Every office has chores that no one wants to do, from taking out the rubbish to planning happy hours. Everybody appreciates them being done, but not everyone takes on the responsibility, and your manager probably has no idea who it is that cleans the bins every day.
That’s why these unrewarded office duties are called non-promotable tasks, and may actually be hurting your career.
When we give our time to non-promotable tasks, we’re redirecting our attention from our assigned duties and often setting an expectation that we’ll continue this work. Even something simple that takes 20 minutes a week can suddenly cost you 16 hours in a year. When the average employee already only spends 40 percent of their workweek on their job duties, this can become a huge distraction from your most important work.
Of course, what’s considered non-promotable changes between careers. Volunteer positions are often pitched as great resume boosters, but the truth is your manager would rather see quantifiable data on how you’ve improved your company — something a chair position in an association will probably never give you.
When we look at who performs non-promotable tasks, it becomes clear that this labor disproportionately affects women. A recent study formed participants into groups of three and asked each group to have one volunteer press a button. The two who didn’t press the button earned £2, while the volunteer only earned £1.25. When no one volunteered, everyone received £1. Within multi-gender groups, women were 48% more likely to volunteer than men.
All of the participants were just as capable of pressing a button as the next, which proves that women didn’t volunteer more because they’re better at pressing buttons. To determine why women volunteered, they again broke into groups of three, but this time they were grouped by gender. With this new configuration, men were just as likely to press the button as women — implying that both men and women had an expectation that the women would volunteer.
This expectation that women volunteer for office tasks and committees makes it no surprise that women are 21 percent less likely to be promoted than men while also earning 18 percent less. These tasks directly impact visibility and may hinder job performance, ultimately limiting one’s opportunity for promotion. It’s important to track your growth and invest in opportunities that can boost your career and improve your income. Learn more about how to identify promotable opportunities and how non-promotable tasks can hurt your career with this infographic from Mint.