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How Do Job Descriptions Describe Operational Relationships?

In the organizational relations portion of the job description, you should show informational, material, and monetary resource flows to the job as well as the sources of these flows.

Job descriptions offer a unique opportunity to help you think through your operational relationships. Read on to find out more.

Job descriptions should describe the many work (operational) relationships that exist with respect to the job. In reading a job description one should be able to discern what part a given job plays in the total work system-how it interrelates with work performed on other jobs, who else the worker makes contact with, and so on. Likewise, the outputs (results) of the job should be reiterated and destinations of these outputs made clear. Again, job change efforts are immensely facilitated by doing this.
Added to the above should be a full description of feedback mechanisms. Job design involves building feedback systems for the workers. These systems keep workers informed about how well they are performing on their jobs. Written reports, word-of-mouth comments from the boss, test results, data from mechanical counters, and information from workers down the line all represent mechanisms for helping employees better understand how well (or poorly) they are doing. Feedback systems frequently tie the workers to other parts of the total work system. When redesign is necessary, a precise picture of this performance control component of job design is vital for tracing the ramifications of change. Finally, in this section, any areas of shared responsibility should be made clear. This can be vital information if performance evaluations are to be valid. It is critical to ensure clear accountability and control.
Duty and Responsibility Statements
Following the description of organizational relations, task (duty) and responsibility statements should be identified in a modified list format. This duties and responsibility section is the heart of the job description--a description of the job's intrinsic design. Statements must be written properly and cover all dimensions of the job. Task and responsibility statements tell the reader precisely what the incumbent does for the organization, specifically how the person will be spending their time in the position.
Independent Authority
Following the section on duties, the job description should describe the independent authority of the position. It should be clear just what decisions the incumbent can make on his or her own without clearance or authorization from managers. The organizational resources--and size of those resources--that the job holder can commit to use should be identified. This section spells out the depth and scope of the incumbent's official authority to get things done.
A description of the physical and social contexts in which the tasks are executed should be given. Description of the physical context should call attention to any hazardous conditions, to lighting, sound, temperature, and atmospheric conditions and to visual factors present in the environment such as decor and coloring.
Emotional, mental, and physical demands should be delineated. It is critically important here, if not done elsewhere, to describe the volume of work (a key dimension of job design) expected of the worker. Does the job involve a heavy work load? Or is the work load relatively light? It may be useful to show comparisons with other positions.
Description of the social context should refer to the incumbent's physical proximity to other workers, the frequency of verbal contact the incumbent has with others, and opportunities for non-task, socio-emotional interaction with others. The extent to which the job is an integrated element of a team effort and the degree of autonomous control of work exercised by the worker can also be indicated here if not spelled out in previous sections.
Tools, Equipment, Facilities, and Layout
A section depicting the tools, equipment, facilities, and work layout systems confronted by the employee should come after the description of physical and social contexts, if this is not adequately incorporated within duty statements. This section should vividly show the technical environment. It tells the reader what kinds of relatively fixed resources the employee uses to get the job done.
Other Items
Since the purpose of the job description is to show, as clearly and completely as possible, the design of the job, various other bits of information can be added if needed. If the data are useful and are on the design of the job, then they can be added as long as they are not too costly to gather and as long as they do not confuse.
It may be worthwhile to elaborate on the kinds of inputs and outputs associated with the job. Statements about the kind of work system--serial, parallel, departmental, pooled--the job is a part of may be included as well. Sometimes it makes sense to discuss any other jobs with similar characteristics that fall into a family of like jobs--horizontally or vertically.
What the Job Does Not Include
Often it is desirable, in the interest of making the job design clear, to include another section that indicates what tasks/responsibilities are not included in the job. For example, sometimes workers become abused when they take instructions from many sources. To prevent this, you may want to restrict what workers will be permitted to do by including explicit statements clearly showing forbidden territories. Employees in labor pools often find themselves doing anything and everything that nobody else seems to have time for or that nobody else wants to do. Excessive work loads and worker stresses soon emerge. This is the kind of situation that can be avoided if the job description incorporates statements of tasks in which pool members will not engage.
This section should really list all the ways in which the worker is expected to use the workday. It should be a set of activity expectations. Some of these activity expectations are probably not properly classified as duties or responsibilities but they should be built into the job description to show the true, total design of the job.
A simple listing of activity expectations (obligations) is not sufficient, however, for this section of the job description. Activity obligations should be categorized. Among other things, categorizing makes the intrinsic structure of the job clearer.

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