Stop Engaging in Thankless Things at Work – If You Are a Woman

Psst, women reading this: have you ever suspected that you and other female coworkers end up doing a lot of thankless, annoying things in the office because no one else would be? Well, you understand, and you should stop.

Unconfirmed ones are fueling my suspicion that women are getting saddled boring jobs that they won’t get credit for, but now there is actual research from researchers Linda Babcock, Maria P. Rekalde, Lise Vesterlund and Lori Weingart, shared in the Harvard Business Review. The study examined how men and women accepted or offered jobs with “low careers.”

A simple definition of low promotability is any piece of work that won’t create anything for you, but still needs to be done by someone . Tasks such as organizing a holiday party in the office, coordinating training for new employees, or helping to clean up your supply closet. Obviously, there is a wide range of what this kind of thing can be, depending on your industry, but basically anything that improves your work environment doesn’t necessarily lead to more money or better job review.

The researchers developed a test in which groups of three were offered the opportunity to “volunteer” on a computer screen by pressing a button for a limited period of time. If no one pressed, each member of the group received a dollar. If someone did this, the volunteer received $ 1.25 and the other members of the group received $ 2. Guess who’s always been a volunteer?

Although 84% of the groups were able to find a volunteer, this usually did not happen until the last seconds of the two-minute round. It is important to note that the level of volunteering was not the same for men and women. On an average of 10 rounds, we found that women were 48% more likely to volunteer than men, and we saw this difference in each of the 10 rounds.

Interestingly, in the course of further tests, scientists did not find that women are in any way more altruistic; this act of volunteering only happened in mixed groups, as if the woman was thinking, “Wow, these guys are not going to do this.” Paired with other women, women were not more likely to volunteer than men.

The problem with this

Constant suggestions to do things that don’t really work for your career can ruin your career. The researchers referred to another study that found how different career trajectories are for men and women. He cites the 2017 Census of Fortune 500 companies, which found that women held only 19.9% ​​of the seats on corporate boards and only 5.8% of CEO positions in those companies. This is exactly in the corporate sector. To do this, there are many reasons (cough, sexism, cough), but spend the time wasted – definitely one of them!

And yes, this post is titled with a direct suggestion to Just women. Stop. Volunteering. But these are deeply ingrained problems that women just have to do it. Without some mutual understanding, a woman who refuses to volunteer could easily be considered difficult to work or face other consequences. The study also tested managers to see who they chose to “volunteer,” and if you’re guessing about women, you’re right.

Again, the motivation was money. The managers were shown photographs of potential volunteers. If they asked one of them to volunteer at the touch of a button, and they agreed, everyone got more money, except for the volunteer:

Women received 44% more requests to volunteer than men in mixed groups. Curiously, the gender of the manager did not matter: managers, both men and women, were more likely to ask a woman to volunteer than a man. Obviously it was a wise decision: women were also more likely to say yes. Applications for participation in volunteer activities were accepted by men in 51% of cases and women in 76% of cases.

Leaders are leaning towards this bias, and women find it increasingly difficult to abandon this track to nowhere. Both male and female managers adhered to the same tendencies when choosing volunteers – this is something we should all work on.


One of the options offered by our researchers is the alternation of such tasks by managers. Never threw a birthday party in the break room before? Congratulations, you will be studying today. In the end, companies benefit because it gives people who would otherwise volunteer time to develop their real-world skills.

But it’s also important to self-regulate. If you’re a man who never volunteers, consider why and push yourself to do it even more. Be more proactive about things like organizing, raising money for events, keeping track of details. And if you feel like you have nothing to do, well, welcome to the club.


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