CPA INSIDER

What to expect when you tell your boss you’re expecting

Have a plan ready before you make the announcement.
By Stephanie Vozza

Telling people that you or your partner is pregnant is exciting. Most workplaces will embrace the news.

"Announcing a pregnancy in our organization goes far beyond the scope of your professional life,' said Timothy O'Neill, CPA, tax supervisor with Mueller Prost in St. Louis. His co-workers, he said, "were truly happy for my wife and me." O'Neill took two weeks off when his daughter was born in 2018.

When you have to tell your boss, however, things can become more complicated. Having a baby means taking time off of work, and if the baby is due during a busy accounting season, your absence could put an extra strain on your department.

When Madeline Miller, CPA, manager with Wipfli LLP in Bozeman, Mont., had her son three years ago, she acknowledged, she was nervous to tell her boss.

"Preparing for a conversation regarding pregnancy is an exciting chapter in life and we should have confidence when negotiating for time at home with a newborn," she said. "I would be remiss if I said I was not nervous about becoming parent and how it may affect my career opportunities."

If you're good at your job and your boss thinks you're great, he or she will likely have mixed feelings about the news, said Mary Abbajay, president of Washington, D.C.-based Careerstone Group, a talent development consulting organization, and author of Managing Up: How to Move Up, Win at Work, and Succeed With Any Type of Boss

"No one likes to lose an important, much-loved employee, even for a little while," she said.

Here's how you can prepare for the conversation:

Make a plan. Start by researching your employer's policies. Once you understand your benefits and know more about what to expect in terms of family leave, you can design a plan for being away. Determine how long you can work before you leave.

"Always be prepared to leave two weeks sooner than you plan," said Abbajay. "A lot of people want to work right up until they have their baby, but that doesn't always work out because babies can arrive earlier than expected."

Consider whether you may need to scale back on some of your regular hours or workload the further you are into your pregnancy. Miller's baby, for instance, was due in early May. She asked that she not be scheduled to work more than 50 hours a week during the tax season. Her request was approved.

Propose a plan for when and how you will return to work. If your employer is comfortable with flexible work arrangements, reduced schedules, or remote work, those may be options to consider after you have a child. Knowing what you want will help you and your boss move forward.

Tell your boss before telling your co-workers. "Your boss can't be last to find out," said Abbajay. "Tell him or her before you tell your colleagues; information travels fast."

Share the news sooner, rather than later, and do so in person if you can. Depending on your relationship, you can schedule a meeting or invite your boss out for coffee or lunch. The conversation might take a celebratory turn, or it might be simply about business.

"Either way, the organization will appreciate that the employee is considering how the business will continue," said Persephone L. Hall, Hale Family Director, Hale Center for Career Development at Connecticut College in New London, Conn.

Think about how others have done it. If your co-workers have taken maternity or paternity leave, you can get some insights from them on how your boss will take the news, said Abbajay.

Consider your employer's concerns. While having a baby is reason to celebrate, when you share the news, your focus should be on the organization and how your work will be handled during your leave of absence, said Hall.

"Employers want to know what is going to happen," said Scott Warrick, a Columbus, Ohio-based employment attorney and author of Solve Employee Problems Before They Start: Resolving Conflict in the Real World. "Employees are the biggest part of a company's budget, and they help execute goals. When you go into the conversation, think about it from the employer's standpoint."

Give some thought to who can cover your work. Let your boss know how you will get them up to speed on your workload.

Miller let her boss know the projects she was working on and how she would wrap up her work before she left. O'Neill said his co-workers stepped up and helped. "My employer was more than accommodating; while I only took two weeks of leave, it was a time leading up to a deadline, and everyone stepped up to make sure all my client responsibilities were taken care of," he said.

Hall suggested addressing the transition during your initial conversation with your supervisor. For example, you could say something like, "I know we are typically focused on regulatory reports in the spring. If you're comfortable with it, I'd like to start training [co-worker name] in order to ensure those reports will still be produced during my leave."

Put it in writing. Putting your plan in writing isn't required, Warrick said, but it can ensure that everyone is on the same page and in agreement going forward.

"It can never be a replacement for talking," he said. "But it's OK to recap your conversation."

Stephanie Vozza is a Michigan-based freelance writer. To comment on this article or to suggest an idea for another article, contact Courtney Vien, a JofA senior editor, at Courtney.Vien@aicpa-cima.com.

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