The Work of My Team May Be Given to Someone Else

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about a change in job assignments: Do we have any recourse as we are ‘at-will’ employees? Are written job descriptions worthless?

I am a non-unionized audio/visual tech in a museum. Our dept is responsible for any video or audio equipment in the exhibitions. A separate dept of art handlers takes care of fine art objects. Recently a new exhibition wing was created with a new contracted designer. This person has cut us out of the servicing and wants the art handlers to handle the equipment problems too,which obviously messes with our job security. Do we have any recourse as we are ‘at-will’ employees? Are written job descriptions worthless?

Signed, Cut-Out

Dear Cut-Out:

Most likely, the decision about who will service new equipment will be up to your managers, not the contracted designer or the employees. One or more managers will need to decide that the art handlers can effectively service electronic equipment and that the regular audio/visual technicians should not be doing it. It doesn’t seem logical for that to happen, given the facts you provided. So, maybe nothing will change anyway. Even if assignments change for the new wing, that still leaves the older areas to be handled by your team.

If managers discuss it with you, focus on the quality of work that you and your team can provide and what your group has done in the past that is similar to the new work. At the same time, consider if there are valid reasons for the suggestion to cut your group out of the process in the new wing. Could it be that staff has complained about the assistance they receive? Have there been several cases of work not being done in a timely manner? Is the new equipment such an integral part of the art that it must be handled differently?

Perhaps your department could change or improve things to become an even more valuable internal resource.In every workplace, including art museums, gossip and speculation often stir up unnecessary concerns. That may be happening in this case. Maybe your supervisor could simply ask the manager about the proposed changes to find out how likely it is that your group won’t be doing the work.

Whatever happens, keep your focus on the well-being of the museum and those who use it. You probably don’t have any direct control over the final decision, but you can keep showing how valuable your team is. You can also build good relationships that may help in the future.I wish there was a quick and accurate answer for your question, but there are many variables for managers and museum directors to consider. Whatever happens, you will benefit by staying positive and looking for new ways to become the expert resources that everyone relies upon. Best wishes to you with this situation.

Tina Lewis Rowe