Mian has the reputation of being one of the most helpful, caring and amiable people in the office.


She willingly “carries out” office housework.


As a result she finds herself in a position where she is not treated as an equal member of the team and she is not getting the professional respect she deserves.


A great leader:

  • Is valued and respected for demonstrated expertise in her field;
  • Ensures that her goals are met, focuses on the right things and sets priorities;
  • Knows when to put her own needs first;
  • Manages expectations;
  • Overcomes resistance.

How to best handle the situation: 

In her book “Lean In”, Sheryl Sandberg talks about “office housework”, administrative tasks that help but don’t pay off. Women are often expected to take care of such tasks, bringing in the cakes for a birthday, making coffee, training and mentoring junior staff or taking notes during a meeting. Women often step up for such tasks because they fear that saying no will get them branded as a non team player.

Furthermore, a common pitfall for many women is that they want to help anyone at any time. In the workplace this can be perceived as “playing mommy” or a strong need to be liked. Mian also used to focus on making other people happy at her own professional expense.

There is nothing wrong with taking your turn for providing the cake for a colleague’s birthday, but make sure it is not your turn more often than anyone else in the office. If you want to be taken seriously for your talent, make sure you don’t send out the wrong signals.

Learning suggestions:

  • It is not selfish to have your needs met even though it might inconvenience  others. Avoid giving in just because it is easier or you just don’t want to make waves;
  • Manage expectations by clearly stating what you are willing to do and what not. Instead of simply saying “no”, provide, where possible, alternatives.  By standing up for yourself, you will show others that you value yourself and your time;
  • Negotiating the conditions of your help is good for you as an individual and good for the organization. When you help without conditions, you train people to expect that you will continue to do so.
  • Attend an Effective Communications Skills/Human Relations Skills course which will help you to develop a “take-charge attitude”;
  • Establish a mentor relationship with a senior leader. Hold regular meetings with him/her to discuss specific issues as they arise and debate alternative courses of action to continuously improve your leadership presence;
  • Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant offer advice on ways employers can reduce “office housework” gender bias in their article “Madam CEO, Get Me A Coffee.” Instead of relying on volunteers for such tasks as note taking, they suggest assigning communal tasks evenly to “ensure that support work is shared, noticed and valued”;
  • In her Forbes article, “Taking Notes isn’t Women’s Work: What To Do When You’re The Default Admin”, Rikki Rogers advises other women to pitch in when it’s an “all hands on deck moment” but to reconsider repeated requests to handle administrative tasks that are unrelated to their positions;


Is there a request you’re planning to say “no” to? How will you proceed in order to get your message across?


Read more about Co-Colours and Co-Colours Team.


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