Many of us have been taught that volunteering to take on more is the way to demonstrate your ambition at work. But if you're a woman and you're constantly raising your hand to sign up for miscellaneous office tasks (and if you're regularly volunteering for tasks, you're probably a woman), chances are you're doing more to harm than help your career.
That's according to a recent Harvard Business Review study in which economics professors Linda Babcock, Maria Recalde and Lise Vesterlund found that women are most likely to volunteer for assignments that benefit the organization but have very little impact on their advancement at a company. Tasks like planning a holiday party, filling in for a missing colleague or serving on a committee, they say, are "non-promotable" duties that women often sign up for without realizing how this work can hold them back.
"This can have serious consequences for women," the report says. "If they are disproportionately saddled with work that has little visibility or impact, it will take them much longer to advance in their careers."
In a group exercise done with 696 University of Pittsburgh students, researchers found that when a volunteer was needed to complete a mundane task, women raised their hand to do the job 48 percent more often than men. And in situations where a manager wanted to quickly select someone to do an assignment, they more than likely chose a woman over a man to do the job, even when the manager was a woman.