I was a few months into a new job when I was pregnant with my second son. I was in a new function, surrounded by incredibly competent people & I’d be lying if I said I had no self-doubt about my ability to succeed in my role. I was the only woman of color on my team & the only one with a nontraditional background for that role (at the time). All this to say I felt I had a lot at stake & a lot to prove.
And here I was pregnant with the first trimester symptoms of nausea & exhaustion making it harder for me to give to my work what I deeply wanted to give. And I was also incredibly excited and joyful about raising another human inside of me. The privilege, blessing, & awe of being a pregnant woman weren’t lost on me.
I’d sit in my 1:1s with my manager & her first question would often be –
“Neha, how are you?” and I’d almost always say – “I’m doing good.”
And yes, it was true that I was doing good but there was always an uncomfortable feeling that I hadn’t yet told her something so important and so relevant to my work and our relationship.
Of course, I had been told to not share the news for the first trimester (and in many situations that’s the right choice). But I knew I had to let her know.
And yet, it was a bit unsettling & it felt uncomfortable to be that vulnerable just a few weeks into my pregnancy with my boss of all people and yet in a powerful way, I knew that my boss of all people, deserved to know this.
So, in my next 1:1, I told her…
What I received next was simple yet nothing short of magical.
She instantly got up from her chair and moved toward me & gave me a hug & said – “Congratulations, Neha. I am so happy for you.”
I still remember how much my body calmed down & relaxed at that moment.
And I told her how sick I felt & that the next few weeks would likely be tough. I assured her I’d meet my deadlines & I’d need a bit more flexibility.
And here she was again, demonstrating trust and belief in me wand said –
“Of course, not a problem. I know what that season is like. Feel free to work from home when you need to and take naps to recover and I know you’ll get work done.”
Every time I think of this story, my heart warms up and I am reminded of the powerful impact of the everyday moments of leadership that a manager gets to demonstrate – behaviors of care, trust, and compassion can go such a long way to bring out the best in people around you.
And a part of me is hurting as I write this because I know most pregnant women don’t experience this level of care and belonging at work. Why do we discriminate so much against women who do the much-needed work to bring the next generation of humans into the world?
Over to you – What can you do this week as a manager or leader to create psychological safety and belonging for another human in your world?