I’m currently expecting a child, but not showing yet. I told my manager the news and mentioned that I don’t want anyone in our office to know until I’m ready to tell them myself. However, my manager soon let it slip and now everybody knows about my pregnancy. How do I explain to my manager that this hurt me and may have affected our good relationship? – Brandy in Dallas, Texas
Relationships are a living entity, both in business and our personal lives. They go through good times and bad, and have a multitude of forces pushing them. When it comes to our co-workers, peers, managers, and company executives, our connections are a critical component in moving our careers forward. Challenges with our direct reports, and those to whom we in turn report, require careful navigation.
Resolving conflicts with our superiors requires an array of skills. Negotiation, problem solving, and flexibility immediately come to mind. In addition, your approach needs to include emotional intelligence, understanding the why, and mitigating risk. Each plays an important role in determining your best course of action.
When our feelings are hurt at work, we are adopting a personal perspective. We are taking the position that the situation or occurrence is an affront, or even an attack. It can be tricky to separate business from personal. But you owe it to yourself, and your career, to examine your emotional response and underlying motivations.
Where are your emotions coming from? Past experiences are often the baseline we pull forward to access what is happening now. Those experiences can limit our ability to view the situation with a fresh perspective. Recognize and evaluate what you are bringing into your emotional response.
You should also look deeper to potential unconscious barriers, such as your inner voice of self-worth. These hidden beliefs can easily color and magnify our perception of the circumstances around the issue. Introspection provides clarity on our feelings and helps illuminate our motivations as we seek resolution.
All of us have both positive and negative motivators. When we are confronting a difficulty, we need to focus on constructive factors. If we allow negativity (such as the desire to shame or punish) to control our actions, we are ultimately positioning ourselves for failure.
Knowing where you are coming from emotionally, and how that is impacting your motivations, enables you to better formulate a response. It also sets you up to consider the other party’s viewpoint. Understanding their “why” bridges the gap as you move forward.
Our superiors have a myriad of legitimate business reasons for their actions. And when seeking the reason they are doing or did certain things, it’s vital that we recognize this. When you miss this part of the puzzle, you are more likely to fall into the trap of projecting your feelings, insecurities, and fears into this situation.
Examining the scenario of a supervisor disclosing a direct report’s pregnancy, several possibilities immediately come to mind:
- Disclosure with management regarding talent resources and future allocation.
- Acknowledgment with Human Resources for planning purposes.
- Unintentional leak of the information.
- Excitement and appetite to share good news.
By delving into the “why” and mixing it with your emotional reflection, you can reframe the matter and determine an optimal approach. A big question to answer is if it is necessary to initiate a likely difficult conversation. You can’t answer that without the due consideration above.
Every day we make decisions on whether or not a battle is worth fighting. This includes everything, from easy stuff – like what to have for dinner or getting a team member to reformate a chart – to harder stuff, like whether or not to confront our boss. And, regardless of how good you feel your relationship is, there is risk when you initiate a difficult discussion with your manager.
Revisiting the scenario of a supervisor disclosing your pregnancy, I would be extremely reticent to escalate. And the number one reason is the outcome. What good will come of it, other than assuaging your feelings? Is the manager’s possible apology worth planting a bitter seed of resentment? Because you are not going to win any points here by placing your boss in an uncomfortable position.
A no-win situation is not a battle worth fighting. In the end, you will only be hurting your career opportunities. Your best option in this case, regarding your revealed pregnancy, is to let it go and move forward. Don’t squander your energy and relational capital senselessly. There will be times when a tough conversation is required. Reserve your power for the consequential and worthwhile matters that will arise down the road.
Lynn Whitbeck is the co-founder and President of Petite2Queen. She is focused on identifying and evaluating opportunities for women at work, helping them define their personal roadmap. She dedicates herself to delivering tools and insights, embracing visualization of the big picture, and identifying and implementing the minutiae of detail. Lynn aims to share lessons learned along her journey and enable positive uplift for women.