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I have read alot of great questions and answers on workplace, and usually learn something worthwhile. Out of all the SE sites I find myself coming back here most often, due to the high quality of questions and answers.

However, like any Q&A site, there are occasional unhelpful posts. Sometimes even counterproductive - for example "just quit" pops up alot. Although sometimes it's the right thing to do, we usually have nowhere near enough information to responsibly recommend that.

I also see "that's not your job" or "your job is X not Y", sometimes without enough information from the OP to support the assertion (and on occasion, flying in the face of the OP who has said "this is my job"), sometimes based on the job title alone.

This seems to be most common around questions involving software jobs - I think alot of us may be pre-loaded with opinions on those (myself included).

I feel that in many cases, this is unhelpful white noise. You wouldn't tell your boss "I don't need to solve this problem because it's not my job, some person on the internet said so". Not unless things were really bad!

Most of the time we won't have enough info to know what the OP's duties actually are. While there are definitely times (like when discussing coworkers that the OP isn't responsible for) where "that's not your job" is probably > 90% truth, this often can be translated into a more direct "mind your own business".

Do we think "that's not your job" is helpful? Or is it one of those things we should only say in the proper context with enough information to back it up? Or maybe it's no big deal?

  • 3
    Can you link to some specific examples where you think the answer was unhelpful? – David K Jun 23 '16 at 16:21
  • Also, for more discussion on whether "just quit" is a good answer, check out this meta question – David K Jun 23 '16 at 16:22
  • @DavidK it's more often comments than answers, but I'll try and dig a few up. Most recently my own question had a few of those as comments, but I didn't want to make meta-waves by linking it. – nurgle Jun 23 '16 at 16:28
  • one example: a supervisor asking about how to help his subordinate: workplace.stackexchange.com/questions/63698/… – nurgle Jun 23 '16 at 16:33
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    Well, that one has a negative score, so I would say it isn't useful, and if you look at the comments, the author has also changed his mind. – David K Jun 23 '16 at 16:49
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    Here's another example, where the OP is asking about enforcing company policy for a colleague (not subordinate). The answer happens to be from the same user, but in that case I would say "It's not your job" is an appropriate response. – David K Jun 23 '16 at 16:53
  • The point of comments it to elicit more information or clarification. If in fact it is the posters job they should clarify that. Often people come here looking for help in changing the behavior/expectations of their coworkers whom they are not responsible for. Sometimes reminding people that they need to let their manager manage is the right answer – IDrinkandIKnowThings Jun 29 '16 at 19:46
  • Not sure what upvoting means in regard to this question, especially since you phrased an either / or at the end, but hey, I upvoted all the same! – user37746 Jun 30 '16 at 2:39
14

Really, nothing should be said without a bit of context. A previous boss of mine used to like to say "If you do it once, it becomes your job" as a caution against being too helpful because the end users would get used to it and expect it.

A saying like that can appear snarky and unhelpful without context.

Same thing with "not your job".

In many cases it is the appropriate response such as when an intern is asking if he should change everything, or if a coworker is complaining about another coworker and wants to deal with them when it really should be management. We've all seen those questions.

The particular user you are mentioning is blunt by nature, and I've told him that I think he is the "Simon Cowell" of SE. Blunt, and brutally honest, and prone to answering in terse fashion.

However the terseness of a response does not negate it's value. Sometimes a terse response is what is required. Sometimes a more gentle approach must be taken. Again, as one size fits none, a case by case approach must be taken.

For someone like me, yes it is indeed helpful, for others perhaps not.

So, is "not your job" helpful?

Depending on the person and the context, I think it is.

  • 1
    Thanks for the answer, but please understand I'm not in any way complaining about (or attempting to draw attention to) a particular user. It was the first example I found while searching, otherwise unrelated. – nurgle Jun 24 '16 at 10:55
  • @jammypeach I think you used a prime example, an archetypical one if you would find. – Richard Says Reinstate Monica Jun 24 '16 at 11:58
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    It's even more true on workplace.SE, depending on the people you're facing, one gentle answer will fail where the terse one will work. However it's better to always start with the gentle approach i guess. – Walfrat Jun 27 '16 at 9:41
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    I think, at the very least, saying whether or not a terse response is what should be given should be the bare minimum for giving it as an answer. And even then, it would be better to explain why a terse answer is the best way to go as well. – Zibbobz Jul 8 '16 at 17:04
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Since (in my opinion) a huge amount of potential inter-person issues can be solved by the simple expedient of 'minding your own business', and in the workplace stepping outside your role and pre-empting someone else's is quite often a bad idea (unless it's absolutely necessary).

I think it's a valid part of an answer, probably not that great for a standalone response, but I can think of a few situations where it would be.

Why upset someone if you don't have to? Why make more trouble for someone who is already in trouble? Why make it your problem if it doesn't have to be? etc,.

As a comment, it's perfectly OK as far as I'm concerned, I've seen much worse comments than that.

Both the example answers in the top comments seem reasonable to me as they both provide a short explanation of why and could have been clarified if queried.

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    I think your tone aggravates some people on here. Not me, of course. I appreciate people who speak their minds. You go for a blunt response and you don't sugar coat things to save feelings. – Richard Says Reinstate Monica Jun 24 '16 at 12:02
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    @RichardU I'm old and my English isn't great, so short, to-the-point answers. But the OP isn't complaining about me specifically. – Kilisi Jun 25 '16 at 1:45
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    Your English is better than many who speak it natively. I like your short and to the point answers. I think we need more, not less of that. – Richard Says Reinstate Monica Jun 27 '16 at 12:10
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If you think an answer isn't helpful, you are free to downvote it... though I tend not to do so unless the answer is actively mistaken/harmful/off topic.

That's pretty much standard SE practice.

I'm not sure what you think needs to be done differently in this case, or why.

2

I think the 'Just Quit' answers and comments are sometimes not very good advice. Great in theory, but in the real World, quitting can cause more issues than it solves because it affects not just an individual but his/her dependents and maybe even a whole bunch of other people. And better jobs just aren't that easy to get.

I've known people who've thrown a hissy fit and quit and then ended up being a burden to their families for a couple of years before finding another position, or destroyed their marriage and kids education over it etc,. Lost self confidence and taken up drinking or worse.

A better answer or comment is something like 'Soldier on until you can secure other employment.'

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    Maybe "Just Grow Up" would be more correct, and to the point? I will try using that as my standard answer... – user37746 Jun 30 '16 at 2:43
0

"That's not your job" can be a good answer, but -- it's only part of a good answer. Because OP then has to make it stick. A good answer, sez I, would provide a warning that while "ain't my job" is easy to say, OP will have to explain why it doesn't make sense for him to "just do it anyway".

Clearly whatever the task X is that OP doesn't want to do, it needs to get done somehow, by someone, and the task-giver already has OP in mind. There are several standard reasons we see...

  • OP fears getting "stuck" in that role in the future. A common sub-theme of this is with non-admin women asked to take care of something administrative.

  • OP fears that his doing the task has poor ROI; perhaps he is highly paid, and feels that his time is better spent doing something else.

  • OP just doesn't want to do it; task is boring, or messy, or just no fun. This is a much harder argument to make.

Anyway. A good answer should stress that "not my job" is just the opening salvo in a negotiation.

-1

I feel that often this answer could be used provided it is not just that.

However in the case of multiple answers downvote it since we are looking at this might be a good answer, but we aim to have the best answer on top and 9/10 a short answer such as this just lacks context and Information that can be used for both the current op and for future visitors.

Takeing HNQ as example:


An early short answer gets skyrocket beyond control, why?
It is a fast answer on a popular question.

The answer per definition might not be bad and actually helpful, but answers with good context, sources and examples will be scrolled down which might have been better to read.

Answers with thats not your Job, You are the Problem not x, Seek a expert.

Another example:


Example: Requirement for drinking water
Ignore the fact that the qeustion is off Topic as I dont like to put someone elses answer as an example, as I find that rude and offensive.

This answer is per definition NOT good, but since nobody answered I put it up anyways.
If someone posted a better answer I would personally press the delete button.

Depending how you look at this yes, this is an acceptable/good answer, but we have an QA saying this is generally not an accepted answer.

My thumb rule would be make it an answer if there are none otherwise comment.
VTC as low Quality when there are better answers.

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