The Prep Work
Asking your boss about approval for paternity leave is very scary, so don’t feel alone.
Even if you have an awesome manager who has a family of his own it can be an intimidating moment. You might be nervous they will have a bad reaction, get angry, or even say no without considering it. Don’t let those nerves hold you back. With the tactics laid out here and a little bit of practice you can get approval for paternity leave.
First a quick note on my experience – Both times I asked my managers about approval paternity leave, I knew my reasoning was well crafted, but I couldn’t help thinking that what they were really hearing was ‘I want a vacation AND I want you and the rest of the team to do my work’. Of course that isn’t true, but it probably isn’t entirely untrue either.
In this section about approval for paternity leave we are going to cover
- The Objective
- When to Start
- What You Need to Know Before You Talk to Your Boss
- How to Form Your Position
- How to Build Your Team
- Common Mistakes to Avoid
If you are already prepared and ready to go for it, skip ahead and check out the Negotiating Guide, specifically designed to get you the most out of your paternity leave.
Assuming that you do actually perform some tasks for your paycheck, by not being at work you are going to create at least a moderate headache for your boss. It is important to be upfront with yourself about that to avoid guilt later. It will also help you build some goodwill by acknowledging that you know this isn’t making anyone’s life easier, but that it is important to you and your family.
The goal of your paternity leave pitch is to clearly set expectations for your boss and more importantly to remove objections that your boss (or their boss) might have. By proactively addressing these concerns up front, you are eliminating a lot of the fear and anxiety they might have about losing you for a few weeks or months.
When to Start
At a minimum, give notice 30 days prior to the first day of leave. That being said the earlier the better. If you can get everyone on board early and transition your duties to co-workers, your boss is going to appreciate it. If it isn’t already too late, build up some goodwill by getting approval for paternity leave 3-6 months in advance.
What You Need to Know Before You Talk
First, find out what your company offers, what others have taken, and how it was received by coworkers. This can all be done either through HR, an internal website or handbook, and just flat out asking people.
Knowing what the ‘norm’ is around your office is the best place to start. Of course, this doesn’t mean you are locked into whatever someone else did or even what is ‘standard’ in the company policy. What it will do is give you a frame of reference for the discussion and help you prepare for common questions or pushback from your boss.
Form Your Position
To form your position, make two lists:
- Create a list of every standard task you perform & upcoming projects which you are responsible for.
- Create a list of coworkers who can reasonably be expected to take on some of these responsibilities. Think of this as the ‘hit by a bus’ scenario. If you were hit by a bus and never came back to work, who would do these tasks until you were replaced? Morbid but practical and useful.
Our goal with this step is to build a coverage plan. Ultimately this responsibility falls on your boss. By doing this part of the job for them, you are removing a potential roadblock to approval for paternity leave.
During this position forming phase you should also determine the amount of time you want to take. This is ultimately a personal decision and depends on many factors. All I can say here is that under the right conditions it is possible to take 4 months of paid paternity leave. I am living proof.
Your Support Team
Having a list of tasks and co-workers to delegate to is a great start. Now it’s time to feel the situation out. Scan your list of co-workers for the easiest person to get on board. Explain your intentions and what it could mean for them.
Tip – Other parents are the best place to start. Especially young parents who have experienced the difficulty and frustration of managing their career when their kids were born. Empathy is the name of the game.
The goal for this step is to arm yourself with the support of at least one strong performing co-worker. When negotiating with your boss, being able to demonstrate the support of someone who would actually do your work is huge. In fact, it could turn into the strongest part of your pitch.
Remember, all of this prep work is intended to identify and remove obstacles that your bosses would otherwise have to dissect and handle themselves. Sure you might get approval for paternity leave without some of this up front work, but the idea here is to create the optimal situation. To remove all of the concerns that might otherwise distract you while you are on leave and focusing on your family.
If you don’t have any peers who will absorb your work, really dig in and determine what tasks on your list can be automated, delayed, or (absolute worst case) done from home.
Common Mistakes in Getting Approval for Paternity Leave
- Not clearly detailing your request from the start, including how long you plan to take
- Not thinking through the impacts of your absence
- Not providing solutions to the inevitable gaps
- Not practicing your pitch
Continue on to Learn How to Negotiate your leave!