The lesson for women from new Harvard study: ask for more time extensions (men certainly do)

You have a deadline fast approaching, and with all the other tasks on your plate, it’s clear you won’t be able to complete them without superhuman effort. What do you do?

A. clear your calendar, brew another pot of coffee and spend those superhuman hours doing it, or

B. request an extension of the deadline

The answer to this question depends on the situation and your personal character, but according to new research at Harvard, it is also influenced by your gender. It turns out that women are much more likely to answer A than men.

Ladies, stop killing yourself to meet arbitrary deadlines.

Like Harvard Ashley Williams explained on HBR, a recent series of studies she conducted with colleagues showed that all workers are overly afraid of being judged negatively if they ask for more time (even though they have been explicitly told that the quality of production mattered more than meeting the deadline). But women, the researchers found, are much more worried about how they will be viewed if they request an extension of the deadline.

“Women are less likely than men to negotiate more time with adjustable deadlines at work. Regardless of job status or years of experience, women reported feeling less comfortable asking for such time. extensions than men, ”she wrote with her co-author Grant Donnelly. in a the Wall Street newspaper item specifically focused on gender aspects of research.

Why are women more worried about asking for more time on projects? “We have found that women are more concerned than men about appearing incompetent and burdening others with their demands. These concerns increase feelings of guilt and undermine women’s willingness to ask for more time to complete projects and assignments, ”they write, I’m sure. does not surprise any woman reading this at all.

The result of this guilt and fear is that more women than men choose option A in the real world, the equivalent of the above assumption, canceling personal activities, staying for hours crazy, engaging in a multi-tasking that scrambles and is usually done a lot more. subject to burnout.

Solving the problem is not difficult.

The solution for women is simple. Ladies, ask for more extensions. Not all projects can be pushed, but many of them are more flexible than you might think. Appearing flawless and superhuman isn’t worth your sanity or long-term productivity.

But Williams and colleagues point out that this is also a problem for bosses, especially given the ongoing “big resignation” and companies’ struggles to retain talent. If your best employees kill themselves to meet arbitrary deadlines, that is mismanagement. Bosses can take simple steps to let all employees (but especially women) know that it’s okay to ask for more time when they need it.

First, specify which deadlines are firm and which have some leeway. If the schedule can be adjusted with little to no cost for the end product, let your employees know early on, suggest Williams and Donnelly.

Second, tell your team directly that you won’t judge them for asking for more time. After all, the quality of that memo is usually far more important than receiving it on Tuesday afternoon or Wednesday noon. Many of your employees are unlikely to do their best to meet deadlines if you don’t discourage this behavior.

These simple changes can even be formalized in a workplace policy set on deadlines. “In our research, formal policies that make it clear that employees can request extensions without penalty eliminated gender differences in extension requests and appeared to improve performances women, ”Williams and Donnelly report.

If you want the women on your team to give you the best job and stay for a while, then the solution is simple. Let them know that asking for an extension is OK. You will not only save their sanity, but you will also avoid losing good employees through unnecessary burnout.

The opinions expressed here by the columnists of are theirs and not those of

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