The pressure to be a good team player is not just an internal pressure women face. Managers instill this pressure. And this is what women can do to fix it.
That is why employers and managers should shoulder the responsibility of distributing glamorous work assignments fairly. But on an individual level, reluctant volunteers are not helpless to say yes. They can use these proven strategies to avoid taking on thankless tasks. Here’s how:
How women can say no to office housework
To stop from getting roped into needless tasks, women first need to recognize why they need to say no. Agreeing to summarize meeting notes may seem like the most painless way to get a thankless task out of your way, but it is holding you back from doing the work that will actually help you learn and grow.
On the Women at Work podcast, economics professor Lise Vesterlund, one of the researchers behind the non-promotable task study, advised reframing your no as a yes to something else more important. “It’s not just a question of saying no, no, no. It’s saying no to things so that you can do the things that you really care about,” she said. Recognizing your priorities can be the motivation you need to keep quiet when the call for helpful volunteers comes across your desk.
But women need to be careful about how they frame their refusal to their boss. Saying no may backfire. One 2005 study found that women get rated less favorably than men in their performance review if they do not get seen as helpful.
To soften the blow of a flat-out rejection, Vesterlund said that employees should meet in a private setting with their boss about the office housework request. It may help your case to avoid publicly challenging your boss.
Once an employee get her boss in a room alone, the employee can then push back on an office housework request by reminding the boss that she is seeking new challenges. Employees can say, “Many of my tasks have become routine. Can I get tasks that demand more where I can show my skills more?” Vesterlund advises. The request tactfully nudges the boss to remember to be a good boss, because fair managers want to help their reports develop and grow.
By asking for new challenges, it shows that you are trying to be a good team player by being the best professional you can be. Ultimately, doing your best work is the best help that you can give a company and you cannot do that if you are stuck doing tasks that do not push you to grow.