Ca­reer Coach

Working Mother - - Contents -

Be­ing asked to work later, han­dling a man­ager who spills your preg­nancy se­cret, and more.

QWhile I was away on ma­ter­nity leave, my re­place­ment did an ex­cel­lent job, and ev­ery­body I work with loves her as a col­league. I’m wor­ried I might be at risk of los­ing my spot to her. Should I be con­cerned?

AIt’s great that your role was filled in well dur­ing your leave, but it prob­a­bly doesn’t mean your shoes are about to be per­ma­nently filled. “Com­pa­nies can­not fire an em­ployee be­cause they re­placed the em­ployee with some­one else while she was out on ma­ter­nity leave,” says Nan­nina An­gioni, a la­bor and employment at­tor­ney and part­ner of Kae­dian LLP, an all-fe­male law firm based in Los An­ge­les. “To do so, for no other rea­son, would be un­law­ful.”

The ex­cep­tion: if there were mass lay­offs at your com­pany that would re­sult in elim­i­nat­ing your po­si­tion. Oth­er­wise, ex­plains An­gioni, your job should be safe upon your re­turn. “While em­ploy­ers are not re­quired to pay an em­ployee while she is on ma­ter­nity leave, they are re­quired to pro­tect her job. That is clear,” if you’re cov­ered un­der the Fam­ily and Med­i­cal Leave Act (FMLA). If you’re still wor­ried about los­ing cer­tain re­spon­si­bil­i­ties, talk to your man­ager about

how com­mit­ted you are, says Ge­or­gene Huang, CEO and co-founder of Fairy­god­boss, a woman’s ca­reer web­site.

If you’re con­cerned about re­turn­ing to your old rou­tine, you can pro­pose a back-to-work tran­si­tion plan, sug­gests Fran Pa­s­tore, founder and CEO of the Women’s Busi­ness De­vel­op­ment Coun­cil, an or­ga­ni­za­tion that pro­vides re­sources for fe­male en­trepreneurs. You can also have your re­place­ment help you get up to speed. That way, you won’t feel over­whelmed at first and can ease back in with­out a hitch.

Re­mem­ber, says Pa­s­tore, your fill-in’s suc­cess re­flects pos­i­tively on you. “If your re­place­ment did a great job, then ku­dos! It means that you set her up for suc­cess.”

QI was re­cently asked to work longer hours at my job, even though I need to leave on time ev­ery day to pick up my kids from school. I feel like my com­pany is try­ing to push me out. How do I ex­plain to my man­ager that I sim­ply can’t stay longer?

AUn­ex­pected changes can throw a wrench into your work-life bal­ance, so we un­der­stand why you would be so up­set. But be­fore as­sum­ing the worst, talk with your man­ager di­rectly about the new sched­ule’s de­mand and how it af­fects you. It’s pos­si­ble that it was just a sim­ple mis­take or your boss didn’t re­al­ize your sit­u­a­tion and how im­por­tant keep­ing your cur­rent hours are to you.

Ac­cord­ing to An­gioni, it looks like you prob­a­bly don’t have any le­gal re­course against your em­ployer in this case, though. “There is noth­ing il­le­gal, per se, about im­pos­ing new re­quire­ments on a po­si­tion, pro­vided they aren’t be­ing used to dis­crim­i­nate against an em­ployee or group of em­ploy­ees, but rather are to fur­ther le­git­i­mate busi­ness ob­jec­tives.”

Sched­ule a meet­ing with your man­ager to talk about why you aren’t able to work later. Make sure to dis­cuss any al­ter­na­tives to the new sched­ule and clar­ify any changed ex­pec­ta­tions your man­ager may have of you, Pa­s­tore says. “Ex­plain the en­tire pickup sit­u­a­tion and come to the meet­ing armed with facts, such as how you get all of your work done within your pre-ex­ist­ing, agreedupon sched­ule and a list of all of your ac­com­plish­ments to-date.” Make it clear that you care about your role, and be pre­pared to dis­cuss ways to com­plete all of your tasks.

If your man­ager tells you that it’s ab­so­lutely nec­es­sary for you to be work­ing later, then sug­gest some rea­son­able al­ter­na­tives. One op­tion, Huang says, is to ask if you can work re­motely af­ter you bring your kids home from school. “Your man­ager might not re­al­ize you are will­ing to log back on to do your work and sim­ply need flex­i­bil­ity to step out of the of­fice for school pickup,” she ex­plains. If work­ing from home isn’t pos­si­ble, see if you can start your day ear­lier, and there­fore end it ear­lier, or switch roles with a col­league.

QI’m cur­rently ex­pect­ing a child but not show­ing yet. I told my man­ager the news but asked her to keep it a se­cret. How­ever, she soon let it slip out, and now all of my co-work­ers know I’m preg­nant. How do I ex­plain to her how much this hurt me and may have af­fected our good re­la­tion­ship?

AThe first thing to re­mem­ber is your man­ager is only hu­man, and we all mess up from time to time, says Huang. It’s fine to want to talk about this in a frank meet­ing with her, but it might be a mis­take to bring hu­man re­sources into the mix. “I don’t think this is a sit­u­a­tion that will nec­es­sar­ily im­prove if you in­volve HR in lieu of or in ad­di­tion to speak­ing with your man­ager,” Huang says. “If your man­ager hears from HR first that your feel­ings were hurt, that might fur­ther dam­age your re­la­tion­ship.”

Be­fore the meet­ing, ask your­self what your man­ager’s likely in­ten­tions were by shar­ing the news pre­ma­turely, says Pa­s­tore. Was it a ma­li­cious at­tempt to air your per­sonal busi­ness be­fore you wanted it to be known or just an hon­est mis­take? If you sus­pect the for­mer—per­haps there is a pat­tern of this be­hav­ior—then say why telling ev­ery­body was hurt­ful and how it makes you ques­tion if you could trust her as a boss.

If you have a good re­la­tion­ship with her and think it was an hon­est mis­take, then you might want to ex­plain why you would pre­fer some­thing like this didn’t hap­pen again and ac­cept her ( hope­fully pro­fuse) apol­ogy.

By Joseph Bar­be­rio Even if your re­place­ment crushed it, your job should still be safe.

If you can’t meet the new de­mands, then ask for more-flex­i­ble op­tions.

Let your boss know how you feel so it doesn’t hap­pen again.

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