The day you find out you’re pregnant may be the best day of your life. Then you get the joy of sharing the delightful news with the people in your life: your partner, your family, your friends…and your boss. And that last one often requires some careful thought and planning.
While you’re probably thrilled about the new addition to your family, your boss may not feel quite so ecstatic. Your maternity leave will affect your job responsibilities, your team, and quite possibly the company overall.
This conversation with your boss/employer is a tricky one to navigate. There are lots of things to think about, discuss and plan for. Set the tone by going in prepared and professional.
“You probably saw my Instagram Post”
Please make sure that your boss doesn’t learn about your exciting news from someone casually mentioning it in the break room or posting a pregnancy meme on your Facebook page. Be courteous, respectful, and professional by letting him or her know about it before posting in on social media, especially if your coworkers can see your social media posts.
“I hope you got my email?”
Every workplace has a different culture, but career experts agree that it’s best to initially announce your pregnancy to your boss in person, and then follow it up with an email documenting your conversation. The goal is to create a situation that makes both you and your employer happy and confident — just an email or a phone call simply won’t do.
“I am sorry to say that I’m pregnant”
Don’t start this conversation with a negative tone. Be upbeat and proactive about your plan for leave. While the conversation can be stressful, this is great news. Remind yourself that this is awesome and working women have babies every day. Then, calmly make an appointment with HR, your direct supervisor, or with the person who will be most impacted. And start the conversation with “I have some exciting news to share.”
Make sure your boss knows that you are committed to your job and that you plan to return to work after the baby arrives (if that is your plan). Many bosses mistakenly assume that pregnancy means the end of your dedication and reliability. It’s important to deal with these wrong assumptions right away.
“I know this is the worst day to discuss this…”
Try your best to schedule this conversation on a day that is not extremely stressful or busy for either you or your boss. If there is a deadline the whole team is working on to meet, try to find a better time slot.
“We can discuss all the details some other time”
Sometimes it is a good idea to give your employer some time to digest the news and come up with solutions and requests on how to make this transition easier for everyone involved. Then follow up a few weeks later with the second meeting to discuss really specific details of how much time you plan to take off, who can cover for you, and everything you’re going to do to prepare for your eventual absence.
“Sorry, my bump knocked over your favorite coffee mug”
Don’t wait so long to share the news of your pregnancy that your baby bump is obvious to absolutely everyone, including the security guard and the janitor.
The “right” time might be different for everyone. If you want to wait until about 20 weeks because it makes you feel more comfortable, you are not letting your employer down. But try not to make your boss wonder for weeks or even months when you are going to share the good news.
Keep in mind that you must tell your employer the baby’s due date and when you intend to start your maternity leave.
“I am not sure I will be coming back”
Even if that’s your plan, try not to discuss this on the same day you announce your pregnancy. Your boss will almost certainly have concerns and will ask questions about work flow and job responsibilities in your absence. Will you return to work afterwards? How much maternity leave will you need? How will your projects be covered? Be proud of your pregnancy and have your answers ready. Be helpful and optimistic. You might be thinking of getting a new or part-time job or staying home longer than the company allows, but these things can be discussed later. Be professional and address their concerns because these are the people you might be asking to give you a good reference in the future.
“Best of luck with that awful project”
Even if this is the thought running through your head, you don’t want your supervisor to think you’re doing a little happy dance on your way out the door. They need to know that you have a plan that addresses your work responsibilities, including how projects will be handled before you leave and in your absence. Help the team by making suggestions, putting together a work plan or even a manual that the employees that take over from you can use while you’re gone. You can even offer to be available occasionally during your leave to help answer any questions.
“Sure, I can still lift heavy stuff”
It is tempting to pretend like nothing has changed — but of course it has. If there are work safety concerns for you and your baby that need to be addressed, do it as soon as possible. If you’re exposed to toxins, chemicals, or substances of any kind which might jeopardize your pregnancy, or, if you’re in a job that is physically demanding, put your safety first. If you need to discuss your pregnancy concerns early on with your employer, come prepared with suggestions for possible other responsibilities you can take on or additional safety measures that can be put into place until your maternity leave begins.
“I can no longer work on that project”
Don’t leave before you leave. Do not take a backseat in your job before it is time for you to go on maternity leave.
You may be pregnant, but you’re still the same great employee you were before. Once you announce the impending arrival of your baby, don’t use it as an excuse to step back from your responsibilities. Unless doctor’s orders prevent you from doing so, continue to show your employer how awesome you are. Keep taking on projects and being successful — it will remind your coworkers how valuable you are, with and without the belly!
“You won’t believe what happened to me this morning…”
Don’t share TMI details about your pregnancy, unless you are talking to a close friend at work. You need to remember that planning for the baby can’t be an all-consuming project during your workday. And not everyone in the conference room wants to hear about the Great Baby Car Seat Debate of 2020. Don’t encourage people to touch your belly if you normally wouldn’t let them touch you so personally. It is no longer impossible to find stylish, not super expensive and professional maternity clothes, so do your best to dress as professionally as you can during this exciting time of your life.
In conclusion, the overwhelming advice from all the career experts about the conversation you are about to have with your employer is “Walk into the room with solutions, not problems.”
Dear Viva Eve blog post readers, when did you announce your pregnancy at work? Do you have any advice for your fellow moms-to-be? We would love to hear from you!