Should You Accept Your Role?

By Lindy Earl

This is one of those questions where the answer is, It depends. First, we’re not talking about accepting a new role, as in a new job or promotion.  That’s just a question of following the steps of The Decision Making Process, and bam, the answer pops out.  This question, as simplistic as it seems, can be a little more complicated.

When you are already in your situation, business, social, relationship, whatever, and once ensconced you learn that you have responsibilities and expectations upon you that you didn’t expect.  Should you accept these roles, or question them?

If they are positive, in that you are being given more responsibility and more authority, then if you have the abilities to perform the responsibilities well, then I would take them.  You may not immediately receive compensation for these duties, but in time you should be noticed.  If that never happens then you can leave, and then you will definitely be appreciated. It’s happened to many of us, in both directions.  People don’t appreciate what they have until they lose it, in this case, hard workers with great work ethics.

My first job out of school was in HR (but it was called Administration then).  Being me I accepted lots of work that was way beyond my paygrade. I was working more than 60 hours a week and approached my boss about the situation.  I was assured that I was fine and doing a good job. I realized that the best thing I could do was walk away.  It was bittersweet to learn my replacement lasted two hours. The next one lasted two days.  They realized they needed two people in the position and split the duties while hiring another employee. Sometimes you’re only appreciated after you’re gone.

What if you are given more work without recognition or the ability to accomplish the work?  Should you accept your role?  Well, if you see your role as underappreciated lackey, then probably not.  Your attitude and eventual resentment will show.  If you see your job as a short term fix while you pursue your education or another career, then no.  Taking on more is not going to help you in the long run and could possibly interfere with achieving your goals.  You can’t give 100% to your education if your job is requiring too much from you.  This is why we hire students to handle the mundane jobs . . . it’s a perfect match.  You don’t want to do the work and they need a simple job that allows them to focus on matters other than work.

If, however, you are being given tasks, without pay or clear recognition, and you plan on staying with your company for a long time, then I believe you should accept your role.  Yes, you are the unsung hero.  Yes, you might resent the work and lack of acknowledgement.  But if you can hide that, for a while at least, and step up, then benefits will come.

First, you will learn from the experience.  You may learn new skills, even things that you never expected.  I was not an Operations girl when I graduated from College, but having work thrust at me, and accepting it, I learned a lot about Operations in record time!  So your experience is growing in exponential ways and will show up on future resumes that will match job descriptions for which you will be qualified.

Also, you will achieve new levels of maturity.  When we accept and take on more tasks, even without recognition, our maturity level is rising.  Every time we manage to smile when someone else takes credit, our maturity level is increasing.

The new tasks, even without the recognition of being in the role, could subject you to people you would not otherwise meet.  Once upon a time a woman was not promoted when her boss quit, but she took over all his work.  This continued for several months.  While she didn’t have the title, she did have the responsibility.  She bore it all.  She met the other VPs and C-levels and was accepted as one of them.  This story has a happy ending.  Eventually she went to her boss and explained that she had been doing the job of the VP without the title or pay.  Since she had proven her ability, she believed she should receive both.  The CEO agreed and promoted her.  It took months of working without either recognition or financial gain, but accepting the role led to a promotion that may not have come if the position had been hired when it was first open.  It’s very possible that she would have been overlooked and a new VP brought in to be her boss.

Now, there are times when you should definitely not accept your role.  If you are being demeaned or harassed in any way, then do not accept your situation.  You have several options, depending on the size of the company, your role, and where you stand in the pecking order.  If you’re in a large company you can submit a complaint to HR, but do not be surprised if the squeaky wheel that gets replaced.  It happens.  You can talk directly to the person making your feel uncomfortable.  It is possible that they think they are being funny and do not even realize that they are insulting.  It happens.  Of course you can find a new position elsewhere and walk away.

So whether you should accept your role is an individual choice.  If you see long term growth and benefits, then stay.  You can still speak to your boss about the situation, and things could change.  If it’s a short term role then you may choose to accept it because it’s only for a little while. I’ve done that.  My last semester of grad school brought me a new boss, and it wasn’t worth the energy and time to change jobs for just a few months.  Or if it’s a short term job and you can easily find a new one, then change your role, versus accepting what is before you.  Of course, you can’t be sure the same things won’t occur in your new position, but at least you can be prepared with good questions before accepting.

Things just aren’t black and white.  Nothing negative was intended, but jobs change, roles change, and people change.  Look at your situation and decide if you’re comfortable with your role.  If you are, then be happy with your good fortune.  If you’re not, then look at that Decision Making Process and let the best option pop out.

Lindy is a Business Consultant and Speaker for companies of all sizes and individuals of all levels.  In addition, she is an author and columnist.  Contact her at