A lot of people have aversion to new tasks (well, any kind of change, but especially change with new responsibility.) That aversion becomes infective around groups. So when someone asks if “does anyone want to fill the water cooler quick?” or “Would you mind taking a trip to Raleigh for two days to work with the client and firm up some of our assumptions?” It’s easy to not say anything. It’s easy to just maintain the status quo of your day to day job.
What’s worse, the groupthink sets in and when everyone sees each other not wanting to do this new task, they assume that it’s a bad task. Or they now see this as a game where whoever eventually accepts the task is taking a hit of some sort.
Of course, that has nothing to do with reality. In reality, organizations and groups of people have tasks that need to be accomplished every day. Some new, some old. The people that jump on opportunities and take control of situations become leaders. Once again, the groupthink takes over. When someone is taking control and accepting responsibility in multiple scenarios, people start to notice and take it for protocol. These people become natural choices for leadership roles, because they obviously have initiative and now they have experience to go with it. This is a pretty simple concept and I’m surprised more people aren’t chomping at the bit for new tasks.
Don’t get me wrong, I know there are plenty of organizations that overload their workers and taking on additional tasks isn’t really all that easy to do. There are also multiple degrees of responsibility and taking on tasks that are perhaps not as valuable a use of your time as they should be are different situations. I’m referring to situations where there is clearly a need for someone to take initiative and create a solution or pathway toward success. These types of projects are important and offer the kind of experience necessary to become a valuable asset.
I don’t own a company, but if I did, the people that want to take on new roles and responsibility would rise to the top. Effort always trumps talent.
When you say “no” enough, or just don’t answer “yes” enough, people notice. There’s a fine line between some of the aforementioned issues (granularity of tasks, work overload) and it’s up to you to know the difference. After some time, the opportunity to take charge of a new situation will be gone. Carpe diem.