Office politics and pregnancy

By Published On: February 3rd, 2010

Breaking the big (and getting bigger!) news to the boss […]

Breaking the big (and getting bigger!) news to the boss can be a frightening prospect. Believe me, I’ve been there! While there is no perfect time to announce your pregnancy, your body might just make the decision for you.
Like many women, I wanted to keep my pregnancy to myself for the first trimester so I could get past the high-risk period before divulging the news. At work, I managed to lay low through months one and two. By month three, my bump hadn’t yet appeared—in fact, I was losing weight—but my strange behavior was showing in a major way. I was coming into work later than usual because I was so nauseated and tired in the morning.
I would then spend the morning snacking on crackers to try and calm my stomach. My activity slowed as my energy decreased. With my olfactory sense in overdrive, I even had a hard time breathing around co-workers who smoked or wore perfume.
I finally broke down and told my boss, who was extremely supportive and understanding. She enjoyed being a co-conspirator and gladly worked with my schedule of doctor’s appointments. Letting the boss know first saved me from the drama of the rumor mill. Sharing the news can even help women who suffer miscarriages; they can appreciate the support and sympathy of coworkers during a time that can otherwise be very lonely.
When your boss and coworkers are in the know, whether at two months or six, communicate your intentions and put office anxiety to rest. Let them know that you will keep up your share of the workload. Pregnancy does not have to affect performance. However, do be honest about your capabilities. If your work is physically demanding or the long hours are just too grueling, inform your employer about your needs. Share without fear: the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 protects married and unmarried mothers from unfair hiring and firing practices.
Be clear about your plans for maternity leave and return (or departure). Will you use vacation and sick days to extend your leave? How long do you plan to be out? While a prediction of your exact date of departure would be ideal, your baby may be keeping his own timeline.
Try to leave your projects organized and labeled just in case someone else needs to unexpectedly fill in for you. Designate a colleague with whom you can communicate via phone and email while on leave; he or she can then pass on any information to the office, making communication simpler for you.
Getting along
You’ve kept your personal and professional spheres separate until your family life showed up at the office …as a big baby bump! While you may be on cloud nine, your colleagues won’t always share in your baby euphoria. Competitive coworkers may even watch to see if your work will suffer because of your pregnancy.
To avoid resentment:

  1. Maintain a professional air by saving personal conversation for your lunch break. Although your pregnancy doesn’t need to be taboo, some people just don’t care to hear about it. Let others ask you before you share maternity information; but be warned, this is a difficult task when you have baby on the brain!
  2. Be sensitive when planning your baby shower. An office shower can be a great experience…if your coworkers suggest it. For a private shower, invite all who might reasonably be offended if not invited. Distribute shower invitations through the mail rather than at the office.
  3. Just be you! Show your boss and coworkers that while you may look different, you are still the same productive worker as always.