What if my parental leave replacement is better than me?

Going on parental leave and experiencing the replacement blues? Let those worries go; Kate Pollard explains why it’s a good thing that your shoes are being filled on parental leave.

You’re 35 weeks pregnant, tired, hormonal — when you’re introduced to the person who will fill your role while you’re on leave. They’re full of energy and enthusiasm, and all you can think about is, What if they’re better than me? Will my manager prefer them? Will my team prefer them? What if I’m not wanted back?

Says Julie, a mother-of-two, “I was so worried. My new replacement was awesome and seemed to want to make a big impact immediately. Everyone loved her and I was happy to have her, but also so envious at the same time.”

Stop. Stop right now.

You must let go of those unhelpful thoughts and embrace the positives. You have someone to cover for you. Imagine if there was not someone stepping in to fill your role and instead you are told, “We will not be replacing your role but absorbing your work across the team.” How would that make you feel? 

If you are experiencing the replacement blues, we have pulled some tips together to help you through the transition.

It’s OK to have conflicting emotions

The first thing you need to know is that it’s pretty normal to feel a little bit conflicted about your replacement. By this stage, you’re possibly heavily pregnant and feeling exhausted. Showing up for work every day might be a mission at this stage, and even small tasks like putting on your shoes seem virtually impossible. You’re on the winddown, and like most, you’re probably feeling a little distracted. Focusing on work is a bit challenging (fondly referred to as the ‘pregnancy glaze’). The energy of your replacement will be unsettling, but remember that they will be bringing their shiny A-game to impress and that for you, it’s very normal to have mixed emotions, or feel a bit threatened.

Whatever emotion you’re feeling, it’s important to acknowledge it, and move past it. You need to let go and turn your focus in your last few weeks to get your replacement up to speed as quickly as possible. You also want your last few weeks to be as enjoyable as they can be. Worrying about so many different scenarios that are unlikely to happen isn’t particularly helpful.

Be organized

Allow your replacement to step into your role before you go on leave. Be organized and have everything documented to hand over, and then spend as much time as possible walking them through it all. We’d also suggest getting them to take the lead so you can ‘shadow’ them and help troubleshoot problems as they come up. You want to set your replacement up to succeed in your role as much as possible. By letting them take the lead, they will get to properly test run your role while still having you around for support. The best thing about taking this approach is that you can also start to wind down and enjoy your last few weeks.

Keeping in touch

If you feel comfortable, give your replacement your contact details while you are on leave. You don’t want to be contacted every day, but it might be nice to stay in touch and get the occasional update. There may also be a problem that you can quickly provide some advice on over the phone. This is your personal decision though, and you may equally want to disconnect from work for a while, especially in the early days of new parenthood.

Dealing with a replacement is not necessarily easy, but embrace it and feel grateful that you have one. We know too many people who’ve left the office on their last day feeling stressed and unable to hand their work over.

Think of the positives. Having a replacement allows you to enjoy those precious last few weeks. Try not to feel guilty but grateful.

Written by Kate Pollard, Co-founder of Circle In.

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