by Paul Kiser
It seems like a very rational idea. Create job (or performance) standards for every employee that dictate their responsibilities and define the expectations (or for performance standards, defines ‘does not meet’, ‘meets’, or ‘exceeds’) for all aspects of every job. That is the only way an employee knows what is expected of them and the only way a manager can “objectively” measure performance.
Very rational…very, very rational….
News Flash: We don’t live in a rational, sterile world where we can put down on a piece of paper an adequate description of intangible concepts like:
- Taking care of the customer.
- Thinking outside of the box.
- Anticipating unforseen problems
I used to think that I could write objective performance standards that covered the intangibles of the business world, but it is really like the Schrödinger’s Cat paradox. The more objective a set of performance standards, the more impossible it is to accurately and appropriately measure. Likewise, the more subjective the performance standards, the less accurate the measurement tools and the more a manager’s personality, mood, bias, etc. will influence an employee’s score.
In my first Management by Coup blog I proposed that employee evaluations could and should be eliminated. Now I want to go further and propose that performance standards are also unnecessary….But wait there’s more.
I propose that companies can also eliminate job descriptions as well.
Someone is saying “You CAN’T do that!! Job Descriptions are required by LAW, you idiot!!!” To that I say, BS. There is no Federal mandate for an employer to have a job description.
There are some caveats to this statement:
- In certain situations (government contracts, state government positions, etc.) job descriptions are required.
- Job descriptions are also often subpoenaed as evidence in an employee relations case.
- If you have job skills, educational requirements, licensing, etc., then that needs to be listed in some type of job description.
However, all the other things in a job description (job duties, reporting to, etc.) are all optional. So maybe you can’t realistically eliminate a job description, but you can slice it down to the bare bones, and I recommend doing so. Why?
First, anything a company puts in a job description can and will be held against them. Like employee evaluations, the job description is often more useful to the employee’s lawyer than it is to the employee or the employer.
Second, like performance standards, job descriptions can’t possibly describe everything an employee does 2080 hours a year. For this reason almost every job descriptions has the phrase, “Other duties as assigned,” in it. So why not have a one line job description: “Other duties as assigned” and skip the hours wasted on writing and re-writing job duties?
Third, management is about talking to your staff. When a piece of paper is more critical to your company than talking to the employee on a regular and frequent basis, then that is the moment to close up the business and let your competitors take over the market.
Here’s a test. Write a job description for the expectations you have of your child (if you don’t have a child, try a pet, or your significant other). Then at the end of a week measure how well the job description improved your relationship and if the job description had any value over just not writing it up in the first place.
I rest my case.
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