Ca­reer Coach

“My com­pany of­fers a gen­er­ous paid-fam­i­lyleave ben­e­fit, but they just got bought by a dif­fer­ent com­pany with a much stingier pol­icy—fewer weeks off at lower pay— and I’m ex­pect­ing. How can I get my orig­i­nal ben­e­fit and not the new one?”

Working Mother - - Contents - By Joseph Bar­be­rio

Han­dling leave when your com­pany gets ac­quired, ac­ing an exit in­ter­view, and more.

AWhile it’s pos­si­ble you may be “grand­moth­ered” into the old plan, un­for­tu­nately, it’s not a sure thing. Your best course of ac­tion: Go to HR di­rectly to find out what changes, if any, are com­ing up.

If a dif­fer­ent parental-leave plan is re­plac­ing the for­mer one, then you should try to ne­go­ti­ate, says Claire Bis­sot, man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of CBIZ HR Ser­vices, an HR con­sult­ing or­ga­ni­za­tion. “Treat it as if you were start­ing a new job and they didn’t have a great pol­icy,” she sug­gests.

Come pre­pared with com­pro­mises you’re will­ing to make in case the new com­pany won’t give you the leave you were en­ti­tled to pre-ac­qui­si­tion. For ex­am­ple, sug­gest a num­ber of weeks off that falls be­tween the old and new of­fer­ings. “Show you are com­mit­ted to the com­pany and can be flex­i­ble,” Bis­sot says. “Read through the new com­pany pol­icy to see if there are other op­tions avail­able to bridge the gap.” And if not, propose some, such as work­ing from home or part time af­ter your leave ends.

If they won’t budge, there might not be more you can do. Ac­cord­ing to Bis­sot: “The em­ployer may amend, can­cel or change any part [of a leave plan] with or with­out no­tice,” which would elim­i­nate any po­ten­tial le­gal re­course. At this point you might need to eval­u­ate whether the new firm is a good long-term fit. “If the com­pany is un­will­ing to work with you, is this even a com­pany you want to work with?” Bis­sot asks.

There are plenty of won­der­ful busi­nesses (see page 38 for some of them!) that reg­u­larly hire preg­nant women and give gen­er­ous ma­ter­nity leave, no mat­ter em­ploy­ees’ ten­ure. Just don’t for­get that if you’re in Cal­i­for­nia, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York or Rhode Is­land, your state might of­fer more-gen­er­ous sub­si­dized leave than the ac­quir­ing com­pany does.

Q“I’m leav­ing my job and have an exit in­ter­view com­ing up. The com­pany wasn’t nearly as fam­ily-friendly as ad­ver­tised, and I want to of­fer sug­ges­tions for im­prove­ment— would that be ap­pro­pri­ate?”

ABe­fore you bring up your beef, ask your­self why you want to give feed­back dur­ing the meet­ing, says ca­reer tran­si­tion coach Jane Scud­der. “The an­swer to this could in­clude any­thing from help­ing spe­cific col­leagues to help­ing other women whom you don’t know but who might be in a sim­i­lar sit­u­a­tion to sim­ply want­ing to vent and ex­press how bad their poli­cies were for you,” she says. You shouldn’t use the exit in­ter­view as a per­sonal kvetch­ing ses­sion, but if you truly want to im­prove the com­pany for other par­ents, con­fess your con­cerns.

To do it pro­fes­sion­ally, “share spe­cific ex­am­ples or pat­terns, and high­light how this would im­prove things for as­so­ciates as well as the or­ga­ni­za­tion over­all,” Scud­der says. Pro­vide

avoid call­ing out any co-work­ers.

When you sug­gest those so­lu­tions, bring up how fam­i­lyfriendly poli­cies have boosted em­ployee re­ten­tion and ta­lent ac­qui­si­tion at other com­pa­nies. If one of the main rea­sons you’re leav­ing is to work in a fam­ily-friend­lier en­vi­ron­ment, then men­tion this to drive home your point.

“Be hon­est and con­struc­tive, but de­liver your thoughts with a smile and ap­pre­ci­a­tion for your time at the com­pany,” says Ad­die Swartz, the CEO of reacHIRE, an or­ga­ni­za­tion that as­sists women re­turn­ing to the work­force. “You never know where your ca­reer path might lead, and you al­ways want to leave the door open to re­turn.”

Q“I started a new job where it’s com­mon for em­ploy­ees to work late. I can’t stay past 5 p.m. be­cause I need to pick up my kids, but I’m wor­ried my new co-work­ers won’t think I’m a team player be­cause of my sched­ule. Should I tell my col­leagues why I don’t stay late? Any­thing I should try to get on their good side?”

AThe best thing to do: Be up­front and hon­est with them. Tell them your sched­ule and ex­plain why it’s non­nego­tiable, in most cases. If your work calendar is vis­i­ble to your col­leagues, mark when you leave as “busy” to re­mind them not to sched­ule any 5 p.m. meet­ings. If you’re so in­clined, you can log back in later and work re­motely. “A sim­ple ‘Leav­ing now to pick up the kids, but I’ll be back on­line at 7 p.m. to see what I’ve missed’ will go a long way to mak­ing your fel­low work­ers know you are a team player,” Swartz says.

It’s also a smart idea to get to know your co-work­ers bet­ter. Par­tic­i­pate as much as you can in team-build­ing ac­tiv­i­ties, or just chat with them when pos­si­ble. “Then it might nat­u­rally come up that you have chil­dren who you are re­spon­si­ble for pick­ing up ev­ery day so you can’t stay late,” Scud­der says. “In this con­struct, you’re not mak­ing an awk­wardly timed ex­cuse; rather, you’re just liv­ing a life in which your job and your team—these other hu­mans who you spend thou­sands of hours with each year—re­ally mat­ter.”

Af­ter all, the ideal way to truly be a “team player” is for you to do top-notch work and be de­pend­able—no mat­ter what time of day it is. “The best rep­u­ta­tions are of­ten those of peo­ple who pro­duce strong, im­pact­ful work,” Scud­der adds.

Com­pany ac­quired? There might be a way to keep the old leave pol­icy.

Your exit in­ter­view is the per­fect time to let the com­pany know where it can im­prove.

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