Why Job Descriptions Should Be Public

Unlike salaries, what you get paid to do should not be a secret within your organization.

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Andrew G. Rosen
Do you ever wonder what the woman sitting next to you at work does all day? I don't mean in the broad sense; I’m talking about the day-to-day “quiet” tasks that all of us perform.

We work with plenty of people. We know their names, how they get to and from work, we might even know their religion—but we haven't a clue as to what they are expected to do all day.

Here’s why the workplace would be a better place if all job descriptions were made public to all employees within an organization:

[See 5 Reasons Your Co-Worker Makes More Money Than You.]

You know what who to ask for what. Think about the time you'll save when you can figure out who to approach regarding certain issues. This not only comes in handy for new employees, but it’s a valuable tool for long-timers, too. Rather than relying on your office buddy for the scoop, or taking a shot in the dark, you’d have official documentation that reveals what a person’s job entails. This would help you prepare yourself before reaching out to the appropriate person.

When roles are defined, people feel better about what they do. Blurry lines and grey areas are absolute morale-killers in the workplace. People feel good about themselves when they have a clear idea of their tasks, goals, and roles. When fellow employees encroach on your turf, it's often difficult to know how to address them because we don't know their official duties. Job descriptions that are accessible at any time to any company employee give workers the additional confidence they need before picking a battle.

Transparency helps you make smart career decisions. Forward-thinking employees like to know what they’re working towards. In other words, when we’re promoted, we want to know the possibilities. Being able to readily view the job descriptions of others within the organization helps us make decisions about our future. Perhaps the job you thought you wanted comes along with tasks you hate. Or maybe you never realized how dynamic another position could be. Information is power, and unlike salary data, what you get paid to do should not be a secret.

[See The 10 Most Common Job Interview Questions.]

Knowledge helps you make the right connections. Networking is work. For some people, it’s downright exhausting. You can better utilize your time and energy by focusing on work colleagues you’ve targeted because of their responsibilities. One of the best networking strategies is to request informal conversations with people and learn more about what they do. People generally love talking about their jobs, and it’s during these conversations that you learn valuable information and expand your network. Job descriptions cut out the middleman and bring you one step closer to the people you want to speak with.

It's impossible to get a complete picture of a job on a flat piece of paper, but readily available descriptions would be a great starting point. Of course, all of this is a moot point if job descriptions are not accurate, precise, and comprehensive from the start.

What do you think? Should job descriptions be made public within an organization?

Andrew G. Rosen is the founder and editor of Jobacle.com, a career advice blog. He is also the author of How to Quit Your Job.