That's what it felt like for me last week upon the return of my senior-VP from a three-month maternity leave that had begun the ninth day of my employment. In mid-September, I met my boss for the first time as her employee and immediately looked at her protruding belly and thought, "How did I miss that during my interview process?"
A new position has a steep enough learning curve without the added complexity of a pregnant boss. Combine that complexity with the ceaseless innovation and deadlines of online advertising and you have a recipe for new-hire chaos. None of my business-school classes discussed how to be a star at work in the midst of maternity leave, which made me wonder if companies have any obligation to their new hires to fill this knowledge gap.
If they don't, they should. A "management-under-maternity" training program may have prevented the confusion and frustration I endured and provided me with the following:
1. Knowledge of whether corporate hierarchy or pushing the envelope for strategy's sake is more important
2. An understanding of who the "at bat" manager would be. A new hire usually requires somebody with authority to go to bat for their innovative advertising strategies
3. A list of self-management strategies when reporting to a substitute manager. As both of you lack full knowledge of your exact job requirements, any information that will plug the holes in your knowledge gap to help you better manage yourself will lessen the learning curve
4. The length of my authority leash. What are your decisions to make? On what calls should you involve other people? Who should you defer to and when?
5. A list of individuals and the documents he or she requires to provide strategic leadership. Think of all the time one would save hunting down things you did not realize you didn't have.
What do you think? Should our industry have a "management-under-maternity" training? Is it necessary? What advice would you give to new hires under maternity-leave situations?