A Per­fect Pol­icy ... When There Is None

Working Mother - - 100 Best Companies 2018 - SUBHA BARRY Pres­i­dent, Work­ing Mother Me­dia

“We each picked up a re­quest and came up with in­no­va­tive so­lu­tions.”

Ire­cently had lunch with three beloved col­leagues from my days as a fi­nan­cial ad­vi­sor at Mer­rill Lynch. All four of us had chil­dren dur­ing our ca­reers, so we had some col­or­ful sto­ries about our ma­ter­nity-leave ex­pe­ri­ences and, more im­por­tant, our tran­si­tions back to work. I had an ad­di­tional ex­pe­ri­ence of tran­si­tion­ing back to work af­ter my stem-cell trans­plant for Hodgkin lym­phoma. We’ve wit­nessed the chang­ing land­scape of com­pa­nies sup­port­ing their mom em­ploy­ees, and, more re­cently, their dad em­ploy­ees, as they re­turn from par­ent­ing and care­giv­ing.

Be­fore there were well-thought-out poli­cies, you re­lied on the fair­ness, wis­dom and thought­ful­ness of in­di­vid­ual man­agers. It was a toss of a coin whether you lucked out with a good one or got stuck with a crappy one. Even af­ter the gov­ern­ment and HR and le­gal di­vi­sions be­gan dic­tat­ing leave poli­cies, phase­back de­tails were of­ten left to the de­part­ments and their heads. As a leader, I’ve had staff take leave for child­birth, adop­tion, par­ent­ing and care­giv­ing. Oth­ers took time off for health is­sues. I like to think I’m one of the good ones, hav­ing sup­ported these re­ports through their nu­anced phase-backs.

For in­stance, my as­sis­tant re­turned from her ma­ter­nity leave only to re­al­ize that with­out fam­ily sup­port or backup child­care, ev­ery time her child was ill, she needed to take time off. I knew it was only a mat­ter of time be­fore she would look at the fi­nan­cial, phys­i­cal and emo­tional toll of call­ing out so much, and de­cide to drop out of the work­force for a few years and try to re-en­ter again later.

Among our team of 10, in­clud­ing this as­sis­tant and one other, we de­cided that we would or­ga­nize col­lab­o­ra­tively and col­lec­tively to ac­com­mo­date our var­i­ous needs. Each put forth their re­quest:

Some of us needed sup­port for health-re­lated is­sues—doc­tors and tests; oth­ers wanted to work out dur­ing lunch, which of­ten took more than an hour; oth­ers were re­li­giously ob­ser­vant and could use ex­tra time off for that; oth­ers had el­derly par­ents or chil­dren who re­quired un­ex­pected care.

We put our need for non-for­mally rec­og­nized time off on the ta­ble for con­sid­er­a­tion. We then each picked up some­one else’s re­quest and came up with in­no­va­tive ac­com­mo­da­tions. Amaz­ingly, within an hour, we had so­lu­tions for each. The mil­len­nial with a pas­sion for rock-climb­ing dur­ing lunch, our de­vout Catholic who went to church ev­ery day, that mom with­out care for her sick child, and the can­cer sur­vivor who needed tests that weren’t avail­able on week­ends or week­day evenings were pre­sented with work­able op­tions. Be­tween cell­phones and laptops for all (re­mem­ber, this was in the early 2000s), learn­ing to mea­sure work out­put in­stead of hours in the of­fice, and adding a healthy dose of gen­eros­ity of spirit and com­pas­sion, we be­came the team that ev­ery­one wanted to join. We were pro­duc­tive, co­he­sive and happy.

It’s only in the past cou­ple of years that com­pa­nies have wo­ken up to the fact that leave alone will not stem the at­tri­tion of women that oc­curs post-baby. Pro­gres­sive com­pa­nies that in­tro­duced phase-backs have started to reap the re­wards of in­creased pro­duc­tiv­ity and greater loy­alty. I was proud to be known as a leader who is will­ing to find fixes us­ing the broad frame­work my com­pany had set and cus­tomiz­ing it to the needs of the mo­ment.

When a col­league has a ter­mi­nally sick par­ent, the kind of flex­i­bil­ity they need is not per­ma­nent, but the good­will that giv­ing them time off en­gen­ders is. As long as a man­ager can be rea­son­able and fo­cus on what the worker has to de­liver, the em­ployee can be cre­ative about how and when they ac­com­plish tasks. Ul­ti­mately, it’s the will­ing­ness of a man­ager to be open-minded and the de­sire of the em­ployee to find a fair so­lu­tion that re­sults in suc­cess—poli­cies and pro­grams not­with­stand­ing.

Sick ba­bies call for par­ents with un­der­stand­ing man­agers.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.