We are taught at such a young age to "mother". We're given baby dolls to play with. Characteristics like patience and gentleness are hammered into us. It's no wonder that these stereotypical, mother-like qualities are difficult to tone down when we enter the workforce.
If you’ve ever read “Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office” you’ll know what qualities/ behaviors I’m talking about. Prior to reading the book, it had never occurred to me that anything was wrong with what I was doing. I thought I was just being… nice.
Now, when I find myself doing something that I would consider motherly, I try to ask myself a question before following through with it: if a colleague asked me outright to do it, would I do it?
These are some behaviors that could be considered mothering.
Don't quiz people about their health/home life.
It's one thing to be sociable and polite, but you don't need to be up to date on your boss' sore throat unless you may have to cover for her if she takes a sick day.
Don't keep a public supply of candy and medicine in your desk.
Everyone knows that lady at church who keeps her giant purse filled with cough drops, chewing gum, and Tylenol. Everyone loves that lady, but don't be that lady at work. You're not your coworkers’ mother/grandmother. Fight the urge to nurture and limit the number of people you share your stash with.
Don't volunteer to plan birthday parties, flower deliveries, baby showers, etc.
I love birthdays. Not just my own... all birthdays! Once I learn someone's birthday, I put it in a list on my phone so I won't forget. Which makes celebrating my coworkers' birthdays tricky. If there's a particular coworker that I'm very close to, I may bring them a small gift at work or make plans to do something outside of work. Tip: If it’s really important to you and others in your organization that someone collects money for baby shower gifts or birthday cake, consider taking turns with your coworkers or having everyone add their birthdays to a public calendar so you aren’t the only one who remembers.
Don't tidy up.
I see this happen with a lot of the older women where I work. Obviously, always clean up messes you made in the common space where you work. Even occasionally wiping down the microwave might be ok if there’s not someone regularly assigned to the task. But if you’re the only one who does it, and it takes you away from the work you’re actually supposed to be doing, you should probably stop. Do you really want to be the one cleaning up after your colleagues/superiors?