You’ve decided to pursue infertility treatment to have a family. You’ve read the clinic’s literature and talked through the plan of care with your clinic. It’s becoming obvious that you will need some flexibility and collaboration with your workplace to follow your treatment plan.
You are not alone in feeling intimidated by the idea of sharing such a private journey with your employer. Now that you know how this proposed treatment plan is laid out, you want to know HOW to talk to your boss about your infertility treatment. We offer ideas here for how to have that conversation, how to advocate for yourself well, and how to set reasonable expectations between you and your boss.
Have a Plan in Place
Before you speak with your employer, develop a plan of treatment with your provider. Ask many questions like the following, to help you prepare for a work-life balance conversation with your boss:
- what each step of the treatment plan entails,
- how often you’ll need to be in the clinic,
- how much time clinic visits typically take,
- and if there will be a need for time off surrounding specific procedures.
Ask about the emotional impacts that might be common responses to the steps of the process, too.
Prep Your Presentation
Consider the culture of your workplace when thinking about how to share that you are seeking infertility treatment. Think about how you want the conversation to proceed. Maybe even write out an outline or notes for yourself to keep you on point. Know your purpose for sharing and practice language that helps you advocate for yourself in keeping with your already-established roles in the organization.
I have found (this) article to be invaluable. I have reread it before having difficult conversations. It helps validate my feelings and organize my thoughts.
Lead with the Positive
Once you are ready to talk, schedule a meeting with your employer. Start the conversation by affirming your commitment to the organization (or to your job description, the team, or whatever applies to your workplace). Re-affirm your dedication to supporting the team’s success. Let her know you are facing a challenging season in your personal life and would hope for the team to be rooting for your success as well.
How much to share of your specific treatment plan and personal struggle is at your discretion. Some factors that might influence what and how much you share would be things like:
- the company culture,
- the level of relationship you’ve crafted with the organization
- the nature of the relationship with your boss,
- and the intensity or invasiveness of treatment you expect to experience.
When you are talking with your employer about your infertility treatment, keep the conversation simple and straightforward. Talk about infertility as a medical condition. Protect what information or the emotions that are too private for you to share comfortably. Be honest that it’s a painful and challenging experience, but try not to get too emotional while talking. It is hard to remain professional when the topic is as tender as infertility, but be careful not to cross lines of professionalism for your workplace. It might make things uncomfortable moving forward.
Loop Them In
When sharing about your treatment plan, explain how you anticipate the schedule will impact your daily routines or productivity. Commit to keeping your boss in the loop with any issues that treatment might have on your workload. However, tell him or her that you are also committed to providing workarounds and solutions when the balance of your medical plan and workload gets tricky.
Ask your employer for his or her preference for sharing this information with your co-workers. Be sensitive to the company culture here, too. If there is a lot of project work, your colleagues have a right to know if you’ll be missing meetings or sharing project duties. Collaborating with your boss on the issue will pave the way to smoother communication when flexing responsibilities or schedules may be required.
Know Your Policy
If you are accessing your employee benefits to cover the infertility treatment, be sure that you understand your policy. Creating a Family has many helpful resources for understanding your infertility coverage and how to maximize your benefits. While you are studying up on that benefit, consider a sit-down with the Human Resources department to talk about other issues related to your medical care.
Some of those issues might include the Americans with Disabilities Act, Family Medical Leave (FMLA) policy, disability coverage, work-from-home policy, or the organization’s leave policy. For example, some companies do not offer “sick time” anymore, so it’s helpful to inquire about how to manage time off if/when it’s needed.
By this point in your path to building your family, you know all too well that things do not always work out as you planned them to work. Assure your boss that you will be as diligent and flexible with both work responsibilities and attention to your medical care as possible. Emphasize that while this conversation represents the currently proposed treatment plan, “things can change,” and you’ll need the margin to adapt to the inevitable changes.
Keep the Communication Channels Open
Finally, when talking with your employer about your infertility treatment, make sure she knows you consider this an on-going conversation. Tell her you’d be happy to re-visit the topic to assure a healthy balance of work and personal time for your medical care. Affirm your commitment to the organization, but make it clear that you are just as committed to pursuing this process to build your family.
Consider following up on the conversation(s) with a brief thank you note for their time and consideration of your circumstances. This is another time in which it is invaluable to know the organization’s culture. A brief, hand-written note is always a thoughtful touch, but an email often is more appropriate.
For those who have already had this conversation, how did it go? What was the hardest – or the most comfortable – part of talking with your boss about your infertility treatment?