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.