Employees are often anxious about taking extended time off for parental leave. Common concerns they may have include:
- I’ll be forgotten while I’m not at work.
- People will think I’m not committed to my career.
- I’ll lose my client accounts to a coworker.
- I won’t be adding as much value as I was before I became a parent.
- My team members will resent the time I took off.
- My career will suffer if I can’t travel, or stay late, or attend after-hours events.
- I’m worried about disappointing my team and family.
To help address employee fears, have a conversation. Find the right balance between being supportive and being overprotective.
You don’t want your employees to make uninformed career decisions without knowing all the facts, and you should strive to make sure everyone is on the same page. You may be unconsciously biased against new parents, or you may have expectations based on how other team members handled the transition. Avoid making assumptions about what you think people need. Before you offer any specific changes, ask employees what they envision regarding their future workload and schedule.
Finally, be open to requests for flexible work arrangements, or adjustments to the pace of careers. Let people know there are many career paths at your organization, and many ways for them to reach their goals.
Use good judgment about the timing and extent of future development discussions. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and a new parent’s career plan doesn’t have to be determined immediately after they return to work. Avoid putting pressure on people to plan their entire career right away, and know that your employee’s wishes may change over time. Make adjustments as necessary, and put effort into finding solutions that benefit everyone—your employee, your team and your organization.