No matter what your station in life, what season you’re in, or what your profession may be, the most dangerous words in the English Language are: “It’s Not my Job.”

Think about it. When we’re young and grinding, using a phrase like this one makes us look unprofessional, because if we do, we are. If when we’ve made it to high positions of leadership, using phrases like this makes us appear to be arrogant, because we are.

The words Not My Job, are dangerous.

I am constantly making this point in the nonprofit world. Just because my job title is Resource Development, it doesn’t mean that it’s not my job to recruit volunteers. Or if I’m the volunteer coordinator, it’s not my job to fundraise. No matter the size of our organization, we’re all in this together. I may not train the volunteer, or make the ask for the gift, but what if I’m the only point of contact the volunteer or donor has with my organization? It had better be my job to at least set the table.

This doesn’t however, mean that we have to do everything. Delegation is hugely important because not every task is one that we’re best suited to handle, but it does mean that we’re responsible for the handoff. Here’s an incomplete list of how we can better handle these situations.

Own the problem.

I’ve written about this before, but if there is a problem, we have to own it.  If I wrote the order and it doesn’t arrive, IT IS MY JOB to help find a solution.  Own it.

Show Empathy

By simply putting myself in the position of the other person, I see things differently. Do I want to be shuffled around? Probably not, realize that act on it.

Delegate with Class

Words matter. Instead of using those dangerous words, it’s not my job, use phrases like: “I’m going to put you in touch with someone who is better able to help you.”Now, I’m on their side, not just dumping a problem.

Make the Handoff Personal

You should never just give someone a phone number to call. Make the call yourself and make sure that the person they need to speak with calls your client. It’s the mark of a real professional.

Follow Up

I might not be the best person to deal with whatever the issue is, but if I’m the first contact, I can’t just forget about the issue because I’ve delegated it no matter how personal the handoff was. I owe to my client, my company and myself to follow up.


The most effective marketing we can have is word of mouth. There isn’t a better reputation we can develop than that of someone that gets stuff done. By avoiding the most dangerous words in the English Language, we can build our brand on the reputation that we care and are responsible and we could never spend enough money to buy that kind of status.

I’d love to read some better phrases to use instead of “It’s Not My Job.”  Which ones do you use?

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