Q. My boss asked me to pick up lunch for a meeting recently. This is not in my job description, and I let him know I didn’t appreciate being tagged for menial work such as errands and coffee. He told me to get with the program or be fired. Is this just?
A. In my consulting work, I employ a diagnostic tool which measures workplace behaviors and attitudes, either constructive or defensive. Constructive cultures foster high achievement, innovation and trust. Defensive cultures are fearful, forceful and lower-performing.
It doesn’t take a survey to classify your relationship with your boss. It’s a classic aggressive-defensive profile. Your prickly communication plus his bristling threat create a toxic combo. Without a big change, it doesn’t bode well for a happy resolution.
You ask if this is just. Justice means to give to the other his due. Technically, if lunch delivery is not in your job description, you are not obliged. It’s not due your boss. Is it just that he fire you for refusing to perform an errand? That depends on the nature and language of your work contract.
Since “there is in every man a natural inclination to act according to reason” (St. Thomas), consider a different question. Is this reasonable? Is it reasonable to perform a task outside your role for the sake of your colleagues, customers or boss? Can it sometimes be sensible to step outside the prescribed perimeter of your job functions to meet a practical need for the sake of a greater good? Employees (including bosses) are sometimes asked to undertake tasks “beneath” their primary duties. Be careful, by the way, not to demean the menial. Manual work makes the world go round.
So reason through these questions:
- Are your duties clearly outlined?
- Are your skills generally well deployed within your job description?
- Do you generally enjoy and feel well suited for your work?
If you’re affirmative on all three, and menial requests are only occasional, you might consider getting “with the program.” If not, carefully weigh your options. Bottom line: Your boss clearly finds your attitude unacceptable. And he’s not so enamored with your performance that he fears losing you. Your options? Change your attitude, change your communication style or change your job.
Whatever the future holds, you and others will be well served if you exhibit a cheerful readiness to serve. It is the Christian way.
Jim Berlucchi is the executive director of the Spitzer Center, whose mission is to build cultures of evangelization (www.spitzercenter.org).