Advice

Could HR solve…? Motherland

14 Oct 2021 By Elizabeth Howlett

A working mum’s urgent childcare problems are rebuffed by her manager

The problem

Julia Johnston, a mother of two working in events planning, struggles to find care for her children after her mother Marion, who usually looks after them free of charge, puts a stop to the arrangement. Johnston’s manager, Andrew, is less than sympathetic about her problem, merely demanding that she “fix it”, all while criticising her recent performance. How could HR’s input have helped Andrew to handle the situation better?

The solution

Andrew wasn’t really listening to Julia or showing any empathy, says Katie Beales, people partner at Perlego, who adds that not only did he fail to listen, but also didn’t ask what she needed. “Andrew should have taken a step back to improve his empathy skills and manage the situation with Julia and her feelings in mind.” 

Childcare is a block for Julia’s potential, and discussing people’s needs is an important first step, she says. “Asking an employee what they want is really helpful because HR and managers have many different ideas and approaches to these situations. 

“In most cases, the employee has a good idea of what would help, so I lead with that before jumping in with my own ideas,” says Beales, who adds that while company policy may prevent some things, short-term solutions can be found. 

“For Julia the problem seems to be short-term and long-term, but there is no doubt she is at a point of crisis,” says Beales. “The support should be something that will help in that moment, for example flexible or compressed hours, because it’s never as simple as ‘booking in’ childcare.” If childcare is a company-wide issue, adds Beales, it might be time to “reconsider the ping pong tables and add in some family-friendly benefits”.

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