Understanding the Scope of Your Work Responsibilities and Avoiding Confusion Between Colleagues
Most people have become used to working with a team, but it’s easy to forget how important it is to know your responsibilities at work. Having a clear understanding of your obligations ensures you are not taken advantage of at work and paves the way for a good working environment.
But what do you do when your colleagues don’t understand their responsibilities? Or what if there’s no clear indication of who is supposed to do what? If that's the case, things can get very confusing at work, so it’s up to you to be aware of your own duties.
In this article, you’ll learn more about workplace responsibilities and how you can deal with the inevitable issues that come with working in a team.
What Is Work Responsibility?
Although most people feel that they’re more productive when working from home, office jobs continue to be mostly the norm. As such, you’ll likely have to deal with coworkers even if you’d prefer to be working remotely. And when we’re dealing with other people, complicated situations are bound to arise.
Workplace responsibilities are all the tasks and assignments employees must complete as part of their job. These duties will be outlined in your job description, but responsibilities are often added and can cause confusion.
If you hope to have a happy career, you must be responsible at work. Your behavior and willingness to take care of responsibilities will affect how your employers and fellow teammates see you.
Of course, work responsibility greatly varies from job to job, so it’s not as easy to define. Just think of workplace responsibilities as everything you’re expected to do and get paid for.
Why Is It Important to Define Your Work Responsibilities?
In addition to ensuring a well-ordered and untroubled working environment, role clarity also helps in other ways that benefit everyone involved.
Shows Your Professionalism and Accountability
When you are willing to communicate clearly about your work responsibilities, you show your employer and colleagues that you want to be open and honest. It also displays your work ethic in a positive light.
Your supervisors and managers will see that you are accountable, professional, and dependable, and they’ll have more faith in you. Employers put a lot of value on honest and transparent employees who are keen to understand their job roles.
If you want to show your employee(s) that you are the right person for the job, it’s a good idea to define your work responsibilities right from the start. If that wasn’t the case for you, you could still achieve this by reaching out to and communicating with your employee.
Establishes Professional Bonds With Your Workmates
You may be scared that defining your work responsibility will alienate you from your colleagues, but that’s very unlikely. Unless you work with slackers who like to push their work on others, your efforts to have clear responsibilities will be appreciated.
Remember that when you make sure that your work duties are clear, you encourage the same for your workmates. Your input will show that you value fairness, and that’s always something to admire in the people you work with.
You’ll be laying a transparent foundation for relationships with your colleagues and employers, on top of which you can build with ease.
Secures Your Position
Ensuring you understand the scope of your responsibilities will show your employers that you are responsible, giving them a sense of security regarding your work.
Employers desire to be dependable and show a strong work ethic in their employees, and when you show that, your position is much more secure.
Advances Your Career
Good communication is key if you’re hoping to build a successful and growing career. It starts right at the beginning — communicating well with new hires is vital for any company — and remains of utmost importance until the day you retire. If you want to be seen as reliable and trustworthy (and deserving of promotions!), you need to know how and when to communicate.
An employee eager to define the scope of their responsibilities in the workplace will always be valued and respected.
Also, if you know what you’re supposed to do, you won’t be taking on tasks that your colleagues should have done, confusing everyone involved.
How to Clarify Your Responsibilities Within Your Team
There are several ways to clarify your work responsibilities, some more effective than others. The three methods highlighted here tend to be successful and easy to implement.
Communicate Work Roles
It’s very important that you know where you stand right from the get-go. As such, you should make sure that your roles and responsibilities are clearly defined during the enrollment process.
If you’re already past this point, you can always reach out to your company’s HR department and ask for clarification.
Communication is vital — this point cannot be stressed enough. Without good communication, there will be misunderstandings and frustration galore.
You can also arrange a meeting with your employer to discuss your job description. This is especially important if there is anything you’re unsure about or have questions about. A study from the University of Washington also points out that role clarifications are a must-have contributing to developing group norms.
Keep in mind that you should approach this meeting with a positive mindset and avoid unnecessary criticism or negative remarks. It is possible that your current job’s description was written years ago and needs to be updated. Unless you bring it up, this may not happen.
Create Tight Alignment
Time-framing and reporting structures are key elements to have clarity about when it comes to your work. Having a good grasp of what is expected of you regarding deadlines will avoid problematic situations.
Make sure you know your work's time considerations and your team’s deadlines. This makes it easier to report deadline issues or anything that could affect the timeframe of your work completion.
Another consideration to clarify your company’s budget and how it’s relevant to your work. Not knowing everything you need about your job alignment can lead to difficulties.
Your company's reporting structure also matters. You should know and understand exactly how it works to prevent confusion and chain-of-command problems. If your manager expects you to report on your responsibilities, you should know what that entails to meet the relevant requirements.
An element of work responsibilities that is just as important as communication is transparency. If anything is confusing about your duties, you will find it difficult to do your work well.
For example, here at MediaBerry — a remote link-building agency — team roles and responsibilities are clearly defined right from the enrollment process. Thanks to the high level of transparency, no team members feel like their work is infringed on at any point. It creates the perfect environment for productivity and trust.
Team leaders often assume their teams know their responsibilities and roles. This negatively affects not only how well they perform but also the entire team’s growth.
Ambiguity is never good in a work environment, and as an employee, you have the right to ensure transparency about your work duties.
Consider Situations and Respond Accordingly
Occasionally, your teammates don’t consider your responsibility at work. They may not know all the details about your (and their) work duties and could make things difficult for you. That’s why it’s important to know how to deal with a colleague who takes over or pushes their work onto you.
Here are four common situations you should know about and how to react if (when) they happen.
Situation #1: You Notice an Update Flaw in the System or Your Colleague’s Mistake
Working on projects with your teammates can create a situation where you spot mistakes that one of them may have missed. So what should you do if you notice an error in the system your team uses or a mistake that one of your colleagues made?
The first thing to remember is that no software is flawless, and errors can happen. If that’s the case, let your team manager or boss know immediately so that the right people can be contacted to resolve the problem. The error might also happen within other teams. Nipping it in the bud will save everyone a lot of time and headaches.
If your colleague messed up, don’t think badly of them or make a big deal about it. It’s also a bad idea to point out the mistake in front of everyone else. Have a private word with the person in question and discreetly let them know they made a mistake.
If it’s a small mistake you know won’t be repeated, you can fix it yourself, but this isn’t recommended. It’s better to be aware of mistakes you’ve made to avoid them in the future, right?
Situation #2: You Know the Answer to a Co-worker’s Problem
Sometimes, the rules can be bent a little bit. Even if it’s not within your scope, if you know the solution to a co-worker’s problem, helping them won’t be wrong. If it’s in that person’s best interest to work out a solution on their own, you should probably leave them to resolve it independently.
Note that if you can help a colleague, you should. Just make sure you do it nicely and won’t come across as condescending or make the person feel and look bad.
Situation #3: You Know Your Workmate’s Tasks and Duties. However, They’re Not Doing It Right, and You Want to Help Them
Being helpful to your colleagues will always be appreciated by them. (Not talking about the kind of employee who will push their work on someone always nice enough to help — they’re a subject for another day!)
Your teammates can grow greatly if they learn from their mistakes, and you can help facilitate their growth. Again, just make sure you do this nicely and won’t hurt anyone’s feelings.
Also, don’t make a habit of helping your colleagues because it can make them look incompetent or lazy in the team manager’s eyes.
Situation #4: A Coworker Keeps Asking You for General Assistance
What should you do when a teammate constantly asks you to help them out? Should you feel bad for them and just give them the assistance they want? Or should you put your foot down and say no?
This can be tricky and depend on why the person is always asking for your help. If they struggle to cope with their workload or don’t understand their responsibilities, it might be better to discuss it with your manager. They should be able to help their employees to grasp what’s expected of them.
If the teammate is simply trying to get you to lighten their workload, you have the right to put an end to it. Firmly but gently let the colleague know that you have your own work responsibilities to take care of and that they should do the same for their responsibilities.
If that doesn’t work, don’t hesitate to reach out to your team manager and find a way to solve the situation peacefully.
What to Do When Colleagues Encroach on Your Work
Sometimes, it’s not someone asking you to take care of their work responsibilities that cause difficulties, but someone taking over your duties.
Here’s how you can deal with that:
Try to Figure Out Why They Are Doing So
Don’t jump to conclusions about the situation; it is possible that the colleague doesn’t realize what they’re doing. Look closely at the matter to determine why they infringe on your work.
Don’t Complain Straightaway
If you complain to management right away, you might cause a difficult situation and strain your relationship with your colleague. Try to find a way to address the matter yourself before complaining.
Avoid Spilling Your Guts
Office gossip can often cause tension, so don’t spend your time at the water cooler telling everyone about the situation. Keep it private until you can resolve it, at least.
Talk to Your Workmates in Person
The best way to understand what is happening is by talking to the person(s) taking over your work. Ask them(in a friendly way!) why they are doing so, and use the opportunity to ask them to stop.
Alert Your Manager About the Situation
If all else fails, report the situation to your manager. It is the manager’s job to take care of situations like this, and it will be better to have your higher-ups aware of what’s happening.
If you managed to sort the situation out between yourselves, you might still have to mention it to your manager in case something similar happens in the future.
Understand Your Workplace Responsibilities and Ensure Your Happiness and Productivity
As you can see, knowing the scope of your responsibilities at work is essential if you want a thriving and satisfying career.
Letting less-than-stellar co-workers sway you to do more than your fair share can be easy. But if you stay firm and resolute, you won’t have to let them take advantage of your hard-working spirit.
Keep a cool head and follow the advice shared here, and you’ll be happier at work. What’s more, you’ll love your job and feel more passionate about your career when you’re not doing someone else’s work.