Best of Both Worlds podcast: Saying “No” to non-promotable tasks with No Club author Laurie Weingart

When should we say yes to things? When should we say no?

The answer varies, of course, but there’s some reasonable evidence that women are more likely to say “yes” to work that does not wind up advancing their careers. In this week’s episode of Best of Both Worlds, Sarah interviews Laurie Weingart, a professor at the Carnegie Mellon Business School and co-author of The No Club: Putting a Stop to Women’s Dead-End Work. They talk about “non-promotable tasks,” why women are asked to do more of them, and how to make sure that such work is kept in check (which can involve a strategic “no” sometimes).

Please give the episode a listen! And in the meantime, if you’d like to join us for our Best of Both Worlds Patreon December online meet-up, it’s going to be a good one! Sarah will lead us in her annual goal-setting workshop on December 15th at noon, eastern. If you’ve been thinking about checking out the Patreon community, this would be a great time. Membership is $9/month.

8 thoughts on “Best of Both Worlds podcast: Saying “No” to non-promotable tasks with No Club author Laurie Weingart

  1. I’m 2 years into a TT academic job and need to get better at saying no to things. I’m pretty extroverted so I tend to say yes to NPTs which bring me a sense of social connection, which is central to my wellbeing. But I’ve gotten better at not volunteering myself for things, particularly when people do something really inefficiently and I could “fix” it easily.

  2. I feel like having kids has really helped me to say no more/create more boundaries. I had a harder time saying no to things before I had a kids, in both my personal and professional life. I don’t use my kids as an excuse, but it has helped me shape my priorities and figure out what I have the bandwidth for. But it’s easier for me to say no to things at this stage of my career when I’m fairly established. And I am not seeking to continue to climb the ladder at work. I love my role and want to continue to be a individual contributor. So that takes some of the pressure off me to feel like I HAVE to say yes to things. The biggest place I run into this in my role is with travel requests. I have set a limit of traveling once/month and am open about this. People seem to understand that it can be hard to travel when you have young kids and both spouses have demanding jobs outside of the home. Traveling with sales people raises my profile at my firm, but I haven’t gotten any push back on limiting it to once a month so far.

    This conversation does bring back bad memories from 10 years ago when I was at another company – and the only female. I was always the person building the slide decks and the more egregious ask I received was when the managing director on our team asked if I would change his name on the cover slide of a deck from Mike to Michael. That is just one example of menial work I had to do. The culture of that group was so awful – I am glad I am in a much different environment now with more diversity! My company has really been focusing on D&I and we had a really good discussion last summer about how women can be treated in the male dominated environment I work in (finance/asset management) and what men can do to be better allies when they see egregious asks.

  3. This was a fantastic episode! I work in consultancy but within the project operations side and so much of what Laurie talked about is what I see every day. It took me ages to realize that the women I was working with didn’t realize how much was being asked of them which wasn’t being asked of other (male) consultants. I’ve started openly addressing it now when I finish resourcing/budgeting meetings – I nicely ask the women whether they realize they’ve been tasked with something non promotable and if they really have capacity to take it on. Part of my role looks at utilization and it’s made me realize women sometimes default to being on the backfoot for their non chargeable work – from early in their careers it can be both non chargeable and non promotable. What a great interview – thank you!

    1. @Rachel – I am glad you are addressing this. The 200 extra hours of non-billable time figure made me jump. It made my husband (who is in consulting) jump. Utilization is key and yes, if you fall behind on that it can be hard to catch up – especially if you are dealing with all the other pressures that make it hard to work long hours!

  4. In case there are any men out there, I just want to say that it does get noticed when you do not raise you hand for the non-promotable tasks. And it is not a good look. Take your turn taking minutes and serving on committees. It should not just be on women to say no. The work not always, but often, still needs to get done.

    1. @LauraK – I would enjoy the irony of someone not getting promoted because his female boss looked askance on him not taking on any “non-promotable” tasks…which in this scenario were promotable in disguise…

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