I love Steve Martin, and I love this quote:
…watch this one. I don’t a music video has ever made me feel so happy.
Jim: this one’s for you, because it’s sweet and there are penguins and pirates and it makes me think about you. Love.
I recently saw Avalanche City perform this song and was #swooning.
I saw my favorite band perform on Friday. Loved every second of it.
It was a two-hour drive after a long-ass week, in a standing-room only venue without AC. It was pretty much exactly what I needed.
I’ve been to lots of concerts. I’ve seen bands that are super famous and bands that no one’s ever heard of. From scary rappers to emo crooners and boy bands, I always love the music. But I think what I love even more is the passion. The energy. Seeing someone be completely present in what they do.
Although, it’s actually kind of jarring to see someone so immersed in what they love. Particularly considering most concert tours include months of the same songs, the same types of venues and the same high-pitched fans. How do these people stay so totally connected to their performances?
It made me happy and sad all at the same time, to consider how some people have such a consuming and crazy passion for what they do.
Which is ironic, because I love what I do, too. But – it’s different. Corporate offices rarely involve singing, dancing and yelling (at least not in a good way), and our days are fairly scripted. Plus, I believe it’s frowned upon to crowd surf. We corporate folks get passionate – but in more muted tones. We’re a little bit beige.
The beige-ness comes from lots of very important and necessary rules that exist to protect us. Without them, we would likely offend, injure and sue each other. So while they serve a valid purpose, I sometimes wonder if all these rules over-dilute what we do and say and how we act.
I’m not suggesting we throw all our guidelines to the wayside and initiate a Woodstock-like office setting, but it would be cool if there was a little more balance. And a little more encouragement to be absolutely bonkers nutty passionate.
Although, to be honest, I don’t know how I would handle a profession or lifestyle where I was that connected, all the time. I’m pretty structured, and I think I would freak out a little bit if I was required to sing in front of anyone.
But still, it’s nice to ponder. Fewer rules, more fun.
In most jobs, there will be situations where you’re asked to take on extra tasks or assist in areas outside of your traditional role. Sometimes, this can be good exposure and a great way to build relationships with new people and teams. And other times—you may wonder why on earth you went to college, if this is what’s become of your career.
I’m not talking about occasionally being asked to make copies or order pizza for the team. I’m referencing the more absurd things that sometimes arise: being told that your marketing gig includes holding a sign on the street corner or that, as a graphic designer, you’ll be creating your boss’s holiday cards. It’s definitely important to be a team player, but without limits, these “other duties as assigned” can become an overwhelming burden, take away from your actual priorities, and limit your ability to really grow in your role.
So how do you draw the line—nicely, professionally, and not looking like you’re shirking responsibility? Here are some tips for dealing with the less relevant tasks that come across your plate.
SET CRYSTAL CLEAR EXPECTATIONS
Many times, when someone makes a ridiculous request, it’s just a matter of not understanding exactly what you do. I work in corporate communications, but I often get requests from other departments to help edit promotional videos. Not only am I not trained to do this—it’s not a task my team can prioritize.
I’ve found that one way to avoid falling into miscellaneous tasks is by setting clear expectations from the get-go. When you receive a request, be direct with others about your role, your typical responsibilities, and your priorities or current projects.
Try: “You know, I’m really not positioned to work on catering orders. My team’s main focus is corporate event planning, and right now I’m swamped preparing for our annual conference next week.”
Be Helpful, Within Reason
That said, if you work on a team, helping out your co-workers and taking on additional tasks and projects is just part of the deal. The trick is to balance these requests, so you don’t end up with an onslaught of extra work that takes time away from your actual job responsibilities.
I once helped place a rush order for t-shirts for an event, because I knew a vendor who would do it—a one-time task I was happy to do. But after that, people thought I was the “t-shirt girl,” and I was bombarded with requests for ordering apparel, which is definitely not my job.
If you’ve been helpful once and then found yourself continually asked to do things you shouldn’t be doing, let the other party know why you can’t take on the request, and who to go to in the future.
Try: “I know I helped out with your last design request as a favor, but these are really better handled by the product marketing team. They have better resources and are more familiar with the brand guidelines.”
Dial a Life Line
If you’re a junior member of a team, others may look to you as the default option for picking up miscellaneous duties. It’s also not uncommon for senior associates (who aren’t really supposed to be in the position of assigning you work anyway) to try and put projects on your plate. And these types of requests can be tricky to navigate or turn down.
If you’re feeling pressure from senior team members or other leaders or departments, mention that, given your current priorities, you’ll have to check with your manager. Then, go back and talk to your boss about the request, and you can decide how to handle it together.
Try: “You know, before I say yes, I’m going to have to run this request by Mike—it seems like a big undertaking and I need to make sure he’s OK with me taking some time away from the department’s other priorities.”
Learn to Laugh
Chances are, anyone who’s worked in a professional environment for a few years can share stories about silly things they’ve been asked to do. Heck, I once had to order flowers for a supervisor’s wife when he was stuck out of town. Sometimes, you’ll end up just having to do these things, with a smile, to help another person out. It might be frustrating in the moment, but it’ll make a great story over happy hour one day.
However, if your willingness to run across town and buy your boss a tie for his important meeting is misconstrued as you wanting to be his personal shopper, discussing the details in person is a good way to send the right message, leaving no room for misinterpretation.
Try: “It was no problem to help out with this last time, but I’m not sure it’s an appropriate assignment for me on a regular basis. Could we look into another option for getting this done?”
There’s definitely a reason the phrase “other duties as assigned” is on almost every job description—it’s a natural part of most positions. But the trick to navigating these duties is learning when to roll with the situation and when to push back. And when those duties cross a line, recognize that a little open communication is often all it takes is to set the situation right, and set boundaries for what you can—and can’t—do on the job.
It’s a jungle out there. Need a breather? Here’s some yoga you can read:
Go placidly amidst the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all persons. Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even the dull and the ignorant; they too have their story.
Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit. If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain or bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs; for the world is full of trickery. But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals; and everywhere life is full of heroism.
Be yourself. Especially, do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass.
Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth. Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be, and whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul. With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful.
Strive to be happy.
- Desiderata, Max Ehrmann, 1927