Why Women Should Say ‘No’ To Being the Meeting Notetaker

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How often have you been the one asked to take notes at meetings or take time out of your schedule to train a new hire? If you feel like you’re charged with these tasks more than your male colleagues, you’re probably right. New research by Linda Babcock, Brenda Peyser, Lise Vesterlund and Laurie Weingart shows that women are more often called upon to do what they have termed “non-promotable tasks” — tasks that are necessary, yet rarely contribute to career advancement. They found that by saying yes to these tasks, women take on an extra 200 hours of work each year — an extra month of labor annually, Forbes reported.

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Saying no to non-promotable tasks can free up your time to do work that will actually get you closer to that next rung on the career ladder — but that’s easier said than done. In this “Financially Savvy Female” column, we’re chatting with career experts about how to navigate this tricky work situation.

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Determine If the Task Could Have Indirect Value

Before saying no to a non-promotable task, determine if it could possibly help you boost your career in an indirect way.

“We must use our discernment and intuition to decide when to reject activities,” said Blanca Vergara, who coaches female founders and senior executives. “Not all ‘non-promotable work’ is made the same. It could be advantageous for us. Once one of my coaching clients was given the task of organizing a dinner party. Taking this seemingly degrading activity was a game changer for her. The task got her in contact with senior leaders in an informal way. After the party, she was invited into the company leadership development program, and from then on exciting promotions and projects followed.”

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Explain Why You Can’t Take on a Non-Promotable Task

If you determine that a task really has no value to your career, it’s OK to tactfully say no.

“Learning to professionally decline these tasks is possible,” said Melissa Kaekel, an individual counseling and vocational rehabilitation expert and founder of the Morgan Hill Institute.

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Politely explain that you are focused on your own work tasks.

“A simple, ‘Thank you for thinking of me, but my time and focus are needed on (project) for the foreseeable future,’ may be sufficient,” Kaekel said.

Turning down a non-promotable task is a good way to set boundaries.

“It is important to be assertive when turning down work tasks that are not in line with your goals or interests,” said Jennifer Hartman, HR expert at Fit Small Business. “By setting boundaries and being clear about what you are and are not willing to do, you can avoid taking on too much unnecessary work. Additionally, by saying no to menial tasks, you can free up time and energy to focus on more important things.”

Point Out the Pattern

If a superior is routinely asking you to do non-promotable tasks, they may not even be aware of the fact that they are doing so and therefore stunting your career growth potential. Kaekel suggests pointing out the pattern and suggesting an alternative.

“If you’re continually asked to take notes, bring it up at the next meeting,” she said. “[Say], ‘I’ve noticed these meetings often need a notetaker. Perhaps we should arrange for (an appropriate support staff person) to join us to fulfill this role.’ If the meeting is conducted electronically, she can suggest recording the meeting or having a transcription service added.”

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Ask for More Challenging Work Tasks

In addition to declining non-promotable tasks, you should also ask to take on work that will help you make a case for your next promotion.

“Advocating for more challenging work is vital for career progression,” Kaekel said. “Women should take opportunities to speak with leadership about joining high-profile projects to gain experience. When asking to lead a project, be prepared to show the progression of skill development that qualifies you for the new role. Women should also take advantage of any opportunities the organization provides to enhance or develop skills. Many employers have in-house continuing education opportunities, a virtual library of business books or tuition reimbursement.”

GOBankingRates wants to empower women to take control of their finances. According to the latest stats, women hold $72 billion in private wealth — but fewer women than men consider themselves to be in “good” or “excellent” financial shape. Women are less likely to be investing and are more likely to have debt, and women are still being paid less than men overall. Our “Financially Savvy Female” column will explore the reasons behind these inequities and provide solutions to change them. We believe financial equality begins with financial literacy, so we’re providing tools and tips for women, by women to take control of their money and help them live a richer life.

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About the Author

Gabrielle joined GOBankingRates in 2017 and brings with her a decade of experience in the journalism industry. Before joining the team, she was a staff writer-reporter for People Magazine and People.com. Her work has also appeared on E! Online, Us Weekly, Patch, Sweety High and Discover Los Angeles, and she has been featured on “Good Morning America” as a celebrity news expert. 

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