Does your company’s hiring policy include asking women if they are considering having a child sometime?
When I discuss with the men the issue of maternity policy they often advise they have been told not to ask questions, not to fully engage lest it been seen as they are probing or prying.
Join me on Monday 29 September for How to change pregnancy from being a problem in the workplace to an advantage.
When women go off on their maternity leave they are often given a wide berth to work out their thoughts and feelings on whether they will return. I know this because they tell me and I am often privy to their decision making process to return.
Why are our plans for a family and plans to combine children and a career so off limits?
Why are so many managers so ill prepared to have honest and open conversations?
I believe it is because it involves our feelings.
Replace the word “plans” in the sentence above for “desires” and it becomes even clearer. Discussing a colleagues desires in the workplace seems somehow “wrong” -so we don’t, and instead approach the topic from a more logic, rational persecutive or not at all.
Emma Watson’s Gender Equality is Your Issue Too speech at the UN was brilliant in so many ways but it got me thinking as to why I loved it so much and why it’s been resonating with so many.
Emma gave heart-felt reasons as to why she was personally involved in the campaign, before she moved on to how others could help and what we could all do to achieve the end goal – but you could hear in her voice the passion and the commitment. Shock, horror. She shared her feelings.
If you have read Simon Sinek’s book “Start With Why: How Great LeadersInspire Everyone to Take Action” or seen his great Ted Talk you will know that starting with the emotional reasons you are doing something makes the effort and inspired action required to deliver results, far more pleasurable to complete and generally more successful too. In other words it’s a lot easier!
When our passion and our heart is involved, before the rational head steps in to build a plan, others connect far more easily too.
I wonder how passionate and excited companies are when they plan their maternity policies and I wonder how emotionally in alignment many managers truly are when they are discussing a colleagues’ new baby news?
I assume they know the corporate “why?”. They are focused on women they have chosen and invested in, returning and continuing within their company.
But sadly from the feedback I receive the “why” often seems more driven by regulation and policy. There may be an emotional drive to support a great team member who in turn is helping you achieve your business goals but unless you are both invested in the “why” of the business and have a strong common ground for the long term, the relationship will fall down during this period.
When we lose the passion and it’s not felt and connected with by all, processes and actions become mechanical and transactional. Conversations between employee and employer are not honest and real but cautious and conflicted.
I know it is not the business way to constantly talk about our feelings. I know most men I’ve met personally and professionally prefer to keep their feelings hidden and only revealed to a close, chosen few and women working in male dominated environments tend to mirror this behaviour, publicly at least.
As a society we have traditionally valued knowledge and honed intelligence over inner wisdom and intuition. The smarter person is more head than heart.
Biologically speaking, most women are naturally more emotionally connected to their feelings. Certainly in my work as soon as I provide a safe space, even the most alpha female reveals her emotions. During pregnancy, your feelings certainly come to the fore. They are meant to – so you can intuitively connect to your newborn as was highlighted in my online conference Bumps and the Boardroom and my talk with Dr Victoria Bourne The Potential of the Pregnant Mind.
This sad state of affairs has only come about because if women admit to their desires their chances of advancement have been seen as hampered. We have looked to men for how to lead and it is not traditionally from the heart.
I am not suggesting we all run around with our hearts on our sleeves but I do believe we need to be in work which makes our heart sing (another great Simon Sinek gem) and stop with all the pretence that takes place in many of the world’s businesses today.
At MindValley in Malaysia, voted Most Democratic Workplace for the last 7 years employees share their desires and the dreams. And they are well on their way to collectively achieving Founder, Vishen Lakhiani’s goal of impacting 1 billion people’s lives and have recently been listed along with the likes of Ted, Zappos and Google as a featured organisation on GamesChangers 500, the world’s top for-benefit companies who value heart, people and our planet. I am interested in knowing their maternity policies and procedures.
As Sheryl Sandberg said in her Lean In chapter, Seek and Speak Your Truth, ..”as we learn to speak appropriately, we loose something in authenticity. Authentic communication is not always easy, but it is the basis for successful relationships at home and real effectiveness at work.”
I have always felt the need to connect into why I am doing something and been very feelings led. My school teachers expressed their dismay at my lack of ability to hide my true feelings but my last boyfriend knew I couldn’t disguise my feelings to save my life and loved my honesty. I am also very solutions driven. As a women in business I believe our greatest success comes when we connect the passion with the action, the feelings with the being and balance the two.
If I need to make a decision I listen to my heart and check in with how my body feels – expansive or contracted – over and above any logic and then know what my choice should be. If I need to find a solution I focus on feeling grounded and secure and allow my intuition to give me the answer. In the past I have suppressed feelings for what I thought would lead to better outcomes. I have learnt the hard way that isn’t the case. Honesty is always the best policy, as is being true to yourself.
Being honest can lead to far more productive and enlightened conversations which ensure you and your employes are totally aligned.
Pretence is limiting. It’s hard to keep up and takes energy. Feeling freer, more open to be ourselves feels easy, exciting and natural. When we seek to create working environments that embrace this and as individuals are prepared to stand up and be who we are we can focus on the job in hand, not other distracting behaviours.
Join me on Monday 29 September for a FREE online webinar How to change pregnancy from being a problem in the workplace to an advantage.