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The Dreaded Conversation

Many employees dread “the conversation.” The Internet is full of articles helping new moms gather up the courage to approach their boss and announce a pregnancy. The same goes for men and adoptive parents. They too feel trepidation when it comes to asking for extended time off.

As a leader, you don’t want your employees to feel like they’re breaking bad news when they come to you and announce a new addition to their family. You want them to be sharing good news, feeling confident in your support.

It’s up to you to create an atmosphere of trust in which employees feel safe talking to you about parental leave. After an announcement, you should express support, good wishes, and confidence in their ability to excel at this new challenge.

Here are a few tips for how to respond when an employee announces their family is expecting:

  1. Engage with your employee about their plans for leave. If you avoid these important conversations, employees may worry about their role and career prospects. Sometimes leaders avoid these conversations because they don’t know what to say. Just be authentic and genuine and trust that doing so will be the right way to go.
  1. Respect an employee’s privacy. Some new parents will be hesitant to announce a pregnancy or upcoming leave plans to clients. Ask the employee to help identify clients and colleagues who may be impacted by their leave. Together, decide when to share the news.
  1. Encourage flex and remote work even before a new baby arrives. If you haven’t been there yourself, you may not realize how many prenatal care visits go into welcoming a new baby safely into the world. Ask expectant moms if they have any workload concerns and encourage them (and their partners) to work from home on prenatal care days.
  1. Begin transition planning about three months before an employee’s expected leave. Ask the employee to provide a list of their responsibilities along with recommendations for distributing all essential tasks. Think about leave as a development opportunity for other team members, but also consider outsourcing or temporary support to alleviate workload.

Our top ‘been there, done that’ tip: Plan for a complete work transfer two weeks before the anticipated leave date. (This is particularly relevant for expectant mothers since due dates are not always accurate.) No one will be twiddling their thumbs, we promise. There’s always work to be done! It’s far better for your employee to transition into a special projects/advisory role than struggle with critical handoffs if the baby arrives early.

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