No conversation at work produces more anxiety than telling your boss you're pregnant. Even quitting may feel like it would be easier news to break! Since nerves make it tough to keep even important details in mind, here are 5 tips to help you break the news:
1. Tell your boss first -- even if you're close friends with your colleagues.
Privacy is elusive these days. Many of us are connected to our colleagues and managers on social media platforms, and socialize outside of the office with co-workers. However, don't be like the woman we heard about this summer who phoned in sick and then posted Instagram photos of herself on the beach! We live in a digital world, and secrets are hard to keep (read: don't post a snap of your positive pregnancy test on Facebook).
While you're understandably distracted by the excitement and nerves that come with bringing a new little life into the world, controlling your message is very important. After all, you may understandably fear that your boss or colleagues will treat you differently -- and not in a good way -- after your news. That's all the more reason to deliver the news to your boss, yourself. You want see their immediate reaction because it will tell you a lot about his/her attitude towards working moms, your ability to negotiate maternity leave and any other things you may be interested in (e.g. a different work-schedule or flexibility options).
One possible exception is if you believe your boss will negatively and you also have a trusted HR confidante who you believe will better support you. In this case, you might want to tell them before your boss and ask for advice about how to handle what you anticipate to be a difficult conversation.
2. Consider your timing.
Most women tell their employer that they're pregnant sometime around the end of their first trimester or in the early part of their second trimester. That's partially because the risk of miscarriages is significantly reduced. This timing also corresponds with when many women start to "show". However, sometimes your doctor or pregnancy symptoms such as severe morning sickness in early pregnancy may leave you with less flexibility and choice about when to share the news.
That said, if you do have an important deal, project or performance review, you may want to consider telling your manager afterwards if you're worried about how they will take the news. Just be careful about waiting too long or giving away tell-tale signs such as inquiring openly about your company's maternity leave policy -- unless you're comfortable with a little office speculation and gossip!
3. Know your basic benefits and rights.
It never hurts to do your homework about both your company's maternity leave policy, and your basic maternity leave rights. You don't have to become an expert, but we believe its helpful to be familiar with the basics. You will feel much more confident if you walk into this sensitive conversation with some knowledge under your belt.
In addition to federal protections for pregnant employees against pregnancy discrimination, be sure to learn about your extra special rights if you're an employee in California, Rhode Island or New Jersey. If you have already decided that you will not be returning after maternity leave, or that you plan on negotiating a different work schedule during your post-maternity-leave return, having a clear understanding of your rights and company policies is even more important.
4. Be brief and professional. In person.
This meeting is the first time you'll be telling your boss you're pregnant, but it's certainly not the last time you'll be talking. In this initial conversation, tell your boss that you will share a plan about your maternity leave (if any) later, and try to defer committing to details about dates and other logistics. This gives you more time and space to consider these important decisions.
Also, while you may have an impulse to show you're being responsible and thoughtful, there is actually no need to discuss your projects or workload during this first conversation. We understand the urge to assure others of your commitment to your job, but we think it's premature at this stage.
Generally speaking, we believe communication during your pregnancy and maternity leave are very important and potentially involve more details and planning than you might imagine. Therefore, we've put together a very thorough checklist that should help you manage all the big and little things related to your pregnancy over the next several months.
On the flip-side, while your news makes you ecstatic, this is probably not the best time to get overly emotional. Of course its perfectly fine to convey your happiness, but we have witnessed a number of people who cross the line when it comes to "over-sharing" about physical discomforts or provide too many details about their difficulties conceiving. While you may have an unusually close relationships with their managers, remember that you are still at work. And it is never a bad thing to err on the side of professionalism.
Finally, we hope it goes without saying that you should tell your manager the news, face-to-face. You want to gauge their immediately reaction which is much more difficult to do, even on the phone. We are also big believers in documentation so after your conversation, be sure to send a follow-up email thanking them for the meeting and for their support of your news.
5. Don't be nervous.
We know its easier said than done. Working moms everywhere worry about being judged as uncommitted to their careers, or being taken less seriously on the "mommy track". These perceptions play out in subtle ways and while they are real, you should hold your head up high.
First, those biases are largely out of your control so you should try not to waste too much energy worrying about them. Second, you should aspire to communicate confidence about the upcoming change in your life regardless of how uncertain you may actually feel.
It will help you if you talk to other working parents around you. They can share their experiences and you will probably hear about the way "mom skills" can be assets in the workplace. Everything from time management to people skills can improve after motherhood - which test even the most competent professionals in areas like resource allocation and patience!
Do you have any tips or stories that might help others break the news at work about being pregnant? If so, share your advice and opinions with other women in our community.
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