Balancing a full-time job and raising kids is a tough juggling act in itself, but its magnified in a culture that doesn't give extensive parental leave and expects employees to act like they're on call even if they're not getting paid. This is, of course, multiplied if you're a single parent navigating the work-life balance on your own.
Sadly, even with increasing open dialogue around parenting in the work place and the ways the US pales in comparison to other countries when it comes to supporting working mothers (and single fathers), the issue of demanding bosses and unflexible workplace culture persists.
So, when the single father and president of the digital agency Wunderman Chicago, Ian Sohn wrote a post on LinkedIn about the workplace culture he cultivated for parents, it immediately went viral.
He wrote about how he doesn't need to interrogate his employees about their personal lives, and he doesn't hold expectations for them to be available to his every whim:
"I never need to know you’ll be back online after dinner. I never need to know why you chose to watch season 1 of “Arrested Development” (for the 4th time) on your flight to LA instead of answering emails. I never need to know you’ll be in late because of a dentist appointment. Or that you’re leaving early for your kid’s soccer game. I never need to know why you can’t travel on a Sunday. I never need to know why you don’t want to have dinner with me when I’m in your town on a Tuesday night."
He went on to share that he resents how infantilized the workplace has become, and how employees are often manipulated into apologizing and over-explaining their lives to demanding bosses. The lack of trust, he wrote, is deeply unhealthy for all parties.
"I never need to know that you’re working from home today because you simply need the silence. I deeply resent how we’ve infantilized the workplace. How we feel we have to apologize for having lives. That we don’t trust adults to make the right decisions. How constant connectivity/availability (or even the perception of it) has become a valued skill."
He finished his post by expressing gratitude for the transparent and understanding bossess and employees he's encountered over the years, and shared that a negative situation with a former boss helped shape his current outlook on parenting in the workplace.
"I'm equally grateful for the trust/respect my peers, bosses and teams show me every day. Years ago a very senior colleague reacted with incredulity that I couldn’t fly on 12 hours notice because I had my kids that night (and I'm a single dad. edit: divorced). I didn’t feel the least bit guilty, which I could tell really bothered said colleague. But it still felt horrible. I never want you to feel horrible for being a human being."
His post was quickly met with gratitude and recognition from fellow parents, and tired employees in general.
Hopefully, as the public conversation about the balance of work and parenting (and life in general) persists, so will the gradual shift in workplace culture.