Announcing Your Pregnancy at Work
The cautious approach
Good relations between employer and employee and among coworkers are significant factors in any job. You can't get your work done as promptly and efficiently with a cloud of resentment and anger hanging over your head. For some reason, a pregnant woman raises some people's hackles, especially the boss's, who sometimes feels that becoming pregnant somehow indicates a lack of devotion to the job. Announcing your condition must be approached, in many cases, with caution.
Telling the Boss You're Pregnant
Two people have to feel reassured after you break the news that you're pregnantyou and your supervisor. You're worried about the safety of your expected child, the financial stability of your family, and your own self-esteem, which is often closely tied to your job. Your employer, on the other hand, has other concerns: Will the business suffer? Will you give the same attention to your work with a baby at home to worry about? It's important that you consider the concerns of your employer and follow these suggestions:
- Don't announce your pregnancy until after the first trimester, when the risk of miscarriage is much lowerThe longer you wait, the less time there is for office speculation about your future. Don't wait until you show, however, because coworkers are apt to notice first. Of course, if you're suffering from morning sickness, or if you're asked to take on a long-term project, you'll have to explain. Tell close friends at work who can keep your secret and a few select people on the been-there/done-that list who can share strategic advice about how to tell the big cheese.
- Tell your employer nextIt would not be to your benefit to have your boss hear the news from someone else. Your negotiating position could be weakened. So tell your boss after you do your legwork, before you begin to show, and before someone else can. If your employer learns about your pregnancy before you have a chance to tell him, explain that you wanted to get your prenatal test results back first to make sure everything was going well. Then you were going to make an appointment to discuss a rough plan for covering all your responsibilities during your leave.
- Choose your momentPick the least stressful, most convenient time, perhaps a Friday afternoon. Certainly you would never do it before an important event, such as a major stockholder meeting.
- Speak in privateArrange not to be interrupted during the conversation. If you choose a restaurant, make sure it's quiet and low key. Discourage any over-diligent waiter.
- Be positiveBe forthright and optimistic. You want to give the impression that you have everything organized, yet you remain flexible. Never apologize, even if you're aware that you will be leaving your position in the middle of the spring rush, or the fall sales season. Don't say you're sorry. You haven't done anything wrong; you're just having a baby.
- Discuss your pregnancy in a business-like mannerEmphasize the temporary nature of the situation. Underline your enthusiasm for your work and your determination to be as productive as ever.
- Don't discuss maternity leave yetWait awhile and schedule a formal meeting to discuss the details of your leave and your future with the company. In the meantime, contact the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and your state civil rights commission to find out what your rights are.
- Assume you'll be welcomed backNever ask whether you may come back. Take it for granted that you will (see Managing Your Maternity Leave ).
- Tell coworkersMaking it clear after the initial hoopla and congrats that you're working out a plan for your leave won't leave them in a panic.
- Let customers, clients, and any outside vendors or consultants knowThis can wait, especially if you don't have regular face-to-face meetings with them. Assure them that their needs will be met and any necessary transitions will be handled smoothly.
Studies have shown that almost 90 percent of the women who go on maternity leave eventually return to their jobs. Of those women, 43 percent return within three months.
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© 2005 by Marla Schram Schwartz. Excerpted from The Working Woman's Baby Planner with permission of its publisher, Sourcebooks, Inc.
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