My boss, a woman in her late forties and one of the ‘I chose not to have children’ brigade has some downright diabolical views regarding maternity leave, and it’s usually down to me to protect the female members in my team from her horrible directives.
Take a recent event, a Project Manager with an excellent track record for on-time delivery within budget, had the audacity to reveal her pregnancy. After witnessing the side-lining of other visibly pregnant women in the office, she’d managed to hide her bump successfully for several months in order to get her project to its delivery stage. My boss’s public reaction to this news was a clenched-teeth smile and mutterings of ‘didn’t know he had it in him’.
You see Project Manager’s husband is the IT Director, so she was on pretty safe ground. However, during my next update meeting and within the confines of the gold fish bowl meeting room, she hissed, ‘sneaky little bitch’, when I broached the topic of employing an interim Project Manager. One of my Team Leaders, about to return after her maternity leave wasn’t so lucky though. This time my boss was having none of it, her ‘crime’ being that she’d already had two previous maternity leaves in her five year employment time. ‘Get rid of her, she’s unreliable, back five minutes and she’s pushing out another one’ she ranted, having suddenly dispensed of her memory regarding Team Leader’s impeccable track record of attendance and performance delivery. No amount of persuasion would shake her on this.
A few days later she came back to me with a spiteful little plan, ‘I know what we’ll do, when she comes back to work give her so much work that she can’t handle it and leaves, it will take some time but then we can get somebody reliable in’. I took this to mean a man, a young fit one, and just the type my boss likes, to replace her. I tentatively pointed out that we might be breaching some kind of employment legislation here. Undeterred she leaned in with a ‘secret squirrel’ look about her and told me, ‘no need to worry, it’s already been squared with HR, she’ll have to prove we did it, we’ll just say she couldn’t cope’.
I pondered on her strategy plan, her stint at INSEAD Business School last summer obviously not wasted. But what she really meant of course was that she’d had a chat to her friend, the HR Manager and now wanted me to mete out this vile course of punishment. I savoured the seconds before I laid my trump card on the table, ‘actually I have some good news of my own’, I said and gave her a few seconds to catch up. I then sat back and watched as the realisation dawned on her face that I too was pregnant and that I would definitely be watching my back now when I returned to work.