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Timing Is Everything When You Tell Your Boss You’re Expecting

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It is the most wonderful, terrible thing that has ever happened to you.

Two pink lines.

You are pregnant.

It is wonderful because you are going to have a baby! And the little guy (or girl) is already growing! Even if it’s your second or third child, it is truly miraculous. You think about it all the time.

It’s horrible because you’re throwing up in a stall at work every morning—and sometimes in the afternoon. When you aren’t thinking about how amazing pregnancy is, you’re fantasizing about going home and taking a nap. Or even curling up under your desk. You didn’t know it was possible to be so tired.

Here is the ironic thing. Despite how powerful this is in your life, you can’t tell anyone all day. You have good reasons of course. If this pregnancy ends in miscarriage, as many do in the first trimester, you really don’t want to discuss it with Creepy Guy in the next cubicle. And besides, it’s hard to know how your supervisor will take the news. He just gave you a big assignment and you aren’t going to be able to travel in six months. Not to mention maternity leave.

So when is the right time?

“There is no right or wrong answer,” says Jocelyn Frye, director of workplace fairness programs at the National Partnership for Women & Families (NPWF), a Washington DC–based nonprofit. “There are no special rules that require you to tell an employer on a certain day or in a certain way.”

The most important things, she says, are to use common sense, be prepared for the conversation whenever it happens and understand your rights. And there is no one better to explain them then Frye, an attorney who helped create the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) back in the ‘70s, which today allows millions of women to take paid maternity leave. The NPWF has helped pass legislation outlawing sexual harassment and pregnancy discrimination as well. But legal rights aside, office politics and timing must be factored in.

You know your workplace better than anyone else, Frye explains. If Wednesdays are the busiest days of the week, don’t pick that time to pull your supervisor aside.

Understand your company’s policies, especially about leave, and have an idea of what you want. Also, if you will have any special needs during your pregnancy, be ready to share that information with your supervisor. A high-risk pregnancy may require many doctor appointments, for instance.

“You need to have a good sense of what your individual needs are going to be,” she says Frye recommends that women be prepared to explain what their individual job duties are and what responsibilities are unique to them. However, you are not responsible for coming up with a plan of who will take over your work. That is a supervisor’s job.

Frye said that most employers want to do the right thing, though pregnancy discrimination still happens. Your company legally cannot treat women differently because they are pregnant or may become pregnant.

As far as how long you should vomit in silence, it is up to you. You can tell the minute you know the news, wait until you get through the first trimester or hold out even longer.

However, if you wait seven months, people may have already figured it out!

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