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Who knew? You hurt your career when you do THIS, ladies

Non-promotable work can hurt your career

In every office, there are jobs no one wants to do but nonetheless need doing. But if things like taking out the trash, planning the monthly happy hour, and cleaning the coffee bar aren’t in your job description, then they won’t advance your career. These tasks are called non-promotable work, and it’s a bigger problem than just taking out the recycling. Doing them could hurt your career.

Research on non-promotable activities

In some industries, volunteer positions on committees and associations are pitched as strong career moves. But they’re not as valued as you may be led to believe.

Your manager won’t value volunteer work the same as efforts that provide quantifiable benefits to your organization. For example, 90% of the 49 Carnegie Melon faculty who participated in a survey said that an assistant professor using their spare time on research is more promotable than one volunteering for a committee.

When we look at who performs non-promotable tasks it becomes clear that this labor disproportionately affects women. Research from the Harvard Business Review broke participants into groups of three who were then asked to decide which volunteer would press a button.

The two who don’t press the button earn $2 and the volunteer earns $1.25. If no one volunteers, everyone gets $1. In this scenario, women were 48% more likely to volunteer than men.

The simple task of pressing a button means that women were no more qualified than men to volunteer, so the researchers set out to see why women were often the volunteers. They again broke into groups of three, but this time the groups were comprised of all men or all women.

In this situation, women were no more likely to volunteer than men. That result implies that the groups before had a shared expectation that the women would or should volunteer.

Ladies: Invest your time at work wisely

This expectation that women volunteer for office tasks and committees may hinder their visibility and performance in the workplace, ultimately harming their larger career goals. This means the further up the corporate career ladder you go, the fewer women you’ll see represented in leadership positions.

That’s why it’s important to invest your time where it counts. Check out the infographic below to learn more about non-promotable work and ways to say no to tasks that won’t lead to a promotion.

Mint infographic on non-promotable work: Could you hurt your career without realizing it?

Non-promotable work

Infographic by

6 thoughts on “Who knew? You hurt your career when you do THIS, ladies”

  1. Wow, Christy. I never thought that doing certain tasks at a former workplace could be negative actions! Luckily, my current job is more fair about labor divisions so my natural “mom” tendencies aren’t a detriment. Still, your article definitely is food for thought for so many of us. Thanks for sharing!

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