“It’s Not My Job”

Not my job

“It’s not my job” is one of my least favorite expressions. Everyone knows you’re not supposed to say it out loud, even if you think it. So why have I heard it twice in the last couple days?

I chalked the first one up to frustration. I was asking a coworker to do something that I understood to be her responsibility. She pushed back, asking, “Since when is it my job to….” That’s a good question, because I understood that it had always been her job. So I asked our departmental supervisor whose responsibility it was and the answer was sort of, “It depends.” Which is fine when it works out, but sometimes (as in this case), it wasn’t working out. There was ambiguity and there was friction.

I hate workplace friction, especially when it’s unnecessary.

So we talked it out, I typed up some guidelines so that in the future we’d know who was supposed to do what and we wouldn’t need to wonder.

This morning, though, “It’s not my job” was worse. A patient is bleeding. Not a gusher, but still. A colleague notices the patient is bleeding and goes to get the nurse. That patient’s nurse (Betty) isn’t at the nurses’ station, so my colleague tells the other nurse (Joan) that is standing there, “Mrs. So-and-So is bleeding.” And Joan, a genuinely warm human being, says, “That’s not my job. It’s Betty’s patient.”

Colleague: “Well, Betty’s not here, I didn’t see her on the floor, and there’s a patient bleeding.”
Joan: “Well how bad is it? Maybe we can wait for Betty to come back.”
Colleague: “All I know is that she is bleeding now.”

This makes me crazy, of course, and rightfully so, I think. But beyond being aggravated, aghast, outraged, I started to ask myself, “Why would she say that?”

When she was a first year nursing student, would she have ever imagined saying “It’s not my job” when hearing about a patient bleeding? Doubt it.

If she had been asked in an interview, “If there was a patient bleeding and her nurse wasn’t available, what would you do?” Would she have said, “I’d tell her, ‘It’s not my job!” Doubt it.

If her mom was bleeding and her mom’s nurse wasn’t available, would she have told her mom, “It’s not my job!” Not a chance.

So what’s happening here? I started asking “why?”

Tomorrow I’ll share what I found out.