After reading compelling research specific to women getting ahead in the workplace, I want to revisit why no is the password to the next level.
No matter your position or career goals, I believe you can benefit from these findings by Lise Vesterlund, economics professor at the University of Pittsburgh. Her latest research reveals that women in the workforce are more likely than men to:
1. Volunteer to do non-promotable tasks.
2. Be asked to do non-promotable tasks.
3. Agree to do these tasks.
So why do women in particular agree to take on more, when we really want to say “no”? For most of us, it’s based on fear – of disappointing or angering someone, of being criticized, talked-about or judged, or of losing an opportunity or our perceived status.
Vesterlund’s research confirmed that when deciding how to respond to a request, nearly a third of women were afraid of being regarded as not helpful, yet fewer than 10 percent of men felt this way. In fact, men were more concerned with whether the task was a good use of their time, would advance their career or would result in someone owing them a favor.
So the next time you’re asked to take on a non-promotable task, think strategically before responding. Will this task give you access to, or recognition or respect from, a connection you’re cultivating? Will it develop a skill set you’re looking to grow? Or will it simply take energy, focus and time away from other vital deliverables?
At a minimum, if you choose to say yes, negotiate in the moment and say, “Happy to take this on this time. And moving forward, it would be great to rotate this task amongst the team.”
Finally, consider that by not taking on every task, you’re creating an opportunity for a colleague to step up and learn and grow from the experience. This holds true at home as well. Perhaps this summer it’s time to empower your team at home, whether age 4 or 54, to share the load so together you can say “yes” to some summer fun.