When Little Rock, AR, meteorologist Natalie Walters told her manager that she was expecting her third child, she added, “I’ll be out during sweeps [one of the busiest times of the year in television news]. I know the timing is bad." It made that news director, Austin Kellerman, realize something was very wrong if such happy personal news came with an apology to him. And it wasn't even the first time it had happened that way!
"The truth is," Austin wrote in a blog post called "Sorry for Being Pregnant?" on his personal website, "we (managers) have to start by blaming ourselves. I have to start blaming myself."
Employees should never feel bad about adding children to their families. It's up to managers to figure out what to do during their leaves, not the other way around, though helping smooth the transition is always wise.
Austin went on to admit in his post that when he was a less-experienced manager, he considered maternity leave to be an "inconvenience." "I viewed employees as pieces to a puzzle. If one was going to be missing, what was I going to do?"
He confessed that his body language might have tipped off moms-to-be that he was less-than-thrilled about their impending absences. While it's natural for people to think about themselves first, Austin, now a father, gained wisdom with time—and new feelings about parents-to-be that put his concerns in perspective.
"I look at pregnancy and maternity leave for what it is—an incredible opportunity for someone on our team to grow their family," Austin wrote. His new reaction to an employee taking leave: joy and support, and the assurance that he will figure out how to cover for them.
As a manager who has had reports reveal they're expanding their families—and a report who has told managers I'm expecting (twice)—there's no acceptable response to having a baby other than "Congratulations!" (exclamation point mandatory). Supervisors should be secure enough in their own abilities to find a way to keep the train chuggin', and if they're not, well, that's still not something for which an employee should be sorry.