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Career Q&A | By Marie G. McIntyre, McClatchy-Tribune Newspapers

Fast track or mommy track? It may mean leaving firm

Q: My boss recently told me that I am on track to become a partner in our firm in two to three years. However, my husband and I are also ready to start a family. If I have a baby, I'm not sure how I will feel about continuing to work full time.

Although cutting back to 20 or 30 hours a week would not be a problem financially, I'm afraid it might endanger my ability to make partner. All of our partners are men who work very long hours and may not understand my need for a reduced schedule.

Ideally, I would like to have both a successful career and time with my family. Does that seem possible or will I have to give something up?

A: I wish I could say that, presented with the proper persuasive arguments, your industrious male colleagues will warmly embrace the idea of keeping you on the partner track with fewer hours. However, that would probably be a trip to Fantasyland.

In the type of firm you describe, senior partners typically expect younger associates to "earn their stripes" by racking up lots of billable time. Unless your skills are irreplaceable, simply raising the issue of a lighter schedule could dampen your career prospects. That may not be fair, but it's often true.

For better work-life balance, consider finding a firm with a history of promoting women who have children. When you are juggling the demands of work and motherhood, a more family-friendly environment will be much less stressful.

Talk to boss about his angry outburst

Q: After a recent meeting, my boss called me into his office and slammed the door. He got right in my face, backed me against the wall, and said, "Don't ever make another comment like the one you just made in that meeting."

When I stated that I was only expressing my personal opinion on a business issue, he shook his finger at me and repeated, "Don't ever, ever do that again." His anger scared me, so I left quickly.

In the three years that we have worked together, nothing like this has ever happened before. Do you think I should discuss this with my boss or just report him to human resources?

A: Regardless of what you said, your manager's aggressive reaction was completely inexcusable. But since this is one isolated incident in a three-year relationship, you should probably give him a chance to explain.

For example: "Bob, we've worked together for a long time, so I was really taken aback when you got so angry with me the other day. To be perfectly honest, I was rather frightened. Can you help me understand what was so upsetting?"

No matter what he says, listen calmly without arguing or debating. An apology would be nice, but that may not happen. Hopefully, this unexpected outburst will be a one-time occurrence, but if your boss ever threatens you again, you should definitely inform human resources.

Fired for attitude? Listen and learn

Q: If a person is fired because of their attitude or behavior, what can they do to keep this from happening again when they get a new job?

A: Far too many terminated employees learn nothing from the experience because they automatically blame others for their difficulties. As a result, they repeat the same self-destructive pattern in job after job.

To avoid this fate, you must first figure out how you managed to alienate the people who controlled your paycheck. Even if you have a different opinion, you still need to know exactly why management began to view you as a problem.

If you lack this understanding, contact your former boss or human resources manager and ask what you could have done differently that might have saved your job. Listen to the answer without argument or debate, then thank them for talking with you. If this feedback puzzles you, get a second opinion from family members, former co-workers or trusted friends.

Next, clearly define any changes you wish to make. Identify the specific circumstances that trigger your detrimental behaviors, then decide how you will respond to such challenges in the future. When these situations arise, as they inevitably will, make every effort to manage your emotions and react professionally.

While some behaviors are easily altered, others have more deep-seated origins. If your self-help project proves to be a struggle, seek advice from a professional coach or counselor who specializes in workplace issues.

Fast track or mommy track? It may mean leaving firm 12/10/11 [Last modified: Saturday, December 10, 2011 3:31am]

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