Stop Being So "Helpful" at Work

What to do when male colleagues automatically assume you’ll take the notes, make the coffee, and plan the office party
Stop Being So "Helpful" at Work

As the committee chairman prepared to call the meeting to order, he glanced around the room and caught my eye. Inwardly, I stiffened, knowing exactly what was going to happen next. After all, I’d been in this position countless times before: the only woman in a gathering of company executives.

“Diane, would you mind taking notes for the meeting today?”

I smiled, with what I hope was warmth, and answered honestly, “Actually, I’m not a great choice of scribe today. I have to confess I have terrible handwriting, and when I do take notes, I’m too distracted by it to contribute to the substance of the meeting. Is there anyone else who could handle it? I’d be happy to have the notes transcribed to send out afterwards.”

The thing is, someone in the room does have to take notes. I’m not above it, any more than the man who eventually volunteered to take notes that day. We are all created equal in Gods eyes and should approach our jobs with humility no matter what our job title is (Galatians 3:28). I don’t mind being asked or expected to help out. But decades of experience in the corporate world have turned what might seem like an innocent request into a tiresome reminder that in Corporate America, women do (and are expected to do) the bulk of the office “housework.” And as it turns out, all that bulk is weighing down our careers.

The Party-Planning and Presentation-Assistance Committee

Office housework falls into two main categories. First, there are administrative tasks, like coffee-making, party-planning, note-taking, or calendaring events. The other kind of housework involves work of substance that tends to go unseen or underappreciated; things like mentoring less experienced workers, consulting on a peer’s presentation, writing internal research papers, or taking on extra work to keep a big client happy.

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Diane Paddison

Diane Paddison is a business professional and founder of, local groups of professional working women committed to faith, family, work, and each other.

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