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week, she told me that she and husband
had decided to stop birth control in April and, lo and behold, she
I had known K for about 5 years thru a volunteer organization where we both were involved. Integrity and work ethic appear to be in tact. Excellent reputation. During the time I have known her, my wife helped her plan her wedding, she relocated to another city and came back to our town, and we were generally in touch throughout. The relocation was because of her husbands employment.
When she came back to our town she took a job that she was ultimately unhappy in and when I had a need, I contacted her. She was hired with a 2-3 year plan that she and I discussed in detail. In that process she _volunteered _her family plan included children but not for at least two years, perhaps three. She assured me I could make my plans accordingly. This with no inquiry or prodding from me. (By way of background, I am 57, have owned the agency for 16 years, and at some level have become acustom to the challenges of staffing and how circumstances change.) Well you know by now my dilemma.
Last week, 10 months into our 2-3 year plan, she told me that she and husband had decided to stop birth control in April and, lo and behold, she is expecting. She is so excited, and in fact I am excited for her. However it totally changes the business plan. She wants to continue working, but perhaps from home less than full time, after the child is born. Not viable in my client driven business. And it is already apparent that her mind, at least for now, is on something else. By the way, I paid her 25-30% more than required for the job she currently does and considered it an investment in the 2-3 year plan while she got up to speed.
I want to do the right thing by her, our clients, and other team members. Children, families, and all that goes with that are perhaps the most exciting part of my own life, so I am very excited for her. At the same time I am disappointed, perhaps angry, by the disregard for our plan in her actions. And it is not exciting as it relates to my business.
So I have two questions. (1) What is my obligation to
K at this point, considering clients, other team members, and my own
plan. (2) Is this the ethical breakdown that I perceive, i.e. you told
me one thing but 6 months later you change your mind with minimal consideration
for those depending on you?
Clearly there has been a breach of an explicit expectation that you and this employee had agreed upon, that there would be no child for 2 or 3 years. Whenever an expectation is breached it presents a challenge to a relationship.
Since you describe this person as a good employee and one who would make a positive contribution to the organization in the right circumstances I suggest that you explore with her whether you can define those circumstances in light of the pregnancy. If work from home does not meet your needs is there a way to have her work part time or partly at home and partly in the office? Perhaps the baby can come to work.
You express general support for this woman and for her decision to have a family. It is the breach of your understanding that is really sticking in your craw. It will be important to express this feeling of disappointment to her, but not to let that feeling govern your approach to the situation.
My sense is that you are seeking to find a balance between your employee's desire for a family and your own needs as a business operator. If you take that attitude into your discussions with the employee it will go a long way toward helping to reach an amicable resolution.
I wish you well with this situation. Thanks for writing to Office-Politics.
Dr. John Burton
Dr. John Burton LL.B. M.B.A. M.Div. Ph.D. is an ethicist, mediator, lawyer and theologian whose passion is helping people and organizations create better relationships and stronger communities by being clear, committed and collaborative in their approach to ethics and conflict. John is currently located in Prince Rupert, B.C., Canada, working with Canada's aboriginal communities.
Feedback from Not Expecting!:
Dr Burton's response is most helpful. Balanced advice that measures both sides of the situation. Thank you.
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