MPW Insider is an online community where the biggest names in business and beyond answer timely career and leadership questions. Today’s answer for: If you’re a working mom — have you experienced workplace bias? If so, how do you respond? is written by Dawn Zier, President and CEO of Nutrisystem.
When I returned to work after the birth of my first child I didn’t face bias – but I did unintentionally create a reverse bias towards my team.
I was 30 years old when my husband and I welcomed our first child. I was thrilled at the prospect of being a mother, but also concerned with keeping up the momentum in the career I had worked so hard to achieve. In short, like most working mothers I wanted to find balance – quality time with my family and the ability to continue advancing my career that I loved and had carefully tended during my twenties. I was convinced that I could do both.
Back in the office post-maternity leave, I worked hard during the day but left early enough to get home and spend time with my son. This time was precious to me – I didn’t check messages or worry about pressing deadlines. Instead I savored the little things – like playing with him, feeding him dinner, and rocking him to sleep each night. I wouldn’t trade these memories for anything.
Then, around 10 pm each night, I would begin my “second shift” of work – writing, thinking through strategies, and responding to emails. It was a very productive time for me that would often stretch until two or three in the morning. I wasn’t unhappy to work during this period – quite the opposite – I was proud that I had found a way to manage my life efficiently while meeting my needs and those of work.
Within a few weeks of my return to the office, I realized my team seemed unsettled. The biggest issue they had was with my emailing in the wee hours of the morning. Members of the team thought that because I was up, I expected them to be up as well.
I immediately called an all staff meeting and explained that this was my way of managing my life and that my expectation was that at two or three in the morning, most people were sleeping – not waiting for emails from me. The minute I addressed the issue head on you could almost hear the giant sigh of relief in the room.
This taught me an important management lesson: be attuned to the concerns of your team and create an open dialogue. And this applies to everyone – children or no children.
Read all answers to the MPW Insider question: If you’re a working mom — have you experienced workplace bias? If so, how do you respond?
Why women will always have to work harder than men by Carolyn Rodz, CEO of Market Mentor.
Female CEO: I won’t give up my career for my kids by Penny Herscher, CEO and president of FirstRain.
Why working dads need an apology, too by Ellen Bravo, executive director of Family Values at Work.
Why working moms should never have to apologize by Jane Edison Stevenson vice chairman, board and CEO services at Korn Ferry.
Working moms: Stop pretending everything is perfect by Erica Galos Alioto, vice president of Local Sales at Yelp.