Updated Skill : Resident Juggler?


So what’s really in a job description? It does not help productivity at all when you are constantly wondering if you are the Personal Assistant to your line manager, the front-office handler, the ‘go out and increase our network’ person or the one playing the role they actually signed up for. Not only is it not productive, such situations literally drain the life out of you. I know multi-tasking  is a well-quoted skill but even the world’s juggling record is currently capped at 11 balls, and even then, the juggler only managed 23 consecutive catches. So what can we learn from this chief juggler?

For the Team Leader:

It is probably true that you are under a lot of pressure to keep everything running even in choppy waters. You may not be able to make all the calls but you have a voice heard more than others. This is your ship – look into what each role is expected to fulfill and ask yourself if it is in the realms of reasonable, actionable and effective for the organization and the job taker’s growth and functonality. However, if you have no option but to sign off on bloated job expectations, you can:

  • Constantly seek opportunities to empower your charges. Foster the teamwork spirit so that each team member feels allowed to chip in and help especially during larger scaled events.
  • Celebrate your team players and their achievements because when it comes to recognition, even a little goes a long way.
  • You may not be able to tip the scale on the pay packages but, how about looking for ways to enhace the work space? Even a fresh coat of paint, fixing the leaking plumbing, providing for adequate office supplies and finally getting that office microwave all go into making a difference. Start small and build from there.
  • But most importantly, give clear leadership, offer support and let the people have the space to do their jobs – not the other ten tasks they can do because you say so but really shouldn’t because they will divert their focus from their core business entirely.
  • Also, when you can (and this is more often than not always), do make your own cup of tea. Getting pulled out of a line of thought to fix you a cuppa is not really one of the ways to keep your team members’ momentum running. Just saying.


For the HR Associate: Define, Define, Define

With the shifting funding landscape across the sectors, coupled with a stricter focus on the bottom lines, there seems to be an increasing amount of pressure to fit as much stuffing into one turkey as one can. I am currently on the look-out for new career opportunities, and the number of bloated and sometimes, unrelated and unrealistic job descriptions I have come across is surprising. I am often left wondering if said position is just after a glorified tea girl with super powers or an actual professional equipped to man said vacant front. It is quite confusing I must say. It is, in fact, the responsibility of the HR Associate to advise management on the definition and combination of roles to be allocated to given positions. If this is not strongly emphasised, I fear we will breed a task force compelled to be so diversified that a play of musical chairs will come into effect. Why? There will always be a drive to keep searching for where one feels they will have a better, more defined fit. After the 23 consecutive catches, the balls will drop, and no matter how good one is, one will have to take a bow.

For You: Choose a Struggle

Do you really want to spend every working day trying to figure out when to develop those survey training tools, schedule productive field work for some program beneficiary interaction, plan a site visit for the incoming delegation, do some possible donor research and mapping, start working on the newsletters, coordinate the vendor deliveries, edit a couple of reports and still serve your boss a well-laid tea tray? I would think not. Don’t even get me started on the ‘any other duties allocated from time to time’.


In essence, you can program your mind and your days into bursting at the seams with activity. However, never have activity and productivity bore the same meaning. What will eventually happen is a drop in your strong suites. Your attention to detail will blur because there’s so much to deliver and so much demanding your attention that surely, some details will fall through the cracks. Your creativity will be forced to wear a strait jacket because creative thinking needs time and space. You will not have much of either. You will slave. Yes, slave is the word that best describes putting in a solid day’s worth of work, overtime and then some more hours at home later with the telly on for company.

And no, this is not a millennial ‘I want it now on a silver platter, take me as I am, this is too much work to get to the top’ kind of speak. I recognise the place of hard work in building your stance in a chosen profession. I do. What I choose to fight is the notion that you need to take up a ridiculous number of roles, be efficient and grow professionally when a second look deciphers the obvious. That there are limits to what any juggler can do. Lastly, you will lose your spark, and above all else, I believe this to be the worst pitfall. I know that we need to start

Lastly, you will lose your spark and above all else, I believe this to be the worst pitfall. I know that we need to start somewhere in order to get the experience we need to take that next step. What I would like you to choose when the opportunity presents itself is yourself. Speak clearly and objectively about the role you feel you have been called to play. Lay out what you feel are the bloated issues on your JD and seek your supervisor’s address on the same. This is not complaining, this is levelling the play field because you will be assessed based on all 42 pages of your job description if you are not quick to point out areas that would be best restructured for funtion. It would be great to go intdiscussioncussion with a couple of solutions too – maybe enlarge the internship program so you have those to delegate tasks to or suggest the hiring of a full time assistant should the budgetary limits allow. However way you go about it, choose a struggle. Both you and the organization stand to benefit a great deal.



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