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How do I tell my fabulous bosses (who let me bring my baby to work) I’m leaving?

Photo collage by Franke James, MFA. using multi-armed shiva ©istockphoto.com/Paul Kline and baby photo ©istockphoto.com/Michal Kolosowski

Dear Office-Politics,

Hello and thank you for this forum. My question has to do with three really fabulous bosses. I was hired this February doing office work for the municipal government of a small town (VERY small, under 1,200 people). They hired me without knowing I was pregnant. I had decided (after much ethical dilemma) not to mention my pregnancy in the interview process since it would be illegal for them to take my pregnancy into account in their decision of who to hire. I’m also aware that even though it is the law not to discriminate, other people become much more qualified when you are pregnant.

After I was hired, I told them about my pregnancy and they were disappointed that I did not tell them during the interview but mostly, they were OK with it. A month after they saw my performance, they all voted to let me have the baby in the office until she was not exclusively nursed or when she started crawling (if she wasn’t a disruption). Four months into the job, my pregnancy became complicated and I was hospitalized for a month and forced to have my baby 5 weeks early. They were 100% supportive.

I am the only person in the office and they only come into the office twice a month for 2 hours at a time. While I was gone, they tried to “fill in” for me so I would still have my job. When I finally did come back, they let me have the office open by appointment and make my own hours. My baby has been in the office for four months now and she has been excellent–no problem. A co-worker in another part of the building is very jealous of how my bosses have taken care of me and has complained every step of the way and created much drama.

In the last week she forced a town meeting to discuss the “professional nature” of having a child in the office and got everybody riled up about it. At the meeting, my bosses stood by me again and even threatened to resign if the Town leaders decided to go back on the decision to let me have the baby in the office.

Here’s the question:

The person that I replaced held the position for 26 years before retiring. I don’t think they expect me to stay quite that long, but they have said that want me to stay “long-term.” It is a 27 hour a week secretary job that I applied for to get me through the pregnancy and the first year of my new baby’s life but my real goal is to go to graduate school (5 hours away) and get a job in my field. They have shown me so much support and I feel terrible leaving them in 10 more months. What do I do? How do I tell them? They consider that they paid around $8,000 to train me because they kept the last person on for two extra months at her full pay to train me. I am over a barrel about this. I don’t want to hold up my life for a $20,000 a year part-time job but I am very loyal to them for all the support they have showed me. Any suggestions?

Ambitious New Mom

OFFICE-POLITICS REPLY BY JENNIFER GLUECK BEZOZA
jennifer glueck bezoza
Dear Ambitious New Mom,

Indeed, your bosses sound supportive and unusually committed to you and your family’s well being. I understand why you feel so torn at the prospect of leaving in ten month’s time. I am sure your guilt is not assuaged by the fact that your managers see you as a long-term fit in this secretarial role, and that the previous employee in your role stayed for twenty-six years.
At the same time, it’s important to recognize that times have changed, and it’s rare for an individual to remain in the same role for more than a few years, let alone two and a half decades. Also, in your defense, it’s likely your managers would not have fought so hard to keep you, were you not a star performer. Assuming you have met and/or exceeded the job requirements, you are serving their needs just as much as they have served your personal and professional needs over the last year.

If you are certain that you will be going to graduate school and moving five hours away in ten month’s time, I think the most respectful thing you can do is to inform them of your plans at least three months in advance. This would allow them the opportunity to have you overlap with the new employee by a few weeks, if necessary. If you feel comfortable, I would encourage you to tell them while you are applying to graduate school. Just as when you were hired, they expressed disappointment that you didn’t share your pregnancy until starting in the role, it seems you have an opportunity to pay back their support by being honest about your aspirations sooner rather than later. Here are some tips when you decide to have the conversation with your managers.

  1. Be genuine in your appreciation of their support and loyalty. Share how grateful you are for the actions they have taken on your behalf.
  2. Let them know that it is out of wanting to do the right thing for them that you are coming forward to share your aspirations. Share what it is you want to pursue professionally and why you are so passionate about this direction for yourself.
  3. Let them know that you remain committed to them and your responsibilities as long as you are employed there. You might even reference specific goals and projects you hope to complete prior to your departure.
  4. Inform them that you would be glad to support them in the search process and in doing whatever it takes to support the transition process. Think through in advance of the meeting how you would transfer knowledge and train someone to be successful in your role. While it was very generous of them to have you and the previous secretary on the payroll for 2 months, it probably isn’t necessary for a part time secretarial role. It’s likely you could train this individual with 2-3 weeks of overlap and very good documentation on your part. You might also want to offer to be available to the new employee beyond your departure for school, if necessary.

You need not give up your dreams because you are afraid of upsetting your managers. If you come across as authentic, responsible and appreciative in the conversation, you will likely be able to part on good terms. Who knows, they might even have connections or ideas that will support your goals.

Thank you for writing to Office Politics.

Warm regards,

Jennifer Glueck Bezoza, MA


Jennifer Glueck Bezoza has an MA in organizational psychology from Columbia University and a BA in psychology and humanities from Stanford University. She currently works in Organizational Development for the largest not-for-profit home health organization in the country where she focuses on succession planning, leadership development and coaching. Previously, she worked for GE Commercial Finance and HR consultant, Towers Perrin.

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  1. 4 Answers to “How do I tell my fabulous bosses (who let me bring my baby to work) I’m leaving?”

  2. FEEDBACK FROM AMBITIOUS NEW MOM:

    Wow. Thank you so much for the advice. It did help a lot! (I loved the graphic! Very impressive. )

    By Letter writer on Nov 17, 2008

  3. Fabulous answer to tough question. Love, Dad

    By Michael Glueck on Nov 19, 2008

  4. Nice enabling response. This is the flipside of the employer’s “it’s only business” response when they do something in their self interest.

    You noted: “It is a 27 hour a week secretary job that I applied for to get me through the pregnancy and the first year of my new baby’s life but my real goal is to go to graduate school (5 hours away) and get a job in my field.”

    So, you got what YOU wanted. Incredible flexibility and understanding. Aside from avoiding telling them the truth about your pregnancy, did you also fail to mention that you had no intention of staying beyond a YEAR??

    The fact that you are a “stellar” employee is wonderful. So is the fact that they are paying you and providing you benefits. They have also bent over backwards to accommodate you and train you at great expense.

    There is a huge difference between staying 26 years, which no one expects you to put in; and less than two years with what they have invested in you, and — frankly — your deception. Sorry, but I’m not letting you off the hook so easily.

    I think you knew the right answer to your question before you even wrote it, and were looking for someone to make you feel better for it.

    Loyalty is a two-way street. I hope if you ever employ anyone, you see it from that side as well.

    Artie

    By Artie from New York on Jan 22, 2009

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