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Don’t Become the “Office Mom”

Topics: Work Culture
Stressed woman
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There are lots of ways to be a good coworker, but letting your selfless nature be taken advantage of isn’t one of them — or at least it shouldn’t be. So many “women of a certain age” bring their mom skills right to the office. Why? Because it seems that their skills as a matriarch are needed for the work of the day to get done.

It might seem like doing a bit of mothering to your coworkers doesn’t hurt, but in reality, it’s just simply not your job. Your job is your job.

Here are some ways you can pass on being the Office Mom, and still be a “nice person” and even a “great coworker.”

1. Don’t Babysit

Are you always spotting for coworkers, waiting to catch them if they stumble a bit. You can be compassionate and helpful to your colleagues without finishing all of their projects for them. Don’t correct bad behavior for junior members of staff. Don’t tell someone they’re not dressed appropriately for work. Don’t offer to do something that they can clearly do for themselves … and that they should be doing for themselves.

Why shouldn’t you do all this? Because you need to let them figure it out for themselves. Don’t “helicopter parent” your younger or more inexperienced teammates. If they’re chronically late, let them learn that it’s a problem. If they don’t turn in quality work, don’t redo it for them, let them get the poor marks from their superiors.

As consultant and novelist Jillian Medoff writes in Lenny Letter, becoming Den Mother to an office was dragging her way down.

“In business, success begets success, and work begets work, which means the more I did for Mike, Mark, Susan, and Celeste (and my kids and my husband), the less each one of them did for themselves,” writes Medoff “Along with turning in lousy first drafts, they skipped meetings and missed deadlines, knowing I’d pick up the slack. So I might’ve been thriving and flush, but I was also overworked, overwrought, and desperate for sleep.”

2. Don’t Be the Go-To Person

Maybe everyone breathes a sigh of relief when you walk in the room because here comes Ms. So-and-So who will fix all of our problems for us. This is bad. This means that nobody else is going to get in the practice of solving their own problems, because you’re always going to be there to do it for them. They won’t remember to plan a birthday card signing, much less a product launch the right way. If it’s not in your job description, it’s not yours to do.

3. Don’t Be Steamrolled

Being a good coworker doesn’t always mean being a pushover when someone needs a favor. If you’re being asked to “help out” you can find ways to politely decline a menial task that’s not really your job, like taking meeting notes or fetching coffee for the team in the morning. If you don’t feel like you can decline, delegate those tasks or come up with a shared task schedule to share the load, not leave it on your back.

You can even make a planned meeting appointment to talk to your boss and air your grievances about being treated as too much mom, not enough captain.

“If you’re a manager, pay attention to whom you’re asking to do what, and who volunteers to do what, at the office,” writes Alicia Adamczyk at Lifehacker. “And if you’re a dude who cares, offer to take the notes during the next meeting or talk to your boss yourself if you notice there’s a problem.”

Do…Be Awesome at Your Job

Just because you can do these mom-like tasks, doesn’t mean you should do them. Being female, caring, smart, and responsible aren’t attributes that only one person in a million possess. We should all strive to be that way. It’s called being an adult.

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