Our co-worker Celia is having a baby. Another co-worker Linda is planning Celia’s baby shower and going desk to desk in the office signing up volunteers for the potluck. Next week she’ll be asking us all to sign the card.
I’m happy for Celia. Her baby is going to be adorable and she’s going to be an awesome Mom.
I’m miserable for Linda. Linda has made the tragic error of doing the office housework. Although a junior manager, Linda is seen more like a camp counselor than an up and coming executive.
She has become the Office Mom. No one promotes the Office Mom.
If you’re doing these things, you probably won’t get promoted either.
1. You’re not doing your real work- Every time you walk through the office holding a handful of balloons, your senior managers wonder what you are really supposed to be doing. You are busy. You have deadlines. You have stuff to do. How do you have time to plan parties?
2. You’re not doing what gets graded– Everyone enjoys your efforts. Everybody eats the cake. They’re also relieved that you went to Toys R Us to get the gift and they didn’t have to. The wonderful kindnesses you do are critical to office culture and help create a warm office environment. The problem is you are not graded on warm office environment!You are evaluated based on productivity and metrics. Your colleagues are doing everything in their power to over perform in the categories the boss cares about. You are putting candles on birthday cakes.
3. You are presenting a weak brand- Your subordinates think you are “the best” and “one of them”. Your co-workers say you are “so sweet and thoughtful”. You’re “just delightful to work with”. Your boss says you are “the glue that keeps this office together”. Nice right? Not so much….
They all use different terms for your male colleagues. Mark is “laser-focused on results”. Rich “consistently gets the job done”. Steven is a “ruthless negotiator that always brings home the bacon.”
Still happy to be delightful glue?
Now to be fair, there is a vicious double standard. If your male co-workers get coffee or clear the plates, they are “servant leaders’. If you do it, you lack “executive presence”. It’s not fair, but it is what it is and we always have to play the game on the field.
So stop it. Stop planning the potlucks. Stop cleaning up after the meetings. Stop getting coffee. Stop passing around the birthday cards. If you want to be seen as an executive, you have to conduct yourself like one. If you can’t imagine your boss performing that function, think twice before signing up.