art of saying no at office work

For your absent colleague or always asked to take notes and share the minutes of the meeting, you are a victim of “office housework”. Office Housework is the tasks that are menial in nature, but needs to get done either way. A new research in the Harvard Business Review shows that women are stuck with these reluctant volunteer tasks more as compared to males at a workplace. So women let’s explore what’s the best way to say “NO” to office housework? I was a victim of office housework once too many times myself. I still recall, I was a senior in my team, but also the only women in the meeting that was conducted to discuss important agenda items with our Director. I was immediately thrust with the responsibility to ensure the Boardroom was ready for the meeting with notepads, water bottles, coffee and snacks before we start. Also, I was told, not asked or requested at any point in time, to take notes for each and every meeting that I went to, even the ones which I was leading the discussion for. This amused me. It is not a power game or my pride in my designation. It was about naturally assuming that those tasks belonged to a woman alone, irrespective of her title or role. Many of you can relate and chime in with me. Although we all would like to believe that gender biases are abolished in a mature workplace today, they creep into the system one way or another. I am not saying that it is done intentionally or deliberately, but in the long run, this hurts our growth, our work and we get caught up in time-consuming, useless activities.


  1. Understanding why office housework is detrimental to you

When you agree even involuntarily to tasks that are time-consuming but thankless like summarizing meeting notes all the time, you are indirectly hampering your daily tasks and goals. It is not about saying no for the sake of it or for just making a bold statement. It is saying no to things that will not further yourself in order to say yes to things that actually require your attention. Do not overburden yourself with activities only because you are afraid to hurt someone’s emotions. 2. Arrange a one-on-one with your Manager There is a flip side in saying no to your Manager or team members especially if it is constantly or coincidently one after the other. We all are aware that it can reflect badly on our performance reviews and appraisals as “not being a team player” or “not taking on additional responsibilities”. Hence, the best way to do it is, to not defy your Manager publically. Instead ask for a one-on-one meeting with them. It has been observed that a closed-door meeting helps both parties to be prepared to hear each other out and come to an amicable solution. 3. Use the words “new challenges” instead of a flat out “no” Once you have the attention of your Manager in a one-on-one, clearly state your concern and the reason behind denying the work. Request your Manager to assign you new challenges. Tell them distinctly that the task assigned is monotonous and you are looking for new challenges that can help you grow and prove yourself. Also, suggest that some routine tasks should be shared by the other team members too on a rotation basis. This will allow each member of the team an opportunity to work on different things and mundane tasks are distributed equally. 4. Do not get emotional or feminist about it? I am not singling this issue out as a female being targeted. This message is not to shame the men or point fingers at them. This article is simply to encourage women to say “no” to tasks that are presumed even by us as our duty. If the task is bogging you down or not adding any value, don’t be afraid to say a no. The additional stress and workload often times are unnecessary burdens that we lay upon ourselves due to fear. You will be surprised how supportive your male colleague or Manager will be only if you bring it to their notice.   Sometimes we women are more to blame, for allowing ourselves to be stuck with the office housework, as its second to our nature. Many times we volunteer for things as we know that we can do it better or no one will do if we don’t, even though the job is a thankless one. I want to reassure you ladies that we need not add to our already heavy burdens. Allow others to pick up the office housework and its ok to say “no” once in a while.   You may also want to read other article written by the same author ‘Career tracking while on a career break‘, ‘Career restarting for a woman on a career break‘, ‘Is returnship right for you?, ‘Five things to consider before a career break‘, ‘5 reasons why working moms are highly productive‘, ‘4 Questions to know yourself better and find a suitable career path‘, ‘5 most frequent challenges that women entrepreneurs face‘ , ‘Financially Stable and how?’ ,  ‘Be aware of your emotions and its effects on you‘ , ‘How to be your own goal keeper‘ . About the author: 

The first time Susan Kutar (Tamang) realized that words could touch lives, she wanted to be a writer and blogger. She has 9 years of experience in Human Resources and Talent Acquisition. She likes to write about topics that impact people, which is educational and leaves the reader with something to mull over. (The author is a guest blogger at Her Second Innings. The opinions expressed are those of the author.) You can reach our guest bloggers by mailing us at Her Second Innings, helps capable women professionals to find their calling in their second innings. Women looking to get back to their careers, or needing advice to pursue alternate career to become financially independent Sign up with us and complete your profile. Feel free to connect with us at after completing your registration formalities, our career experts would be happy to have a conversation with you and assist you to take the assessment to gauge your current knowledge level to restart your career. Disclaimer: “This blog claims no credit for any images or content posted on this site unless otherwise noted. Images and content on this blog belong to their respective owners. If there is an image or content on this blog that belongs to you and you do not wish for it to appear on this site, please e-mail us with a link to said image or content and it will be promptly removed.”