Written Job Descriptions Can Help From Setting Employees Up to Fail

A friend of mine just started an important new job in Chicago as the Director of Government Affairs for a medium-sized business. Like any of us would be, she was very excited about her move and the new opportunity. As her friend and an employment law attorney, can you guess what was the first question I asked her?…

Of course, I questioned whether her employer gave her a thorough, written job description, with enough information to ensure she would succeed at the new job. I wanted to make sure she had a clear indication of the metrics her performance would be critiqued and graded. Did she have an adequate description of the daily and long-term expectations for her new career? Further, if someone requested she change or expand her job description, from whom should she seek confirmation?

In my friend’s case, the Company had only discussed the position with her and placed the advertisement she had responded, which contained a fairly elementary description of the position. I was not surprised she was never provided a thorough, written job description prior to accepting. Many employers do not do a good job providing information and feedback to employees on what is really important to them, a risk to employer and employee.

One of the many reasons employees sue their employers after termination is because they were surprised. They speculate whether it was connected to an unlawful reason, like their gender or age, because an employer has done a terrible job communicating regarding the essential functions of the job and their perception the employee failed to meet them. Sometimes other employees have given them incorrect instructions. Without thoughtful direction, or with conflicting direction from other employees, an employee may mistakenly believe he or she is doing a good job up until the day the employee is terminated. This is unfortunate because often bad habits can be corrected and hiring and training new employees is expensive.

A well-written job description, which incorporates all the essential functions of a job, describes the process for regular evaluations, and informs the employee of the office hierarchy is good for the employee. Job candidates must know the essential functions of a job so that they can determine whether they can meet them, with or without a reasonable accommodation, and a clear job description should generally be developed and provided to candidates prior to hiring for the position.

Further, smart employees should request and smart employers should demand regular performance reviews, while reviewing their job descriptions, as part of an ongoing performance evaluation, to ensure all the parties are in like mind on how the team is performing. A 360 degree interview.

If you have an employer who has not provided you a written job description or has never reviewed it with you as part of an employee evaluation, you should request one. You might be surprised by what you learn.

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