I just finished managing a large event – more than 500 people for three days – and I’m just a puddle I’m so exhausted. As is always the case with these events, I had with me a few really good collaborators and workers, and the rest of them said, “Please let me know what I can do to help!” and then never answered when I called.
When I got home, I was looking over my Facebook account for the first time in a month and I saw a meme. It said, “I’d like all the people who ‘helped’ me on my group projects to be pall bearers at my funeral, so they can let me down one more time.” Many a truth has been spoken in jest.
Surprisingly, many women find themselves feeling the same way after a project is complete. In fact, according to Harvard Business Review’s January 2016 article, “Collaboration Overload,” women are 66% more likely to roll up their sleeves and dive in to assist co-workers in times of need, while men are 36% more likely to share knowledge and expertise in a more hands-off way. Tell me, which one do you think costs more time and energy?
I thought about this a lot when I reached out to ask for help at my event. I sent out calendar invites to people at all levels of the org chart, and while many of the team members responded and came through, more of them were women than men. And when I needed to staff my registration table? All women, only one man.
When I wanted to get something done, I asked a female co-worker, and that’s my bad. I should be considering all the men I have to choose from when a task needs to be completed, but for me women are more reliable and easier to work with. They’ll get the job done and not change the process (and the outcome), nor will they delegate it to someone else who doesn’t “get” what we need to accomplish.
So, we’ve established that women get unfairly picked on when it comes to collaboration, and women should consider offering and giving their assistance carefully, so they don’t end up emotionally and physically exhausted. Managers, too, should be careful when it comes to taking his direct reports with assisting on a project, knowing full well that the scales of labor tend to be tipped in the direction of their female employees.
Yes, there’s always a “but.” This is the unfair part. As HBR wrote:
In an experiment led by the NYU psychologist Madeline Heilman, a man who stayed late to help colleagues earned 14% higher ratings than a woman who did the same. When neither helped, the woman was rated 12% lower than the man.
The woman is supposed to help. When the man lends a hand, he’s a good guy.
Such is the ongoing saga of a woman in the workplace…or just life in general. As Revolutionary Assistants, we often wrangle the troops to get a task done, and help our managers do the same. It’s imperative that we take into consideration the overburden of collaboration on female team members, and help our managers do the same. And when collaboration on a project is complete, we need to make sure that our female team members get equal credit where equal contributions have been made.
Seems like a simple thing, but as we know about women in the workplace, it’s anything but simple most of the time.
Next post: Wednesday, November 9