Often times in the workplace, one may hear statements like “that’s not my responsibility” or “sorry, but that is not in my job description.” I know that I have said things similar in my early years of Cooperative Extension. Nevertheless, these two statements have the potential to cause the entire workplace difficulties. Not only are they dangerous to the health of the organization, but that behavior can spread like wildfire throughout the workplace.
There is hope though! This attitude and mentality can be corrected with a little bit of coaching and leadership – by simply creating a culture of allowing your team to feel like owners, not just employees. Everyone, irrespective of their position, should feel responsibility for all of the areas in the workplace (and even the entire organization). Once the team has this mindset, their responsibility will always surpass their authority and will begin making the organization better. All because they begin to start taking everything personally as it pertains to the organization.
Let’s dive a little deeper on this. When employees begin to take everything personally, their actions and behaviors will change because they will feel responsible for what is happening and will want to make it better. For example, if there is trash outside of the building, they pick it up. If there is water on the counter, they wipe it up. These behaviors will be contagious in the workplace because people will see it, which is an example of observational learning. Observational learning is the process of watching other people’s behaviors, noting the negative and positive consequences of their actions and then imitating those actions.
Taking it personally and increasing your responsibility above your authority is the answer. Just because it’s not in your job description doesn’t mean that you do not have the responsibility to take care of it. This can also bleed over into the programs and workshops that Extension professionals do. Sometimes we are in the audience of our colleagues’ programs, learning or teaching (or both). If you overhear a negative comment from the participants mentioned about another presentation or about another program in the office, respond with, “I don’t have the authority in this area; however, I feel responsible for everything that happens here.” This is having the responsibility to make it better, even if it is beyond your authority.
Systems determine behaviors and we want our team to feel like owners. The creation of a culture where everyone feels that same freedom to act, even when he or she does not have the authority to do so, establishes positive change to a healthy workplace. Commit to making it better…to make the workplace better and to take it personally.