Don’t Be an Office Mom

There, you clean up your colleague’s spilled coffee along the way to make copies of the manual for the new trainee class when you bump into your boss. He asks if a fresh pot is being brewed? Oh, and you wouldn’t mind sending John’s greeting card to the rest of the office for signature, would you? And give it to John before he leaves for the day?

It’s absolutely not on your job description, but you do it because your boss asked, because you’ve always done it in the past, and, well, because you know no one on your team will do it. After all, you’re the office mom.

If you are a working woman, you may be in the above situation. Similar to the second shift – the tendency for women who work to do more housework / childcare than their male partners – to be an office mom happens when women take on extra, uncompensated menial jobs to keep the office or relationships intact: things like taking notes at meetings, collecting a cake for a colleague’s birthday, helping new employees adapt to the office, or filling ice cube trays someone has left empty.

There is nothing wrong with helping out in the office (in fact, it can help create a supportive work environment for others), except that your time is valuable and you should be spending it on work, not caring for your coworkers. … unless explicitly stated in your job description. As written Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant of The the New York Times , «[the] man who diligently takes notes during a meeting, almost never makes the critical conclusions” (the point of view of well-received, even if it is ironic , if come from the Facebook head ) … This will ultimately be detrimental to your career.

Here are some tips if you find yourself visiting the office a lot.

  • Say no: If you’re asked to take on an extra task, like arranging a meeting or picking up a birthday cake, politely decline. You don’t want to burn bridges here – as noted in today’s New York Times Smarter Living newsletter, you want to remember that you say no to a request, not to the person making it – so say it well, but firmly. Say , “No, I don’t have time for that today.” Work out at home if you’re nervous.
  • Set up a schedule: For a recurring task, such as taking notes in a weekly meeting, set up a rotating schedule with other colleagues and email it to everyone. Hope your colleagues take the hint.
  • Tell your boss: Make an appointment with your boss and ” prepare concrete examples of how this will affect your work.” Offer suggestions on how to make it fairer, such as a schedule.
  • Suggest an alternative: “When women are asked to do work that is underestimated, they should try something like“ I would like to work on a paper clip committee. ” But it’s the perfect stretch assignment for David, our new junior employee, at the end of the hallway, ”writes Joan K. Williams, author of What Works for Women at Work in The Washington Post . It works because you politely say no when solving your boss’s problem.

It won’t work in every situation. For example, if your boss asks you to help distribute information during a meeting, it is not a good idea to say no. There is a time and a place for everything. At the same time, it is important to understand when this happens and how often, and discuss this with your boss, giving specific examples if this is a persistent problem.

And it should not and cannot be all on women to change the office dynamics on their own. If you are a manager, pay attention to who you are asking to do and who is doing what in the office. Or if you’re a dude who doesn’t care, offer to take notes at the next meeting, or talk to your boss yourself if you notice there is a problem.


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