Women and Their Managers Struggle with the “Big News”

Suz O’Donnell

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

You’re Pregnant…You’re Fired!

This week the Huffington Post featured “Pregnant? 5 Ways to Protect Yourself From Discrimination at Work”.  Although it pains me that in our day and age we are still in a place where we need to publish a list like this, I am glad that there are folks out there informing women of their rights so they can be prepared.

The post’s author, Tom Spiggle, is also the author of “You’re Pregnant? You’re Fired! Protecting Mothers, Fathers, and Other Caregivers in the Workplace” which will hit shelves later this spring. He is founder of the Spiggle Law Firm based in Arlington, Va., where he focuses on workplace law specializing in helping clients facing discrimination due to pregnancy or other family-care issues, such as caring for a sick child or elderly parent. This is Spiggle’s first book. To learn more, visit:www.yourepregnantyourefired.com.

Although I  don’t encourage people to be defensive, there are bosses out there who are either uninformed or unwilling to follow the laws when it comes to pregnancy and the workplace.  It is good to know you’ve got protections that you can use if push comes to shove (kind of a pregnancy pun too…sorry!).

Check out Tom’s tips and let us know if you’ve had any experiences with pregnancy discrimination.

 

 

What Happens If You Work for “Neanderthal Inc.”?

I am so excited to share a special guest post from my husband and biggest supporter.  Take a few minutes to hear his perspective on maternity leave.

For starters, I’m really proud of my wife for doing the Maternity Leave Coach blog and helping get useful topics/hints/suggestions out there that working women can use when they are on the verge of experiencing the most amazing event they will ever experience in their life. My wife asked me to chime in on a guest post, so we chatted about what I’ve experienced in my working life.

For starters, I’ve had a knack in my working life for working around and with companies that could also be labeled as “Neanderthal Inc.”  By that I mean that they are typically male dominated and may have a culture that is gruff and quite frankly doesn’t understand women and how to work with them or develop them so they are vital parts of the organization. Fortunately, my wife has mostly worked for large companies that have had fairly progressive policies when it comes to women and typically would go above any federal minimums when it came to maternity leave and benefits like that. So, it’s safe to say we’ve had different experiences over our almost 20+ years working. We were talking about her blog recently (did I mention I’m proud of her?) and why some women might not want to tell their managers they are pregnant or that they might be nervous about their future when there are laws to protect them. Here are some observations I’ve made over the years.

Read moreWhat Happens If You Work for “Neanderthal Inc.”?

When to Tell the Boss…Again

I just visited Corporette.com and they’ve recently written a post about when you should announce your pregnancy at work.

The comments are great and I’d recommend you take a read to get a good understanding of all the ins and outs that other women have faced when deciding when to share their news.

Personally, I still side with the “earlier the better” camp because I just like to have the air clear.  But I completely understand if anyone else lands in a different spot.

P.S.  While you’re at Corporette.com check out this great post on wearing button down shirts.  If you are a mom who is bursting at the seams, you’ll definitely appreciate their advice!

What Did Your Boss Really Say? True Stories of Telling Them You’re Pregnant

Tell Boss You're PregnantAs I hear from working women about their trials and tribulations of pregnancy and maternity leave, one of the hot topics is always “when/how to tell your boss you’re pregnant”.  There is so much fear and concern about how the manager will respond.

I have a theory that most of the fear about telling the boss comes from myths and legends, but I could be wrong (I hope I am).  I actually think that in most cases the manager is willing to work with you as best they know how.  That’s the deal, most don’t know how so the whole thing gets awkward and clunky.

So, here’s where you come in… I need your stories.  What REALLY happened when you told your boss you were pregnant?  Comment here with your story and please share this with the other working women you know who would have a story to share.

Thanks!  Let’s get those comments rolling in.

Poor Performer Because I’m Pregnant? What Your Boss Really Thinks

I’ve talked to a few women who fear that their pregnancy or new mother status will reflect poorly on their manager’s and coworkers’ views of their performance.  In general I see it coming up as a concern when a women perceives that people are treating her differently because she’s pregnant or is a new mom.

Although there are thousands of scenarios, this difference of treatment can usually be traced back to a few root causes:

  • Most frequently I see that managers and co-workers are concerned about offending the new mom and they get weirded out and act strange.  Sometime they walk on eggshells and keep their distance so they don’t say the wrong thing.  In particular I’ve seen that men who work with pregnant women can be unsure of what they can say.  To the new mom, this can come off as being excluded, shut out or even shunned.  I recommend that if the new mom feels comfortable, that she just break the ice and  help everyone she works with ease into this transition.  You’ll get it all out in the open and know for sure where you stand.
  • The managers and co-workers are jerks and really are treating her differently because she’s pregnant or a new mom.  Unfortunately this does happen but I wouldn’t jump to it as the first conclusion.   If you are comfortable, speak with your manager about the situation.  If that’s not an option, speaking confidentially with HR can help sort things out.
  • Sometimes the mother’s performance really has dipped because of the physical and mental demands on her.  Most managers are understanding of this temporary situation.  Initiate the conversation and you may find that there are opportunities to adjust your workload or schedule to help during this time.
  • And finally, there are some mothers who have checked out and unfortunately used the excuse of  “I’m pregnant” or “I’m a new mom” to let their performance slide.  These few moms may have ruined it for the rest of us and you want to be sure that you aren’t inadvertently becoming one of  “those employees”.  Ask a trusted co-worker for feedback on your performance.  Meet frequently with your manager for status updates and to get a clear understanding of their expectations and whether or not you’re meeting them.
You may find yourself in a situation where you feel like you’re being treated differently.  Think through your situation, talk it over with non-biased third parties and then determine what you want to do about it.
If you’ve been in this spot and have some words of wisdom, I’d love to hear from you.

 

Maternity Leave Questions for HR

I thought this was a helpful write up on questions to ask HR about your company’s policy on Maternity Leave.  Thanks workitmom.com!

http://www.workitmom.com/checklists/detail/2984/20-questions-to-ask-your-human-resources-department-before-going-on-maternity-leave

There are tons of other questions and expectations you’ll want to set with your manager regarding your leave so I’ll be posting more on boss basics soon.

Any other questions that you’d add to the HR list?

Don’t Ask, Do Tell – When to let them know you’re expecting

When should you let your employer know that you have a baby on the way?  I’m sure there are varying opinions but in general I’d say the sooner the better.  Here are some reasons why:

  1. If you were the boss, you’d like to know.  Let’s put their shoe on your ever expanding maternity foot.  Fast forward one year and you’ve fallen in love with your nanny/child care provider.  They’re dependable, they do an excellent job and they’d be super hard to replace.  Then one day they show up and tell you that they’re taking the next three months off and you’re required to hold their job for them while they’re gone.  Huh?!?  You’d freak out!  You don’t have a back up because they’re the only one you want and you didn’t have time to make a plan.

    Read moreDon’t Ask, Do Tell – When to let them know you’re expecting