How NOT to Succeed in Your Career – A guide for women working in office settings and aspiring to go nowhere

Note: This article originally appeared on my previous website back in 2013. I’m reposting it now because it’s still relevant. This tongue-in-cheek article was written to inspire women to do the exact opposite of the “tips” included here. 

I am part of several discussion groups on social media that are geared towards my experience and where I want to go with my career.  Recently, in one of these groups, a discussion came up comparing Office Managers to Stay at Home Moms.  The title caught my attention and made me giggle a little bit.  I have spent enough years in both of those roles to know that the comparison isn’t a stretch, so of course I opened up the thread to read what my colleagues had to say, hoping to encounter some discussion and tips on managing the incredibly long list of tasks that OM’s need to accomplish throughout their day or tips to handle those that view their OM as the office mother.

Instead, I encountered what can only be compared to a room full of whiny women complaining about their “office children”, their never-ending to-do lists, their constant unheard requests for more staff or assistance, and the audacity of their bosses for daring to ask what they do in a day, as according to these women, their bosses should just KNOW what they do based on their job description.


The whole discussion got me thinking about the women that I have worked with throughout my career – the ones that have succeeded in furthering their careers and the ones who haven’t, and what the difference is between them.  Here’s what I’ve come up with: women who succeed DO less.

It seems contradictory and counter-intuitive, especially when you KNOW that it’s hard work that furthers progression, not idleness.  But women who succeed work hard at making it so that they don’t have to work as hard.  Women who don’t succeed work equally as hard, if not harder, but instead of furthering their careers, they are spinning their wheels, stuck in the mud.

Women who succeed are aware of their strengths and their weaknesses and they learn how to capitalize on them.  They are good delegators and know which tasks are important for them to tackle personally and which to pass on to their strong core of support staff. They know how and when to say “no”, and when it’s not in their best interest to do so. Women who succeed have taken note of how their male counterparts have succeeded and have followed suit. They are able to vocalize their daily responsibilities, tasks, and goals to their employers and employees alike, informing them without whining when they can and cannot take on new tasks and why.  They also keep track of and have learned to promote the times they have gone “above and beyond” without bragging.  And most importantly, they take their careers seriously and have dropped the passive-aggressive tactics that most women integrate into handling the people in their daily lives.

I realize that not everyone wants to succeed or further their careers, so for those of you that have no desire to progress, here are 6 things to do to make sure you never further your career:

How NOT to Succeed in Your Career – A guide for women working in office settings and aspiring to go nowhere

  1. Take on every task you are given.  14 people may come to you today, each with different tasks that are each “high priority”.  Take them all on and don’t ever say no to a task from anybody.  Don’t worry, your boss will notice how hard you are working and how good you are at managing your time when he or she comes to hand off 5 more tasks this afternoon.
  2. Be exceptionally good at everything you do. Weaknesses? You have none. Hone your skills and talents until you are the BEST in your office at everything that comes across your desk and you can capably step into every role within your organization.  Also, learn how to fix things like printers, copiers, and toilets. Doing so will help you with completing Step #1 and show your boss that your company doesn’t need to waste time or money paying repair or maintenance people because you are capable of doing those things too.
  3. Don’t inform anyone, including your boss, about the heaviness of your workload and keep quiet about those times when you will be working late or over weekends. I’m sure your boss will notice that the emails he’s reading on Monday morning were sent in at 11pm on Saturday. Even if you have 75 things on your to-do list that need to be completed by the end of the day, and your boss just added 5 more, just smile and agree.  This will show him or her that you are capable of finishing things without complaint because no one likes a complainer.
  4. Make sure you are indispensable and irreplaceable. What better way to create job security than by making sure you are irreplaceable?  Handle every task that comes across your desk silently and efficiently.  Be ninja-like and make sure no one knows how you handle things or how much you accomplish in a day. Go above and beyond every day, leaving your job description lying in the dust behind you – you are a woman on a mission to prove that you are the company’s sole savior. Vacation? Who needs one? Leave all manners of contact methods with every person within your organization and ALWAYS answer their questions – no matter where you are or what you are doing.
  5. Become the office “mother”. Quietly and efficiently clean up the messes left behind by your co-workers.  Johnny is making a mess of that report – you better clean it up for him because he doesn’t have time to make it look good for his presentation.  Susie doesn’t have the skills required to build that spreadsheet – you don’t have time to teach her, just do it yourself.  Don’t forget to pick up all the supplies for the break-room on your lunch hour; you can do it after you make your bank deposit. Oh, and somebody has made an awful mess in the shared bathroom.  Don’t call maintenance – it will only take you a few minutes to clean it up yourself.
  6. Get offended at your annual review when your boss asks what you do that makes you think you deserve a raise or an assistant, and tell him or her that you will find somewhere else to work if you don’t get one or the other. How can your boss not be aware of everything you do for this company? After all, you have handled your duties so smoothly and efficiently that nobody ever notices that they needed to be done in the first place.  This is a grandiose feat in and of itself, and you deserve recognition for it! So what if you are completely incapable of remembering all the large projects you completed so well over the year or adequately expressing how you accomplish everything in your workload so efficiently. You will show him or her just how valuable you are to the organization when they have to replace you, then you’ll be laughing.

So my question to you is WHO DO YOU WANT TO BE?