Women in the workforce constantly contend with unfair, hyper-gendered ideas of how to be a “good” employee. Especially if you’re in the junior phase of your career, you may assume that taking on extra tasks, whether they’re part of your job or completely unrelated, will improve your office reputation and that shrugging off inappropriate behavior from colleagues makes you seem low-maintenance. However, if you’re seeking a satisfying career with significant growth potential, these 8 habits should vanish from your to-do list.
1. Planning office parties.
Unless your job description explicitly lists “planning and executing office celebrations," there’s no need to turn yourself into a member of the Party Planning Committee. If there isn’t an admin at your office who’s officially responsible for these gatherings, participants should share the duties via a rotation, a lottery, or another equally-egalitarian method.
As a new hire, it makes sense to want to get in your coworkers’ good graces right off the bat. But even if you’re an incredible baker who really likes making cupcakes for her colleagues, acting on that desire in the early stages of your tenure will reinforce gender stereotypes in a potentially detrimental way.
Alison Green of Ask a Manager insists that “while you're working on establishing that reputation for yourself, it's wise not to fall into stereotypically ‘feminine’ roles within the office — such as always getting the coffee for meetings, doing everyone's dishes in the office kitchen, organizing office parties, etc. Get yourself taken seriously for your skills first. Once you're taken seriously, sure, bring in cupcakes — but get your foundation down first.”
3. Cleaning up after meetings and events.
Another gendered task that often falls to women in the workplace for no good reason, cleaning up after group meetings and gatherings shouldn’t become your exclusive responsibility (unless that’s an agreed-upon part of your job). As with office parties themselves, the clean-up process should be shared among all employees who partake of the provided treats.
4. Spending beyond your means on clothing or beauty treatments.
Most offices have prescribed dress codes (some more casual and free-form than others), and all employees should absolutely endeavor to hold to those standards as much as possible. But unless you work in a very specialized field (like, if you’re an editor at Vogue), there’s no need to break the bank on your office wardrobe and beauty regime. Just ensure that you’re sticking to the dress code, look to your colleagues for examples of appropriate dress (and ask your HR rep or direct manager for guidance if you have questions), and make sure you’re comfortable in whatever you choose to wear.
5. Constantly apologizing, even when you’re not at fault.
It’s no secret that women receive socialization cues at an early age prompting them to “over-apologize." We apologize constantly. And when we’re actually at fault, the ability to sincerely acknowledge your error and express your regret can be a powerful asset. But when you find yourself apologizing for taking a sick day or for asking your colleague a necessary work question, you’re doing yourself a disservice.
6. Hesitating to make use of your PTO.
In today’s work culture, the notion of endurance and of rewarding employees for pushing themselves beyond their limits can quickly approach dangerous territory. For instance, companies and offices that discourage workers from taking their paid time off (which is, of course, part of their compensation packages) send a message that they don’t value their employees’ wellbeing. If your office offers PTO, don’t feel bad for taking it when you need it; as long as you communicate with your colleagues beforehand and ensure that your responsibilities are covered, you have every right to make use of this time, and you’ll be a stronger employee for it.
7. Allowing constant disruptions to your work-life balance.
When you’re in the midst of a particularly hectic time at work or have a massive project looming, it makes sense to put in overtime hours and participate in work-related conversations well past your regularly-scheduled office time. But on a regular, day-to-day basis, you should feel empowered to assert your work-life boundaries. Whether you use an OOO reply letting emailers know when you’ll be able to reply to their messages or you inform your team know that texting you after hours should be reserved for emergencies, you can and should protect and enjoy your off-the-clock time without frequent interruptions.
8. Tolerating harassment of any kind.
The #MeToo movement took inspiring and unprecedented steps toward holding workplace harassers accountable for their disgraceful actions, but the plague of inappropriate colleagues and bosses isn’t yet a thing of the past. But although these problems still exist, no professional needs to accept these behaviors as “just the way it is." By speaking up, you’ll help your current and future coworkers and will take meaningful action against the misogynistic norms that persist in the professional world.