Coburg Banks | Multi-sector UK recruitment agency

The Joy of a “Clean Up” Job Assignment [Guest Blog]

By Dorothy Tannahill-Moran | Feb 16, 2016 | Candidate Tips
man from star trek looking smugly at the camera.

“And good luck with that…”

Have you ever been given a certain task at work that felt like a punishment?

Perhaps you’ve been asked to head up a dysfunctional team, fix a HUGE problem or complete an impossible project?

This is the type of job we like to call a ‘clean up’ assignment.

And being handed one of these little gems, doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve disappointed your boss, or that they are a smug, mean, horrible person just trying to punish you.

In fact on the contrary, it could show just how much faith they have in your abilities!

I’ll let our guest author, Dorothy Tannahill-Moran illuminate…

The Joy of a “Clean Up” Job Assignment

photo of a train with the title of the blog written on it. Recently, a lady wrote to me fairly distressed that her CEO had moved her into an assignment she didn’t want; working in a group that was fairly dysfunctional.

Despite her outstanding performance, the move felt like being put into the penalty box.

To make the situation worse, she was being given assignments (from the boss of this dysfunctional group) that weren’t really that beneficial to the company. Said new boss was doing strange things in an attempt to avoid getting fired and a poor choice of projects was one of them.

Up to this point, the company, job and pay were great.

My Response?

woman celebrating pushing her hands towards the airI told her she should be celebrating!

Over the years, I have found that being tossed into a train wreck is one of the most career enhancing situations.

The reason: It can only get better and you can be the one to make it shine.

Turn around” expertise is a highly sought after skill which can also be paid substantially higher than the every day equivalent job.

A person with that kind of talent is like finding a red diamond (of which there are only 5 of in this world).

So today in the Coburg Banks blog, I’m going to outline the advice I gave her.

I hope it fuels your thinking about how to handle situations like this when they come along – or go after them in a big way (!)

1. Be excited to have the CEO’s attention!

Phoebe pointing at herself happily like 'me - it's me'Some people I know would assassinate their own grandmother for this type of situation.

Somewhere along the line, she had performed well enough that the CEO either noticed or was made to notice her.

She was the solution to a problem the CEO personally found important enough to get directly involved.

When you are part of a solution the CEO thinks is important, you have a God-given opportunity to use that visibility to your personal benefit.

Of course, you have to perform but that should be no problem for a person with a proven track record.

(Want to get noticed by your CEO? Click here to read a great article written by James Caan).

2. Assert your leadership.

cartoon woman holding up 3 other businesspeopleNot having a title or position is totally a non-issue for driving the results that need to take place within a group.

Some people get very hung up that “without the credentials, you can’t do the work” attitude. Hogwash!

Have you ever heard of leading from behind, or leading without a title?

Those aren’t philosophical terms; they exist because some situations require that someone do just that.

Initiative is a big characteristic of leadership as is taking responsibility for yourself and others.

3. Pursue value-added work.

cartoon man walking past a sign which says 'no negative attitude anytime'People who are running scared tend to make poor decisions, especially when protecting their ego.

Clearly, the dysfunctional, poor performing manager could actually look better to the CEO if work was being done that had real impact to the company.

So, all the person who contacted me had to do was to figure out a couple of dynamite projects that would turn them (and the dysfunctional boss by association) into a rock star.

If they positioned it correctly (and not negatively) with the existing boss, they would surely come to their senses; hopefully slowing down the stupid projects that are being assigned.

4. Develop your own job description.

the super businessman to do is answering a phone call. Business concept money Finance. Retro style pop artAmong the lady’s chief concerns, was the fact that she was unsure what her job role really was or how her performance was going to be measured.

This is another area where taking leadership will not only help her but also the boss and possibly her work peers.

She can develop what she thinks would be the best use of her skills combined with the work that desperately needs to be improved to create the framework of the job.

She can then sit down with this boss and probably the CEO to ratify her recommendations. Taking this approach is like how you would approach work if you were a consultant.

(Oftentimes the consultant’s work isn’t well defined; they just know they have a problem that you need to fix.)

The first order of business is for the consultant to figure out where the improvement opportunities exist, pull together a work plan and ratify.

5. Stay in touch with the CEO.

Mr. Burns (from the Simpsons) chatting on the phoneIn a situation like this, there may be no need for accountability back to the CEO but you should act like there is.

Keep this person updated on your progress and accomplishments without going into too much detail.

Maintaining some amount of contact will confirm that you are worthy of their trust by being mature enough to provide communication.

This doesn’t mean you are throwing the current boss under the bus – in fact, don’t say anything negative about your boss.

Also, keep the boss in the same communication loop. By being upfront and transparent, you keep demonstrating your leadership.

By maintaining some contact with the CEO you keep the visibility that will be crucial in the future.


I hope you can see, that a situation like this could define how fast and how far you could go in your career.

Bonus Tip: Adapting is key to your career survival, growth and advancement.

To get free instant access to video series: The 5 Most Common Ways Introverts Commit Career Self-Sabotage and How to Avoid Them simply click here now!

More amazing insights from “The Introvert Whisperer” – thanks Dorothy.

If you’d like to receive more career-boosting posts just like this one, then all you have to do is click here and subscribe to this blog!

- Dorothy Tannahill-Moran
Dorothy Tannahill-Moran

Dorothy Tannahill-Moran

Dorothy Tannahill-Moran is a certified life and career coach. Known as the Introvert Whisperer, she works with introverts who are looking to stay authentic & achieve real career growth. With over 21 years in management, Dorothy’s motto is “it’s not JUST a job; it’s half your life – so love your career.”

> More blog posts by Dorothy Tannahill-Moran

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