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Office ‘housework’ hinders professional growth
July 26, 2015, 2:36 pm

More often than not, women are the ones who help others when asked — they plan the meetings, take the notes, and take on other types of office ‘housework’. These thankless-but-necessary tasks keep organizations humming. However, it has been observed that women are expected to do more of this work, but they do not get sufficient credit for it and suffer backlash when they refuse to do it. A man who does not help is ‘busy’; a woman is ‘selfish’.

Office ‘housework’ is often invisible and so its value to a team is under-appreciated. Here are four strategies that work to tackle it.

Turn a request for help into a negotiation: If you are asked by your boss to undertake additional responsibilities, use the opportunity to leverage your extra work for a promotion or other incentives. For instances, if you are tasked with temporarily supporting a colleague who needs help doing his work. Instead of settling for just doing the job, discuss it with your boss and negotiate the request to a promotion. Agree to help, provided you will earn a promotion after the helping period ends.

Ascertain the cost of your contribution: Helping out should not be a free. Not only does it take time away from your own duties, but it can also exact a toll on your health and family. When you are asked to help a colleague or team, be sure to factor in the additional time required needed for this. Point out the extra time spent to the boss in stark money terms and this will help you negotiate for more resources to help without putting in more time.

Demonstrate the value of your help: When you initially help another division or recruit a client or save an important work relationship, your colleagues will understand your worth and begin to seek your help. Although you may enjoy being seen as a ‘fixer’, you cannot continue undervaluing yourself and still keep up with your job. By showing the value of your work to the other division, you can negotiate the ‘fixing’ work you are doing into a new expanded role, with a commensurate title and raise.

Build in reciprocity when the help is personal: When negotiating requests for help of a personal nature, ask for reciprocity — if I do this, then what will you do for me?  For example, you can say you are willing to get the coffee – with the provision that another person on the team will get their turn, and make sure deal is implemented.

Negotiating the conditions of your help is good for you as an individual and good for your organization. When you help without conditions, you train people to expect that you will continue to do so. But when you negotiate the conditions of your help, it can be a small win for you, and these small wins can start to accumulate into bigger gains.

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