Determining when “other duties as assigned” justify an increase

Dear Joan:

I am currently employed with what I think is a good company. I am currently a systems operator and my experience and expertise has taken me into setting up new systems and applications over the Internet for our users to use.


I am not getting compensated for the duty of setting up the rest of the systems or applications. In fact, my boss says it’s only a collateral duty. I don’t understand what he means by that. There are times I spend more than a day setting up some of this stuff because I have to make sure that it’s all secure before displaying it on the Internet.


To pacify me, he has given me the position of Senior Systems Operator. I currently have been in this field for nine total years, with the last two in AS400/series environment. Everything beyond that was in Microsoft.


I have told him that my title should be either Websphere Administrator or Network Administrator but for some reason he doesn't agree with me because he calls it a collateral duty. My question is what is a collateral duty and what does it entail?



Your boss is probably referring to your job description when he tells you some tasks are collateral duties. Job descriptions are designed to describe the bulk of your job. There are always those “other duties as assigned.”


The reason that job descriptions aren’t a detailed list of every single thing a person does is because it would be too cumbersome. If everything had to be included on the job description it would be too long. As job duties changed it would have to be rewritten



As it stands now, in most companies, job descriptions are rewritten when a person’s job increases in scope and authority by about 20 percent. At that point, the job needs to be given a fresh look and the pay needs to be examined so it fits the bigger job. It’s important to point out that job descriptions and pay levels (or “bands”) need to take into account what the marketplace is paying for similar jobs. In other words, most HR departments have to make sure their job levels and titles are in sync with other companies in their size range and in their industry. That’s why most HR departments do regular salary surveys, to see if they need to adjust any job descriptions and pay scales.


Another reason job descriptions aren’t all-inclusive is that it would tie the hands of managers and employees who want to grow their responsibilities and therefore increase their career prospects. People would be unable to do something new because “It isn’t in your job description.”


Another key point is that doing more work is not the same as doing higher level work. In other words, if the work you’re doing setting up the systems and applications is a lot like the work you are already responsible for, it’s not going to qualify you for a bigger title or more pay. On the other hand, if your duties require more education, more independent decision-making and require more responsibility for results (and it takes up about 20 percent of your total work) you may indeed qualify for a new job description, more pay and maybe even a new title.


It seems as if your manager has made a good effort at recognizing your extra duties by giving you an expanded title. This will not only help you build a case down the road for more pay (if you keep on reaching for more responsibilities that qualify), it will help you on your resume, should you leave to look for another job.


My advice is to keep track of the time you spend doing the additional duties. Do an honest assessment of the degree of responsibility these duties actually require. While you may occasionally be spending a full day on this work, if it doesn’t meet the criteria I’ve outlined, you are not going to have much luck getting extra credit for it.


On the other hand, if you pursue the extra duties as a way to increase your value to the organization and a way to strengthen your resume qualifications, you will be a natural candidate for the next internal (or external) opportunity that comes your way. My experience tells me this: Companies want to promote people who reach for new responsibilities willingly. Companies don’t want to promote people who constantly complain they aren’t compensated whenever they are asked to do a new “duty as assigned.”

Joan Lloyd is a Milwaukee based executive coach and organizational & leadership development strategist. She is known for her ability to help leaders and their teams achieve measurable, lasting improvements. Joan Lloyd & Associates, specializes in leadership development, organizational change and teambuilding, providing: executive coaching, CEO coaching & leader team coaching, 360-degree feedback processes, retreat facilitation and presentation skill coaching and small group labs. Contact Joan Lloyd & Associates at (414) 573-1616,, or 
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