Merge's Blog

Doing your job or doing your work?

jobAre you doing your job or are you doing your work?  Job and work.  Is there a difference? Absolutely.

A restaurant owner’s job is to produce great food.  But the best restaurants are the ones that also focus on giving their patrons an enjoyable dining experience.  That’s the owner’s work.

The front-desk receptionist’s primary responsibility may be to answer the phone pleasantly.  That’s his job.  But he also needs to think critically to solve problems, and adapt to shifting priorities.  That’s his work.

What about a doctor?  Sure, her job is to diagnose and cure diseases.  But the best doctors are the ones who ask questions, listen to the answers, and take the time to invest emotionally in their patients.  That’s her work.

Job versus work

The job is the hard skills, the expertise or the technical knowledge to get things done.  It’s what most of us study and train for.  But work incorporates the soft skills.  So it’s not just about getting things done, but how you get things done.  Soft skills, also known as people skills, are a diverse range of aptitudes including communication, problem-solving, listening, leadership, and team-building skills, as well as diplomacy, creativity, flexibility, adaptability, and self-awareness.  A salesperson with superlative product and market knowledge will have little success if he doesn’t have the interpersonal skills needed to close deals and retain clients. And an outstanding leader needs to be able to listen to employees, build teams, and think creatively in order to get organizational goals achieved.

The reality is that in virtually every working environment, hard skills alone are not enough to be truly effective. Soft skills are what separate the exceptional from the merely average.  Doing your job is not the same as doing the work.  Your job is just the baseline.  Your work is what defines you as a successful professional.  Your work is what makes you credible, respected and relevant.  You may have studied and trained for years to do your job.  But unless you’ve mastered the soft skills, you will not be credible or relevant, and no one will respect you for doing your job.  Your work is the ticket you must buy for the privilege of doing your job.

So what do you think?  Job versus work – do I have it right?  What have been your experiences?  Perhaps more importantly, as a leader, what are you doing to encourage your people to do their work, not just their jobs?  I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.  Please share your perspectives directly by commenting below.


  • What have you observed in your workplace? Who gets respect, and who doesn’t?

    I find that older employees with experience and longer work years do not get the respect they should get. It’s the younger ones who know how to play the game by being a ‘yes’ person.

  • Hello Ruth, I take it you are responding to my blog post (and column in The Globe) from three days ago. I am sorry to hear about your experience. What a pity!! In my opinion, experience should get respect; I’ve always felt that experience is equal to education!


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