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A manager’s guide to parenthood

Often when a team member announces she is pregnant, the onus is on her to manage her exit and then, all going well, her return. By breaking this transition down into three key phases, we help mothers and their managers approach this stage from both angles.  If you imagine a three legged stool, one is the mother, one the manager and one the organisation; they all have to be aligned to ensure that stool stays standing!

For the manager of a new mum, it’s a transition into a new team structure (without the mother), sometimes with a replacement for a short period of time, which requires the team to transition again when the mother returns to that team.

To ensure successful transitions from a manager’s perspective, consider the following:

Phase One

As a manager, one of your team advises you they are pregnant.   First and foremost, congratulate them! It may be a shock, but remember a manager who seems to care is a manager they will come back to work for.  Once you (and possibly they) have got over the shock:

  1. Talk about expectations from their side and yours; what needs to happen to ensure a successful handover? Document these so both parties are on the same page.
  2. Find the relevant information from Human Resources to help them and you to be well informed of polices and procedures to follow.
  3. Check in regularly with how they are and where possible identify someone to handover to prior to their departure.
  4. Document a clear communication plan for the period that they are on leave, what they want to be informed about and how often they want to be contacted.  Most mothers want to be kept in the loop but, in the past, often managers left them alone as they didn’t want to intrude.

Phase Two

Your team member departs for parental leave, leaving you with a changed team.

To ensure your team member remains engaged while absent, again, first and foremost congratulate them when the baby comes along. Perhaps give them a phone call to see how mother and baby are doing.  Many mothers we work with hugely appreciate a phone call, even if it ends up being a voicemail message.

  1. Commit to your communications plan (see point #4 above), and keep them informed with what is going on with the team and the organisation that may be of interest.
  2. Keep in touch to see if they would like to be contacted more or less as their expectations may change.
  3. Keep your existing team in the loop as the new mum comes to terms with her new situation and what that means for the team in terms of changing workload, replacements etc.
  4. Contact the mum one month prior to her returning to confirm what information she needs to prepare to return.

Phase Three

This is the stage where lots of returning mums fall off the career track and their talent is lost as a result of either returning to a role with less challenge or deciding not to return at all. This re-entry phase is hugely important.

To ensure a successful transition back to work consider the following:

  1. Treat the returning mum as a new employee to the team.  Ensure they have a work space, relevant tools (computer) and perhaps a welcome back morning tea to touch base with new team members or any changes that they may not be aware of.
  2. Where possible allow flexibility to help their transition back to the organisation e.g. working hours, working from home occasionally, etc.
  3. Allow time.  Keep checking in with the returning mum and the team to ensure they have what they need to perform at a high performance level.

Our research shows that the manager is a major factor in whether the transition back to work is successful or not for a returning mum.  So think carefully about how you can best support the mother and the team through this period.

 




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