The Secrets to Staying in Your Lane
There is SO much confusion and frustration about 'staying in your lane' in the workplace, especially for small to mid-sized businesses. Staying in your lane at work most simply means "minding your business". It also means focusing on your own responsibilities and not getting involved in tasks or issues that are outside your job description or area of expertise. Oftentimes, lines get blurred because employees might be wearing many hats, have people-pleasing or controlling tendencies, or just lack clarity about who does what.
Why is it so confusing? It's confusing because while staying in your lane at work can help you be more productive, it can also make you look like you're not a team player. We've all had a colleague who never volunteers to help with anything; what did you think of him/her? Words like lazy, selfish, and disengaged might come to mind.
Why is it so frustrating? It's frustrating because while some employees are just trying to help by crossing into a different lane, it can come across as inefficient and intrusive. Think about a time when a colleague did part of your job for you without asking or telling and even worse, you figured out they did that after almost completing the very same task yourself. You probably felt annoyed that you wasted time on an already completed task when you could have been spending time on something else. In addition, you might wonder why the person didn't trust you to complete the task yourself.
5 Secrets to Staying in Your Lane (while being a team player):
1. Actively and regularly ask your co-workers if they need help before actually helping
2. Complete assigned tasks and meet your deadlines before offering help
3. Clarify who does what, be specific, and get it in writing if possible
4. Collaborate with colleagues when it's necessary, but be mindful not to take on their work
5. Show flexibility if you need to take on additional responsibilities
Guilty of not staying in your lane? Keep in mind that crossing over too much can be a disservice to the company. Allowing distractions that you aren't your responsibility means you aren't doing the job you are paid to do during those distractions, which could mean a loss of expected productivity and a loss of revenue for the company. In addition, even with the best intentions, crossing lanes can appear as though you don't trust your colleague's ability to complete the task, which can feel hurtful to them.
On the other hand, remember that staying in your lane doesn't mean you should avoid helping your colleagues or taking on new challenges when appropriate. It's about striking a balance between being a team player and fulfilling your primary job responsibilities.
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