We try to bring our whole selves to work, to be authentic and to encourage that authenticity in others.
Yet for many that can be easier said than done. One common and too-often-unspoken-about issue is fertility and how a fertility struggle can impact people’s day-to-day lives – particularly women.
Smashing the taboo around infertility and encouraging people to speak up and seek the support they need is friend of the firm, Gabby Griffith. She’s the co-author of Big Fat Negative: The Essential Guide to Infertility, IVF and the Trials of Trying for a Baby, and co-host of the podcast of the same name.
In a recent article, she talked about the challenges women face sharing their fertility stories at work. It carries some important lessons for leaders and colleagues alike. You can read the full article on the Huffington Post, but here are a few key takeaways:
- You may not know how many people are going through fertility struggles, and how emotionally draining it can be. Many women find it uncomfortable to ‘come out’ to their colleagues or their manager. They can also find the clear line between work and the rest of their lives to be beneficial, as it can distract from fertility problems.
- Others – like Gabby, who described herself as “a regular toilet cryer” during her trying-to-conceive years – find that eventually it becomes more stressful to hide it than to tell people.
- Unsurprisingly, certain things can be triggering. It may be possible to avoid baby showers and children’s parties outside of work, but you can’t avoid pregnancy and baby conversations in the office (or kids in the background on video calls).
- A key part of a person’s decision about how much to reveal at work is weighing up the likely impact on their career. One successful CEO interviewed in the book describes keeping her fertility struggle to herself because she thought she would be given less-challenging roles if her company at the time knew.
- The best leaders are – as ever – empathetic and considerate in this situation. This means not making assumptions about what’s best for someone else, but instead listening to them about how they want to proceed and how the company can best support them.