Back to work plans

Having coached young mums returning to work after maternity, several themes are raised consistently. One question that is asked frequently “How do I raise the topic of asking for a change in work pattern be that flexible working, part time or reduced hours?”

The decision to ask for new working arrangement can be a source of concern for many young mums. They worry how moving to reduced hours will be perceived within the organisation. “Will this request impact my career? Will I be perceived as less committed or ambitious? What signal am I sending to the wider organisation? Will I end up working full time in reduced hours? “

Having reached the decision to request reduced hours, the next stage is the conversation with their Line Manager. “I know what I want to say but how do I start?”

I know what I want to say but how do I start?

Susan Scott’s 7 Step Model can help. The model is taken from her book ‘Fierce Conversations.’ The focus of the book is on helping us change how we talk to each other. Specifically, it is to help us stop avoiding tough conversations and start constructively saying what we really think about a situation, what we need or what we think should happen.

If you’ve ever felt the need to have an important conversation, but couldn’t bring yourself to it, this model may help.

When preparing for a difficult conversation, the most difficult part is knowing how to start. How many times have you started to have a difficult conversation but were unprepared, were vague about the purpose of the conversation, or got interrupted by the other party and the conversation went in a totally different direction?

The opening 60 seconds is critical to setting the scene and it is important to ask for a moment to say what you need to say.

Seven steps to follow for having that difficult conversation

1. Name the topic

Be clear and concise “I want to talk to you about returning to my role in a different working pattern.”

2. Be specific of the nature of the change

I want to move to a 4-day week for a period of 18 months?

3. Describe your emotions

It is a big decision for me and one that concerns me from a number of perspectives.

4. Clarify why this important to you

This is important for me. I want to continue my career in this company and make a positive contribution, but I want to have the opportunity to spend this special time with my baby and feel the company is supporting me.

5. Identify your contribution

I want to raise this now so we can have a conversation about what it might mean and what options may be available.

6. Indicate your wish to resolve

Above all I want to find a resolution that works for you as Department Head and myself.

7. Let the other party respond

What are your thoughts on this?

There, you have clearly stated what you want to raise and now it’s time to let your manager respond.

Family friendly policies

Today, thankfully most organisation have family friendly policies and requests for more flexible or reduced working patterns are the norm. There will most likely be a formal application process through your Human Resource Department, but it is important to have the support of your Line Manager. It is also important to be prepared to have some level of flexibility when discussing options.

Preparing for the conversation

When preparing for a conversation that you are concerned about, consider using Susan Scott’s Seven Step Model. Write down the points you want to make under each heading. It will help you come across clearly, structured, and confident. It will get that critical conversation started and often is the hardest part.

Enjoying maternity leave