For the past three years, I’ve had 2 job titles. This is nothing out of the ordinary. Many of my colleagues where I work and elsewhere have more than one title. Some of these titles represent aspects of one job. Others are two or more jobs that have been assigned to that person. I wanted to address the latter or having more than one job title and jobs.
There was this trend several years ago about doing more with less. Thankfully this phrase more or less disappeared. I think unfortunately it morphed into its favorite cousin of finding efficiencies. The problem of doing more with less is that really if you have less, you are most likely going to be able to do less. That in and of itself is not a bad thing. Workflows can be made more efficient thanks to technology or rethinking the process as a whole. This reflects another trend of doing less with less, which was also a trendy presentation topic some years back.
These trends are related but not what I want to address. The trend I see as having potentially serious work satisfaction effects is when an organization is downsized and jobs are then assigned to the remaining employees. This is what happened at my organization. The reason for being downsized relate to a bad state economy really. It’s nothing new. The other reason was until recently we gave back, i.e. closed positions, instead of reducing the collections budget. And of course people leave for other jobs and their positions simply aren’t renewed or continued.
What happened when these people left? Many of these services faded away and we just don’t do them anymore because there’s no one there who can. It is great when the work just doesn’t need to be done anymore. However, when there is still work to be done, yes the responsibility for that task(s) fades away but the work still remains collecting dust until a person can be hired to take care of it. Other services are deemed too important to be stored away out of sight, out of mind. There’s an attempt by supervisors to split up tasks of the job among those who are still here. What happens when a party refuses to take on that task or it involves skills that only a very few have? In general, the job falls to the person who can’t refuse to take it on and/or who has some of the skills. This means that person is now doing two or more jobs.
The problem with this last scenario is that now you have one or many people with two or more jobs. One might think that this is a convenient way to keep vital services going. However, it is a sure fire way to de-energize, demoralize, and overwork staff. This is especially true if these staff are asked to perform these jobs over a long period. The problem is essentially that it is unrealistic that one person perform jobs done by two people. And yes, some people might think of exceptions. When I refer to jobs here, I am referring to full time jobs that take time, skills, dedication, and engagement to complete the tasks of the job.
Ultimately, the person with more than one job has to weigh the importance of the tasks of both jobs. This triage allows to address the highest priority tasks. If there is down time, the person is looking into the medium or low priority tasks that have become more than likely high priority because they were neglected. What happens when this person is running from priority to priority over a long period of time is that they become tired. Hopefully there is a way for this person to re-energize themselves. And yes vacation is good. But here I’m referring to their employer who needs to recognize the toll of doing more than one job. The employer needs to be asking how they can support this person. If no one can be hired or the extra job’s tasks split among many, then it might be worth seeing to stoping these services. If not, there’s risk that this person will be run down, tired, or even ill.
You might say that there are services that can’t be stopped. For example, we always need someone at the circulation desk. There are always options before closing a desk entirely. You can take away services. You can look into less hours. At what cost? If you have only 1 person doing the job of 5, more than likely there’s high turnover at this organization and low morale. I’m all for serving our community and users. And our community and users have to understand what it takes to provide these services.
It really is the question of cost as in the physical and psychological toll of the employee where the employer needs to take a stand. The employer needs to support these employees. They need to ensure that these situations of doing more than one job are truly short term. It is my experience that many employers don’t take on this type of accountability. There’s always employee assistance programs, human resources, vacations, and personal days…right. In many cases, the employer is seen as a third party. Is it all up to the employer? Obviously not! It’s crucial to ensure work and life are balanced. It is also important to ensure that your employer is doing their job of being held accountable. Perhaps, you have a union on hand to help you out. And then of course, there’s always another job.
After this post, you might want to ask why I do two jobs. Once, I told my employer that I would not take on all the responsibilities of the second job. I kept the tasks that align and help me with my other job. It’s not perfect but what job is. In retrospect, it is important to fully weigh the pros and cons when an employer asks you to take on a second job or even tasks from another job. Look at it from the perspective of having time, will it help your career, can you be compensated for taking on more work, and have an agreement with your employer that clearly states what each party has agreed to.