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Single mother at annual review


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Old 30th November 2017, 2:51 PM   #1
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Single mother at annual review

I am a single mother an attorney with a long commute. My son is four. I am up for a review in a few months and struggling with one aspect of it.

My production has been low for two years. The rest of my job performance has been very high-- my oral argument, my legal research, the quality of my briefs, my writing, and how I deal with clients. And I've had extremely positive compliments from supreme court justices, but I don't know that they communicated that directly to my boss, just to me and a family member who is also a lawyer.

I have also not been very involved in extracurricular office events-- some, but less than most the other attorneys.

I know that my boss is evaluated mostly for our office's production and I feel for that reason, it's a bigger factor than it's said to be in our employee handbook.

I am the only single mother there out of some 50 lawyers.

Production is not the only formal measure of performance but it's a major one. I find it hard to sacrifice quality for quantity but also, being a new, single mom with (for a while) a bitter divorce and unexpected custody battle and then later, an unworkable co-parenting situation, those things cut into my production. Even though I put in a lot of hours, I was frazzled, sleep-deprived and all that. And again I kept my quality of work high which took more time.

But lately several of those things that have cut into my production are getting better. The coparenting situation. Childcare/school. And I have more support now.

My question is, how bad an idea is it generally to mention my single-parenting status to management? As in, this is something that definitely effected production for the last couple years and is definitely improving. I'd like them to have the information but something tells me it might be improper to bring it up. And they know I'm a single parent, but not a lot more.

My goal is to deal with this review in a constructive way, and to avoid being asked to drop to 80% workload (which some have offered to do, mostly working mothers, but to my knowledge no one has ever been asked to). I don't want to sit and shrug my shoulders or make something up when asked about my production.

Thanks in advance for any perspective on this.
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Old 30th November 2017, 3:16 PM   #2
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I would absolutely mention it.

When I interviewed for my current position, they asked for a weakness....my response was that as a single mother, I required some flexibility with hours - which I do see as a weakness in that it takes away from focusing on work (might not be everyone's perspective). In any case, never been an issue.
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Old 30th November 2017, 4:24 PM   #3
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Law firms care about billable hours. Period.


If they challenge you on the production, you counter by emphasizing quality but highlight that the things which detracted from your production have been resolved. If you do anything else you will be put on the Mommy Track.


Have you considered working for a smaller firm, which has a heart, closer to home or hanging out a shingle? If you need work life balance being self employed may be the way to go.
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Old 30th November 2017, 4:28 PM   #4
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Seconding Donni's advice and offering this: I've been in the public sector for 25 years, first with a DA's office and now with the General Counsel of a pretty big university system. I wouldn't go back to billable hours and the rest of that crap for anything. You may want to consider other options more in keeping with the quality of life you want to maintain.
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Old 30th November 2017, 4:57 PM   #5
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I'm not a lawyer, I'm an Engineering Professor, working in a male dominated environment where becoming a mother, much less a single mother is seen as you not being serious about your career. So here I am with a third vote for the above.

Do not bring up your kid and single motherhood, ever! Highlight the positives and acknowledge that the personal challenges you have had that were behind a lower performance in production have been resolved and you are likely to produce a much better outcome for the next cycle. Don't detail what kind of problems. Personal means personal.

On my track, I never said I stayed home because the kid was sick or mentioned the kid in any way as a reason for any issues I had. If my kid was sick, I was calling in sick saying I was sick. I made up any other reasons to avoid being put on the mommy track. That is, until I got tenure. After that, I told them to stuff it and was in their face with the kid as often as possible (evil)
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Old 19th December 2017, 2:15 AM   #6
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As an employer, I'm not interested in excuses as to why someone can't/won't perform the expected duties. We all have difficulties in life, your bringing it up, in a way minimizes issues of others that are performing as expected.

Really the situation is simply, find a compromise that allows you to be a good mother and comfortably perform duties at work..
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Old 19th December 2017, 10:44 AM   #7
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I would not mention being a single mother unless you are looking for pity.


Will you get pity? Will the other lawyers feel sorry for you because you are a single mother?
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Old 20th December 2017, 8:00 PM   #8
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Absolutely do not bring it up.

Your employer cannot take it into consideration. If they did, they would then have to take into consideration EVERY employee's life situation and how on earth could they do that equitably?

If your job has specific performance measurements, that is what you should be evaluated against. You say your situation will be changing, so presumably next year's review will be better.
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Old 26th December 2017, 1:04 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DKT3 View Post
As an employer, I'm not interested in excuses as to why someone can't/won't perform the expected duties. We all have difficulties in life, your bringing it up, in a way minimizes issues of others that are performing as expected.

Really the situation is simply, find a compromise that allows you to be a good mother and comfortably perform duties at work..
Sure, but the plan was to point out why my production has more recently gone up-- that is, that the past difficulties are abated. That way, my employer has the information to know that this won't be a cyclic or repeated thing.

It would be optimal if I could simply raise production for a full year before my review, but the timing doesn't work out that way, which is why I was hoping to find a way to give the same reassurance.

Our office has accommodated a number of alcoholic male employees who had personal difficulties completing the job because of their substance addiction. It has also accommodated an employee who could not come into work as much because he had trouble keeping from harassing women lawyers and secretaries, and collecting informal and formal complaints that was probably not pleasant for management to deal with, so he took flex time (including traveling to Europe and "telecommuting" from there). He also had low production.

While this might mean that the office would also be fine with waiting for a single mother with otherwise excellent performance but sub-optimal production to improve her situation, I agree that I can't count on management taking that view.

Iv'e also fortunately learned just last week that close to no one meets production (the numbers aren't requirements)-- and I am pretty much in the middle of the pack. A coworker was able to pull up some management spreadsheet and show me-- though she warned me not to mention the spreadsheet. So, my current plan is to simply talk about the quality of my work which has consistently been recognized as excellent, and to mention my recent uptick in production and just come up with a reason for it such as work habits or building up enough experience to speed up.
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Old 26th December 2017, 1:09 PM   #10
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If you are in the middle of the pack, you will be well served to focus on quality. If you did any client development, point that out too.

Think of it like writing a brief -- the weak points go in the middle. You open & close on the best points.
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Old 29th December 2017, 2:53 PM   #11
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Oh, they know you're a divorced mother -- if they care to know. Don't go trying to use that as an excuse. It's unprofessional. I agree with Donnivain that the most important thing you can do is tell them that they can expect to see more production next year because you got over some hurdles you were having to deal with. No more and no less unless they ask. Tell them it should be smooth sailing ahead. And then make good on that.

It sounds like you had a terribly challenging year. I'm glad things have smoothed out. Don't call yourself a single mother, though. Your child has a father, and unless he's completely given up custody to you, you're not what I think of as a single mother, which to me and most people I know means you have all the responsibility for a child. It sounds like you're sharing custody. I'm sure there are probably others in the office, men maybe, who also have an ex and some kids somewhere. So don't play that card. And as an aside, if you are not equally sharing custody with your ex, you should. It will give you more time to get things done and it won't hurt the child any, though I understand you'll miss them when they're gone. Good luck.
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Old 20th January 2018, 8:40 PM   #12
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