With consternation, I read through many of the job descriptions targeting me on LinkedIn, somewhat dismayed with the language used to ‘sell’ the role to a potential applicant.

A job description should of course be a list of duties, responsibilities, essential skills and qualifications, an objective analysis of competences – yes, but also are they not an opportunity for a business to entice, excite and enthuse?

If the essence of a job description is to communicate individual expectation and in-role steps to success, then why do some, arguably poorly written texts, set unclear objectives, provide vague jargonistic phrases and act as harbinger of future stress – often it seems by design?

I exhibit the following texts as examples and how I translate these into real-life:

  • Must have a bias for action – working around challenges and obstacles – does this actually mean that the existing role and work environment is fraught with problems such as customer churn, inadequate product development, dis-satisfaction, un-necessary internal bureaucracy and a lack of action bias?
  • Must be able to work effectively in a highly ambiguous environment – if an essential skills set is working in unclear, indefinite, inexactness in a role – then why pray tell can a business be certain the role is needed – and how on earth do you measure the ability to work effectively when a situation is ambiguous?
  • Ability to work under pressure, be a quick thinker, work to tight deadlines – this does certainly seem quite common and innocuous, if a little overly honest, but would you sell a holiday by saying to the customer please go to this resort because it’ll not be very relaxing! Where is the pressure from and is it necessary? Is there adequate time in the role to plan, design, create, prepare? Why are deadlines so tight, is that bad planning, is that incompetence or is it bad vendor/partner management? What initially seems unobjectionable could actually be the thing that grinds you down everyday.
  • Fast paced, high intensity work environment – intensity means to be felt strongly or have a very strong effect. So without doubt this description is unequivocally foretelling of future stress. Whether you’re someone who demonstrates symptomatic responses to stress or not, we’re all feeling it.
  • My personally loathed “work hard, play hard” – oh how I recoil every time I hear this phrase. Never has there been a more barefaced attempt to justify unjustifiable excess – both professionally and personally. It’s ok to flog yourself at your desk until 9pm in the name of corporate enterprise as long as you drink yourself to oblivion after work with your colleagues.
  • High achiever, success driven, ambitious – to see these phrases for me is to suggest that it is not possible to have impact and be successful if you’re not a driven person. But ambition:ruthless, ambition:greed, ambition:machiavellian are common bedfellows in the corporate world. So whilst ambition is not a negative trait in and of itself, why would this trait need to be called out in a job description – what does it say about the culture and colleague dynamics?
  • Self starter, trail blazer – does this actually mean that there will be no ramp period, support or training and that the applicant is expected to be a singular knowledge holder? That they will be spending most of their time in autonomy, working with colleagues who don’t understand their area of expertise?

Of course a job description is not a formal contract through which an employee can hold their employer to account, they aren’t even legally required, but what they are is an indicator of what culture, management style and support can be anticipated.

In an age where 12.5 million working days were lost due to work-related stress, depression or anxiety in 2017 in the UK (http://www.hse.gov.uk/statistics/causdis/stress/) what is acute for me in this current climate of workplace wellness – is this wellness should start at the job description!

Originally published at www.linkedin.com