5 Subtle Signs You’re Doing Work You Won’t Get Promoted For — And How to Stop

Tired woman


Gabriella DiDio
Gabriella DiDio
May 25, 2024 at 11:36AM UTC

The assignments that you think make you shine and the ones that actually make you dazzle at the office are two different things. 

Let me ask you this: Do you look to other leaders in your office and notice how they are shown respect rather quickly? Do you watch how they assert themselves a couple times, and then how the high profile assignments just seem roll on it afterward? Pretty soon they are elevated to the next level while you're still answering the telephone. They use active phrases like: “Can you do X?” and “Yes, I am busy.” While on the other hand, you spend a majority of your 8 hours “excelling” at your job. You take on a lot of the little assignments that nobody wants to do, and are sure not to ask anyone for help in completing them. In fact, it’s not unusual for you to take the initiative on these smaller assignments that you aren’t asked to do.

Acting as a second secretary?  You’re on it.

Booking client meetings for the President? No problem.

Volunteering to clean up the meeting room after a company holiday lunch? Yep, that’s you.

Spending two hours sorting through the mail to make sure every envelope is opened to perfection? You’ve been there. 

If you are overly available, you show people that your time isn’t valuable and this cheapens your image. Champions of the office know their time is extremely valuable and that they have a lot to offer and share with others. They don’t waste a breath on assignments that won’t showcase their talents.

Take a look at these 5 signs to determine if you are doing too many tasks that won’t get you ahead.

1. You take on the lion’s share of the tasks and work intense overtime on projects.

2. Your coworkers don’t move a muscle helping you with the lower value assignments, mostly because they know you’ll handle it.

3. You are never approached for presentations or real high-level stuff even though you are dying to be offered them, like that shiny new client account. 

4. Your opinion is not asked and sometimes your voice is completely ignored.

5. You are rarely assertive and play more of the friendly, easygoing card at work.

Show people how to treat you.

I have no problem being the one to burst your bubble because like many professional women before you, I have been there. I worked on the weekends in my cubicle while everyone was out having fun. I always stood up so quickly from my client work to answer the office door when someone rung the little bell at the front desk. All of these signals that I put out into the environment built an image of me that says “secretary” when I wanted to be seen as “president” or “director.”

I kick myself now, but it doesn’t have to be this way for you. You can change how people treat you by changing your "I will do anything" attitude. Here's how. 

1. Set Guidelines for the Type of Projects You Will Do.

The solution to this problem may seem counter-intuitive at first, but take heed. Instead of volunteering for every job under the sun, be very selective about the projects and tasks you devote your time to. 

Let someone else answer the phone, get the door for a client, take notes in a meeting, and offer to run to Starbucks to get the CEO’s mocha.  If it’s hard for you at first you can weed out the smaller tasks that you usually do, so that you have clear boundaries on what you will and won’t spend your energy on.

You, my friend and soon to be promoted individual, are investing your talents in tasks that show off your skills in front of your coworkers and the executives. 

2. Write Out Projects That You Won’t Do.

Take a pen and paper and set aside 30 minutes during an evening before work and write out the tasks that you will let someone else do. If you are usually the go-to person for these tasks you may be nervous how your co-workers will react when you don’t spring up to complete them. If this is true, think about how you will handle this adjustment period.  For example, instead of feeling awkward about it, you can continue to focus on your work and let an available employee get the phone. You can start to count to 60 seconds in your head when you get the urge to volunteer for one of these tasks. 

Now the question is, what will you do with your newly found free time?  

Spend 10 minutes of your day getting to know your co-workers by shooting the breeze with them. This is how you build rapport and likability. 

This helps you come to mind when the executives and managers think of a candidate for an important assignment. You need to be likable and you need respect to get ahead in the office. Strike that balance and quit doing the busy work.


Gabriella DiDio is tired of the struggles of getting ahead in her career so, instead of revolting, she created Taupe Shoes — an empowering website for women that can help you become stronger through your work dilemmas. Download this quick guide to discover the most common reasons your coworkers or boss upset you at work.  And you can follow Gabriella on Twitter

This article was written by a FGB Contributor.

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