By Mercy Harper
Listen and follow "The New Rules of Business" wherever you get your podcasts: Apple | Spotify | Google Podcasts
Mentoring junior staff. Serving on committees. Organizing the team happy hour. These are just a few examples of non-promotable tasks that need to get done, but newsflash: don’t get you the promotion. And is it any surprise that this volunteer work disproportionately falls on women and people of color?
According to Dr. Lise Vesterlund, non-promotable work can add up to more than 200 hours per year for a single person. On the latest episode of Chief’s podcast, "The New Rules of Business," the co-author of The No Club talks with Chief Co-Founder Lindsay Kaplan about the economic and societal impact of taking on these thankless tasks.
"It contributes to the gender wage gap. It contributes to differences in advancement, it contributes to burnout, and it contributes to women’s inability to negotiate," says Dr. Vesterlund. "We see these differences in work assignments as being a critical contributor to the gender differences that we are seeing in the labor market."
On the podcast, the University of Pittsburgh Economics Professor offers practical advice to say no to thankless and low-value work. "An effective way of saying no is to give a quick explanation, and then help the requester solve the problem," she says. "While an assignment may be non-promotable for you, it could very well be promotable for someone else."
Vesterland maintains that non-promotable work is ultimately a systemic problem. It’s up to organizations — not individuals — to fix it. She recommends tallying up all the ongoing tasks within your team that don’t directly contribute to business value. Eliminate what you can, and equitably allocate the rest.
"At the end of the day, everybody has to do some non-promotable work," says Dr. Vesterlund. "But it should not be distributed based on gender or race. It should be distributed based on skill."
Listen to the full episode on "The New Rules of Business" and be sure to follow wherever you get your podcasts. New episodes drop every Tuesday.