It’s not my job

January 4, 2024



At the Corning Museum of Glass / Corning, N.Y.

Disturbing installation, isn’t it?  The artist made a gorgeous glass chandelier and then purposely shattered it. Why? Here’s what it’s about and as you read on, the meaning I put to it will become clear:


The day I visited the Corning Museum of Glass I saw this on Facebook:

“Never Say That’s Not My Job”

That oozes arrogance & laziness.
Chip in to help with whatever needs to be done,
even if it’s not your responsibility.
Do what needs to be done or help someone
find the solution. Period.

This was is exactly what I was taught, starting with one of my very first professional jobs. And it’s paid off for me, as I became known for being solution-oriented and providing excellent customer service. Above and beyond. So, of course, I expected the social media crowd to all fall in behind this meme’s sentiment.

I couldn’t have been more wrong.

“If it’s not my job, I’m not doing it!”

“If I am not being paid to do it, no way!”

And many more responses along those lines. I was shocked to my core.

I can’t remember a time in my life when I have said “That’s not my job.” The idea that so many thought this was a perfectly acceptable response distressed me.

Our society has become increasingly self-centered. The idea of helping others if there is no immediate and direct benefit to ourselves is no longer the norm. Was it ever? I wonder. I think it was for the Greatest Generation, whose values in that regard I have always respected. And yes, there with other societal issues at that time, for sure, but back then, people in general were more apt to give help and generously.

So when I saw that shattered chandelier that the artist meant to represent the decline of the Murano glass industry. I saw that it could equally represent the decline of neighborly values in our current society. Or maybe values in general.

I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

Also, a reminder:

If you’re grieving or in treatment, you need to know about these helpful tools:


20 comments on “It’s not my job
  1. Shelley Manes says:

    I share your inherent desire to help, ingrained/emphasized in my upbringing and family values. In fact, nothing is much more frustrating to me than seeing a situation where there is nothing I can do to help. However, I did come across the concept of “Not my circus, not my monkeys” and found that very gratifying to apply in some situations. Admittedly, it is only a nuanced difference from “Not my job” but it helps me stay out of situations that are not mine to solve.

    • Interesting. I don’t see the two as related at all! I see “not my job’ as work-related. I have a shirt with “not my circus” quote on it, and I see that in the personal realm.

  2. Susan Cooper says:

    I too find this quite disturbing. I believe this is why we find ourselves in the current political and social quagmire we in.. 😔

  3. Donna Tagliaferri says:

    When my daughter was in business school we had a very disturbing encounter at Walmart. We asked the whereabouts of the paint. Seems super easy, in fact a no brainer to know where the paint is. The employee stared at us and said he didn’t know. Not “I will find out, hold on.” Just a blanket “no idea”. Then on the same shopping trip we asked for a specific color when we found the paint. “If it’s not out on the shelves, we don’t have it.” And then walked away. My daughter told me the first thing she learned in business school is you never say “I don’t know” just I will find out. Yes it is more work, but it shouldn’t even be a thought to not do it. We started to name the stores where the customer was still right. Costco, Nordstroms, that might be it. The good news is because our personal business is customer friendly we get lots of extra business, by just doing things normally. The way we were taught.

  4. Bobi says:

    This really resonates with me because I’ve read way too many articles on the internet where customer service workers rant on the ways customers are pitas. The lists go on and on. Many of the complaints they voice are things that I, as a customer, am guilty of and don’t even realize. Apparently stopping an employee and asking for help when they heading to lunch or the bathroom is a major sin, asking for something extra (even if it is something free they forgot to offer me) is also a crime and it’s also not kosher to offer up a joke or small talk because everyone knows customers all make the same jokes or comments and we are annoying. Every time I read this stuff, I wanna scream (don’t ask me why I continue to read it, I’m a click bait fool!) at these anonymous fools that if they don’t like customer service they should find other work, but ultimately, as they will likely discover, every job has “customers” whether internal or external so I suppose the poor things are just doomed to be forever unhappy.

  5. Laurie Stone says:

    That’s always a disappointing attitude in anyone, from sales people to even relatives.

  6. Alana says:

    Something my job teaches is that our customers are our lifeblood and deserve our respect and our help. But as the years passed I heard of disturbing changes in customer interactions. I used to sit near our phone customer service unit and overheard discussions concerning customers threatening employees. I heard much the same thing from co workers whose grown children were phone reps at other companies. Phone reps were routinely disrespected and sometimes even threatened with physical harm. Who taught anyone that this was acceptable? It isn’t just on social media. Now, here we are. I wonder many times what kind of people we have become in this country.

  7. I always saw it as my job…I am a teacher. For me it was not “what can I do?” It was always what should I let them figure out…or do I just need to stay out of it? Thank you, Carol, you are right. If help is needed then we should always say “What can I do for you?” That is how I answer the phone.

  8. Amanda says:

    I completely understand where you are coming from. As a business owner, I have had to work at getting into the mindset of employees. The danger I see is that if it becomes a culture of doing things not in your job, then it can become abusive. So yes to helping out, but proceed with caution if it’s ignoring the job you agreed to pay someone for and expecting more.

  9. I can honestly say with 15 grandchildren and 1 great-grandson all at various stages in their education or employment from preschool to college to work and also business ownership if we don’t make serious changes in education ASAP we are doomed. The kids 14 and under can’t tell time, read or write cursive, or do basic math without a device. They don’t read anything more than a paragraph and they have no knowledge of geography or literature and their social skills are “all about me.” They couldn’t care less about politics. Our entire family has been enlisted to work with these kids to make sure they learn to question and form their own ideas. A granddaughter who will be 18 next week, a senior at a magnet school in Philadelphia was asked over the holidays what she planned to do, to be after graduation. Her answer was, “I’m going to be famous for doing nothing.” Even scarier she probably will succeed.

    • That IS pretty concerning, Doreen. That is the state of education today–dumbing down. And there’s an entire so-called political “party” that wants this to happen. So they can control the masses.

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