Taking on More
Marc Plooster is an Accountant for the County of Ottawa, MI. Prior to joining Ottawa County, he worked for the City of Grand Rapids, MI in multiple roles including as a John H. Logie Fellow.
For someone still in high school during the Great Recession, I do not have the experience others have with taking on more roles as the number of employees around dwindles. At the time of the Great Recession, buyouts, early retirements, and cuts were the primary source of staff reductions. It is ironic that with a strong economy, a very different source of unfilled position is occurring. Rather than reducing authorized positions because of funding constraints, the challenge today is staying competitive with the private sector to attract great talent to the organization. In the end, the results are similar. A position remains vacant, and her duties get divided among remaining staff.

Last December, a fellow non-management employee abruptly resigned from my local government. I was quite surprised by the suddenness of what transpired, but others who have been with the organization longer than I have (nine months at the time) were less surprised. Shortly thereafter, the position description was updated and posted for applications. A number of candidates were interviewed in the first couple of months and an offer was made to a candidate who turned it down. Before the process started over the department went through a significant restructuring of other job classifications in early April. Following, more candidates were interviewed and a second candidate was offered the position and declined. Following the second incident, the position no longer remains posted. My colleagues and I have not been formally updated on the status of the opening.


The permanent transfer of roles is both positive and detrimental concurrently.
In the interim, the vacant position’s duties were divided as predicted. The Assistant Director took some, my colleagues others, and myself still more. Some processes have become collaborative as few notes were left. Collaboration has also helped when management has not provided instructions. The one constant throughout has been an assurance by the Director the vacant position will be filled.

While the position may be filled, it is not an immediate guarantee the reassigned tasks will be returned to the new hire. When a manager took a position with a different organization early last September, the position was filled in early October. However, some of her tasks relating to managing accounts receivable codes and cash balancing were handed over to me prior to her departure and have remained my responsibility.

The permanent transfer of roles is both positive and detrimental concurrently. Whether the duties are returned or remain, the knowledge acquired allows you to become more experience and see connections with the organization. When duties are not returned to the previous position when filled, a certain job security is afforded to the holder of the expanding role. Alternatively, new responsibilities take up time, most of which is already consumed. What’s more, when the new roles lead to significant and long-term projects, putting in extra hours is not uncommon.

Depending on where you are in your career, taking on more roles can be a positive experience. Any chance to learn skills and apply more of what you have been taught is another example to use in a future interview. If not clear above, as someone who is in his early career, I fully expect to change jobs and organizations throughout my career. Depending on the characteristics of your organization or department, the benefits of taking on more may be less than others. Some organizations value internal candidates more than external candidates. Other departments seemingly strictly hire external candidates.

One of the most important lessons I have learned but have yet to apply came to me recently. In every organization I have worked in, my role has been added to, changed, or altered completely. When a temporary employee, this was made clear to me and was expected. While all full-time job descriptions contain the infamous phrase “And other tasks/duties/responsibilities as assigned,” it is important to have a dialogue with management and be honest when you do not believe you have the time to give the role its due diligence.

Alongside with employees remaining honest about whether they can take on more, management needs to verify and keep the channels open for employees to discuss their workload. While managers give additional roles to employees because they themselves presumably do not have time to do the tasks, it is important to remain available for consultation. When managers indicate they will look into a concern that has arisen, they need to follow up. Management needs to encourage the employee to schedule a time to meet. If the role is important enough to reassign it, they should show its importance. When roles are moved around and employees take on more, managers should realize while they are not doing the tasks themselves, they too are taking on more.

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