First Person: Why Job Descriptions Matter

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One of your small business managing techniques needs to be giving job descriptions to everybody. You cut down on conflicting orders, ensure the work gets done, and make sure everyone is on the same page.

As a small business consultant for almost four years I rarely found any small business owner using job descriptions until we came in to write them. They also failed to appreciate how important job descriptions are.

Good Managing Techniques Require Giving Job Descriptions

The following three reasons explain why you need a job description for each person:

- Avoid conflicts over who reports to whom and who supervises whom

- Get the work done - eliminates finger pointing

- Minimizes confusion on the part of the employee / supervisor / manager

There are always a few employees who like children play one parent off against another. Therefore, limit how many bosses each has. Conflicts over who assigns the work will destroy your small business' efficiency and effectiveness. It kills morale too because employees feel a bit like ping pong balls getting batted back and forth by conflicting orders and priorities.

Job Descriptions

In the small business consulting firm where I started in consulting, we had more detailed job descriptions for management and supervisors. For non-managerial employees, a simple task sheet worked.

Position Guide

With executives, managers and supervisors, we developed position guides because much more is expected of them. They included:

- Position title

- Description

- Reporting relationships

- Authority

- Responsibilities

- Duties

- Expectations and Performance Measures

- Requirements

- Acknowledgement

Position title

The title is simple statement of the job, e.g. "accounting department supervisor"


The description summarizes the position's main functions.


Here you cover both relationships:

- Whom this position reports to

- Who report to the person doing this job


You describe the limits of the person's authority, e.g. "makes final hiring decisions for dining room servers" or "submits recommended hires for production floor to vice president of production."


As a manager, you have areas that you supervise but normally do not personally do. These are your responsibilities, e.g. "ensures that all delinquent accounts over 30 days get a personal phone call to collect their payments"


These are the tasks that this manager personally does, e.g. "writes performance review on each employee in the accounting department every six months."

Expectations and Performance Measures

Put the standards you want achieved by this person here, e.g. "submits weekly departmental report to vice president on Mondays by 10:00 AM"


You may have several categories here:

- Educational - for instance, "high school degree or GED certificate"

- Languages (written and spoken), such as "must speak conversational Spanish sufficient to take orders at the drive up window" or "must read, write and speak English at a college level"

- Physical - This is where you specify whether the person must be able to climb stairs, lift 50 pounds or any other physical requirement, like vision and color blindness.

The big thing to keep in mind is that you have to be able to justify rationally any requirements that you put down for a position. Otherwise, someone can sue for discrimination.


In this final section, you have spaces for both the employee and his or her boss to print their names, sign and date. You can also include position titles if you want.

By using job descriptions, you greatly reduce problems caused by confusion as to what you expect to be done, and you eliminate conflicts over who gets to assign the employees. This will improve your efficiency, effectiveness and morale making your small business both more profitable and more fun.

More from this contributor:

First Person: The Value of Small Business Systems

First Person: Firing Employees with Kindness and Compassion

Empowered Employees Provide Excellent Customer Service


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