Within our team, there are managers who still view flexible working hours for mums (and dads in a couple of cases) as unfair. Any staff with agreed altered hours have done so formally through their manager and HR. But these managers are making staff feel awkward by monitoring their timekeeping and making comments. An email was sent by the operations manager to address the situation and explain that any altered hours had been agreed. This only spurred on the main culprit. I read his response, which said: “Does HR even follow HR procedures? I’d ask for a meeting but I don’t even know what days or times she works.” I was distraught that somebody could speak so harshly of me. I have become paranoid about getting to work as early as possible. I’m snapping at my children and driving erratically. I don’t think I’m strong enough to make a stand, but my instinct is telling me I should.
This sounds like the sort of problem that used to crop up all the time 30 years ago. And that in itself is a rather sad indictment. In particular, it’s dismaying that it’s your management team setting such a negative tone. Flexible working is just part of business life nowadays – and that’s got to be a good thing. By not embracing it, your business risks damaging its talent pool and in the worst-case scenario it could be breaking the law.
Undoubtedly it takes a lot of courage, and involves personal risk, to make a stand but if you can summon the courage I’d urge you to get together with others who have been affected and confront the issue. Ideally, you need to raise it in a management meeting – and I’d make the point that everyone, regardless of gender and age, might need to work flexibly in the future. It’s perfectly feasible these senior managers might need time off to care for their own parents at some point. And how would they feel if their partners or children were treated this way in the workplace?
Follow this up with one-to-one meetings with managers to find out exactly why they feel this way and gauge how widespread this resentment is before you decide whether it needs to go further. Confronting the issue will probably do a world of good and will force these individuals to see a different perspective – but if not, the route of raising a formal grievance remains open.
In the meantime, don’t change your own behaviour one iota. The more you feed this beast by rushing into work or staying late, the more you show you are feeling insecure about your working hours and the more your family life will suffer.