Should I accept a “temporary” assignment?

Estimated read time: 2 minutes

Temporary assignments are interesting. No. 1, just about anything is temporary anymore. No. 2, I’ve seen plenty of so called temporary assignments turn in to the more permanent assignment version. 

Let me give you an example of what I’m talking about here: somebody leaves the company and in the interim (a.k.a. temporarily) whoever is in charge simply adds that person’s responsibilities to yours.

The first run in that I had with a temporary assignment – or at least the first I remember-was in the mid-1990s when I was playing youth football in Germany and the center got hurt. I really wouldn’t have minded playing center and actually ended up playing center at the University of Iowa in the late 1990s. But I wasn’t given the temporary shot at temporarily filling in. Somebody else was and he ended up playing center for quite a while. In fact I only remember him playing that position going forward and the other guy not returning at all.

Then in business, I’ve seen the same kind of scenario multiple times. Let’s move this person out here temporarily and they can also greet people as they walk in. And then that’s what their role ends up being and they never get moved back.

Or: let’s add social media (or  any other digital marketing tactic) to somebody’s job description temporarily while we think about how to refill a position or create a new position.

And certainly sometimes people given so called temporary assignments can’t necessarily decline them or even have a choice to. But there is a danger or opportunity depending on your viewpoint that the temporary assignment becomes longer-term-or more permanent.

So if you have a choice consider these:

  • Do you even have the skills needed for that assignment-temporary or permanent?
  • Do you even want to do those tasks in addition to the tasks you already do on a daily basis on a longer-term basis?
  • Let’s be a realistic: do you even have the time to add more responsibilities? Now some people do indeed have time and can add new things to their plates but some people don’t and for those that don’t something else will have to give.

Of course, the above are also points that can be considered by the person implementing a temporary assignment. Because what is the point of temporarily assigning things to somebody if they don’t even have the time or potentially worst – don’t even have the skills.

But on the other hand if a temporary assignment is something somebody actually wants to do there’s a lot of opportunity. Excel at the temporary responsibilities and they might be yours.

So there’s potential and also danger in temporary assignments. Of course the worst – or best depending on your perspective.