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How to avoid being a committee patsy

Most of us now realize that being on a committee is a huge plus at work and in the community. Accepting committee assignments can actually lead to a promotion or more visibility. But what happens when you get stuck on a committee that zaps your time but gets nothing done. What a drain on our work/life balance!

  I stumbled upon an interesting blog post, Ask Dr. Isis, that addresses a letter from an associate professor at a research university who was asked to be on a committee tasked with reviewing policies that affect women. She feels its a waste of time because there isn't any intention to make real changes. The blog post looks at the politics behind being on a committee and the frustration from being on a committee that has no value. 

Some suggestions offered to the professor made sense and might help anyone who feels like a Committee Patsy:

1. Make a counter-proposal. Are there other committees or activities that you feel would be a better use of your time?  Can you propose that as a counter to serving on this committee?

2. Be proactive. Find an important committee you care about and get yourself on it. That way when a manager tries to put you on the "dead rats ass" committee, you can gracefully say no.

3. Take charge. Lobby to be Chairman of the committee so you can set the direction

4. Build friendships. Know that change can and sometimes does happen, but the paths to change are complicated and murky and don't generally pass through committee rooms. Use the committee to network, or accomplish small victories.

5. Recruit. Consider bringing experts, consultants or senior staff members to the committee meetings to make suggestions or help guide the direction.

    Unfortunately, we all know that some of the "womens committees" formed by companies and academic institutions are a show, without any real power to make change. But there are plenty of other committees that are a waste of time. If you have any suggestions to avoid becoming a Committee Patsy, let's hear from you.