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Some Thoughts About Women Taking on Non-Promotable Activities

Updated: Aug 22, 2023

Many women devote excessive hours to tasks that help their organization but do little to contribute to a positive performance review or advance their careers. Traditionally, women have carried a heavy load based on societal stereotypes and expectations. In our personal lives, the load often consists of caretaking of family members, household responsibilities, children’s extracurricular activities, while still trying to make time for social activities, or self-care time. On a professional level, the load consists of planning special events, mentoring others, serving on various committees, managing the summer intern program, or leading an employee resource group. On the professional front, you may be asked or merely assigned those tasks. This article is intended to make you aware of the non-promotable tasks (NPTs) and to better understand what they are, why you may often say “yes” and how to be more thoughtful and intentional in saying “yes" or “no.”

How do you recognize non-promotable tasks? Here is a brief list to help you discern if what you’re being asked to take on is indeed an NPT.

· The task is not contributing to or instrumental to your organization’s mission. · The task is not very visible to the organization. · The task requires no special skill. · The task offers no development -e.g., building skills, acquiring knowledge, or providing a key experience.

In my experience, I have found that women find it harder to say “no” when offered assignments or “opportunities.” We may feel flattered to be chosen for the assignment. We may hold a belief that saying “no” is not a viable option and may have long-term detrimental career consequences. I want to offer some language that will give you time to truly consider the opportunity. When asked, say something like, “I appreciate the offer and would like to give it some thought in light of my current commitments and responsibilities.” This response or something similar buys you time to make a thoughtful and more intentional decision. It also gives you time to analyze whether the opportunity or assignment will enhance your career advancement or will go unnoticed when it comes time for performance reviews, salary increases, bonuses, or promotions. And whether you say yes or no, make sure you get back to the person in a timely manner.

Keep in mind that the opportunity may be one that you want to say “yes” to. Maybe it is in support of something that you are passionate about or is near and dear to your heart. Or maybe you truly love recruiting from your alma mater or planning parties. The key is making a deliberate decision rather than a default decision – and one that brings you joy.

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