Women and Their Managers Struggle with the “Big News”

Suz O’Donnell

Guest Post By Suz Graf O’Donnell, President and Lead Coach, Thrivatize LLC

Women are having children later in their careers and therefore have more responsibility on their plates when they start a family.  For those that want to maintain a fruitful career, they need to do a little extra work to make sure everyone at work (including their boss, employees, customers, and peers) know they are coming back as strong as ever.  

While every good manager puts on a happy face and genuinely congratulates the woman on her big news, they also secretly struggle with concerns about whether she will return after having the baby, if she’ll want to go part time, how this will impact team performance, and whether they need to begin recruiting now to backfill part or all of her work.  These are real concerns that affect team engagement, effectiveness, and morale.   

To help both the women planning families and the managers of these women cope better with these situations, check out these resources:  

  • Women planning families:  If you are planning a family and want to make sure your career trajectory stays on track, you should apply the advice in The Career-Family Formula™:  Three Steps Female Leaders Must Take When Planning a Family.  In this eBook, Suz O’Donnell, President and Lead Coach of Thrivatize LLC, shares tangible advice for ensuring everyone around you knows you are coming back to work after you have your baby and that you want to maintain an amazing career while your family grows.  She also offers additional resources on her website PowerfulWomenPlanningFamilies.com.  
  • Managers, Human Resources, and Diversity Officers:  Even in the most supportive environments, unconscious bias can make a pregnant woman feel like her career trajectory is at risk.  The more you can do to prevent these feelings, the more likely she is to come back feeling that you support her ongoing career development and success.  Check out Suz Graf O’Donnell, President and Lead Coach of Thrivatize LLC’s whitepaper The Overlooked Opportunity To Retain More Women In Leadership.  This whitepaper includes an engaging story of what can go wrong when well-meaning managers aren’t certain about the career desires of their employees who are planning a family.  It also highlights team performance risks and costs savings that you can address by properly preparing your female leaders for this big change in their lives.  You can find additional resources or contact information regarding this hot topic at PowerfulWomenPlanningFamilies.com.  

   

Maternity Leave Well Wishes

Here’s you dilemma.  Your co-worker is expecting and now you’re expected to write a nice note along with your baby shower gift.  You know it’s not appropriate to write on the card, “You look like you’ve gained 70 lbs so we hope you’re really having a baby!”  so what do you write instead?  Here’s a handy-dandy list of appropriate well wishes for someone about to go on maternity leave.  These could also work for a father celebrating a new arrival or congratulations to new adoptive parents.  Use these for inspiration and “make it your own” to be sure it sounds like something you would say.

  • Blessings to you and your family during this precious time. Can’t wait to meet the sweet new addition.
  • We will miss you while you’re home with your beautiful bundle of joy.  We’ll be sure to not leave a bundle of work for you when you return!
  • God bless all of you….enjoy this sacred time! Can’t wait to see pictures of the newest family member!
  • Our very best wishes for a healthy and happy baby!
  • Good luck on your maternity leave.  Can’t wait to meet your “new boss”!
  • Wishing you well on your maternity leave. We’ll miss you!
  • Our thoughts will be with you for a happy and healthy baby.  Take your time to rest and enjoy your little one.
  • We will surely miss you while you’re home with baby.  When you come back to work, we’ll be sure not to ask you to change any diapers!

In general it’s absolutely appropriate to wish the mom-to-be a healthy delivery and baby.  If you’re wishing them well there aren’t too many things you can say that are wrong.

However there are two areas you’ll want to steer clear of…You will want to avoid joking that you think her/his time off is going to be easy.  I’ve heard some co-workers say, “I’d sure like six weeks of time away from work!”  New parents are signing up for sleepless nights, endless diaper changes and a whole lot of stress – many times at reduced or no pay!  Even if you’re not cut out to be a parent hopefully you can appreciate and respect their decision to bring a life into the world.

You will also want to avoid advice or sensitive questions about how they will give birth or parent the child.  Childbirth and parenting are very personal subjects that are usually best avoided in the workplace.  The new parent will initiate with you if they are seeking advice.  Otherwise they usually just want you to tell them their baby is going to be the cutest in the world.

Hopefully these tips will help you send off the new mom to a wonderfully rewarding maternity leave.  New parents will appreciate your well wishes and encouragement during this exciting time in their lives.

P.S.  Another great gift…. tell them about this blog (but not that you found your heartfelt sentiment here!)

Negotiate for a Better Maternity Leave

IMaternity-Leave-Proposalt’s no secret that maternity leave benefits in the US are lacking.  You know it’s bad when our own President fronts us out.  To quote him directly, “the United States is the only developed country in the world without paid maternity leave.”  But, we can’t let that get us down because bringing a child into this world is one of, it not THE most rewarding and important thing we can do to in our lifetimes.

The good news is that even when you think the deck is stacked against you and you’re concerned that you won’t get a fair shake when you ask for maternity leave, there are experts out there who have successfully helped women to not only get a fair maternity leave but also a great maternity leave.  Today I would like to introduce you to an expert in this area, Pat Katepoo.

Pat has been a work options advisor since 1993 and her website Work Options has been online since 1997. Thousands of busy professionals have found answers and relief through her services.  Pat says, “Women aren’t socialized to negotiate and so they are less inclined than men to ask for what they need or want. And research shows that often women fail to see their options or even think to ask for them.   So maybe you don’t know what you don’t know.”  Pat can help you see your options and ask for them.

Whether you choose her do-it-yourself guides or her personal services by phone you get practical help negotiating various work options to make your life calmer and easier. Options such as job flexibility, a fabulous pay raise, and more maternity leave and other time off.

Please take a few moments right now to visit Pat at WorkOptions by clicking any of the links in this post.  I really think she’s the best in this subject area and definitely the most experienced.  I always keep a link to her site on the side of my blog posts because I think her services are so valuable to working women.  I’m an affiliate for Pat’s tools and resources so each purchase you make drops a few coins in the bucket to fund The Maternity Leave Coach, so “thank you” in advance.

 

Interview: Tom Spiggle – Author of “You’re Pregnant? You’re Fired!”

I recently had the opportunity to chat with Tom Spiggle of Spiggle Law.  I am so excited about his soon to be released book, You’re Pregnant? You’re Fired! and I wanted to be sure all my readers could get a sneak peek.  He’s a great guy who has helped many people who have been challenged with balancing work and family.  Although he represents employees in many different matters, Tom is especially interested in helping clients suffering discrimination because they are pregnant or have family-care issues, such as caring for a sick child or an elderly parent.

Read on to hear Tom’s advice for caregivers in the workplace…

Given that you’ve got four kids of your own, I can imagine it is easy for you to relate to the challenges of working parents.  What really sparked your interest in elevating the issues of caregivers in the workplace today?

Before I was a parent I didn’t realize how hard it would be to juggle it all.  Thankfully, my wife and I both had jobs that were sympathetic to family and I still wonder how it is all even possible without a supportive workplace.  In the US our laws that protect caregivers do a poor job of supporting families so what we really have to do work to enforce the few laws that we do have.  It’s all very complicated because there’s not one law that protects caregivers, but a number of laws that apply.  In many cases, because it is so confusing, there are HR departments who really aren’t sure how to apply the laws appropriately.  That’s why I wrote You’re Pregnant You’re Fired to put it all down into one book that covers all the ins and outs of your parental rights in the workplace.

Read more