Overcoming a Lazy Coworker
Our advisory firm is small – only three people. Out of necessity we are “jacks of all trades,” and take on many of the different tasks throughout the day. As owner, for example, I work with clients – but I also clean the coffee pot. Lately my administrative person is asking for a clear job description. She says she has to do low-level work that she never agreed to when she took the job. I feel like we all do whatever we need to and that’s what happens in a small firm. Am I wrong to want to avoid putting responsibilities in writing? I think it gives her the chance to say “It’s not my job” every time I ask her to do something.
Your situation is all too common in small firms. It may not be possible to have clearly defined roles with people for every single function, but your employee is right to request something in writing describing her responsibilities. Without a job description of some sort, there is too much room for interpretation about who is doing what – and to whom!
Most employees, no matter what sized firm, want to know how they are doing against expectations. They want feedback. They want to be measured, and they want to know if the boss is happy with their performance. The only way to really measure and track this is if you have clear responsibilities and can give her feedback about where she is excelling, or where she needs to improve. You can always write a job description that includes “other duties as necessary or requested by management,” which would cover unanticipated things you may ask her to do. And you can certainly include things like picking up your kitchen area, cleaning up the conference room for clients, doing errands, etc., if these are part of daily routine requests.
Managers often underestimate how important job descriptions are for employees. Most employees don’t like a vague sense of what they are supposed to do. They will go along for a while, but unless they are entrepreneurial in style and can move quickly from item to item and roll easily with changes, most staff members like some sort of boundaries and clear expectations set. Honestly, it will be best for the firm overall to take the time to do this, as it will give you the chance to think about what the firm needs. Once you have something in writing, you can also refer back to it when doing performance reviews or giving your two employees feedback.
Without an agreed-upon role, if this employee starts to underperform you will have a hard time telling her where she is falling short. Expectation-setting goes both ways.
Beverly Flaxington co-founded The Collaborative, a consulting firm devoted to business building for the financial services industry in 1995; in 2008 she co-founded Advisors Trusted Advisor to offer dedicated practice management resources to advisors, planners and wealth managers. She is currently an adjunct professor at Suffolk University teaching undergraduate students Leadership & Social Responsibility. Beverly is a Certified Professional Behavioral Analyst (CPBA) and Certified Professional Values Analyst (CPVA).
She has spent over 25 years in the investment industry and has been featured in Selling Power Magazine and quoted in hundreds of media outlets, including the Wall Street Journal, MSNBC.com, Investment News and Solutions Magazine for the FPA. She speaks frequently at investment industry conferences and is a speaker for the CFA Institute.