might work:

"Thanks for the offer, but I don't need any help today!" Accompanied by big smile and happy exit.

"You'll be the first person I ask for help if I ever need it. Thank you!" Another big smile and happy exit.

"I have that part covered, but could use some help with (tedious task) if you have some extra time."
posted by raisingsand at 6:53 AM on February 16, 2015 [3 favorites]

It sounds like people think that by copying portions of your job description into theirs, they can magically get rid of the parts of their own jobs that they don't want to do, in exchange for having certain other responsibilities listed on their description. Even when those responsibilities belong to you (or someone else) and aren't large enough to be shared.

Even if it isn't 100% accurate, I'd go with something like the following:
"I'm flattered that you like my job description enough to use it as a guide for your own. But really our boss wants us to describe what we actually do, rather than what we want to do. My responsibilities changed around the same time I wrote my description because I was already in the process of speaking with Boss about changing them. My responsibilities changed by mutual agreement and were then formalized in my job description, not the other way around."
posted by trivia genius at 7:11 AM on February 16, 2015 [5 favorites]

I've gotten every variation from accusations of stealing someone else's job ('I wanted that job!!')

Did you actually take over someone else's existing tasks without your boss knowing, or without that person (or those people) being aware of the shifting responsibilities? It's really unclear from your description what happened, which means that it might be extremely unclear to your coworkers what happened or how tasks got renegotiated. (Which is your boss's job to fix, but it may be helpful to figure out if you contributed to it.)
posted by jaguar at 8:32 AM on February 16, 2015 [6 favorites]

You can't really do anything. This is not some copyrighted passage you have written.

This is the stuff that happens to help one figure out what kind of people they work with. THIS is the kind of people you work with. Finding out this way can be considered a blessing.

Watch your back.
posted by hal_c_on at 9:22 AM on February 16, 2015 [1 favorite]

This sounds odd to me because where I work, changes to job descriptions have to be approved by HR, and they have to be based on the actual work one is already doing or will be doing (example of "will be": "for Q2 we're starting a new project and YourName will be project lead"). So it wouldn't matter if everybody at work looked at my job description and said "Ooh, you collate the sparklewidgets? I want to be a sparklewidget collator!" because HR knows that there's only one FTE-worth of sparklewidget collation that needs to be done, and there's somebody (me) who's already doing it.

If that's not how your workplace operates, and if it's possible to just sort of… take over other people's responsibilities, I'd be highly suspicious of the people in question. I'm bad at detecting office politics, but that scenario reeks of office politics. If this is the case, you should be actively working with your manager to ensure that your accomplishments are recognized and that you're not getting backstabbed by somebody who won't rest until they're collating those sparklewidgets and you've been shunted off to a cube in the basement.
posted by Lexica at 10:31 AM on February 16, 2015 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks everyone, this was all very helpful. I think I was being sort of whiny about this, and I need to be upfront that:
1. It's my job as assigned, but of course that can change and that's up to my boss (can't call 'dibs!')
2. This is really not my problem, it's my bosses problem. She is the final decider and so let her sweat it.
Also 3. Document, document, document. Gotta watch that back!

I think you all helped me clarify - appreciate it!
posted by Toddles at 4:47 PM on February 17, 2015

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