How Long Can I Wait to Tell the Boss I'm Pregnant?
The sooner you break the news, the better -- especially if your boss can keep a secret. Plus, will telecommuting wreck your chances for a promotion?
By Anne Fisher, FORTUNE senior writer

(Fortune) -- Dear Annie: I've been in my job (a new vice president position in a newly-created department) for about 8 months, and I'm about to post a job opening that will be my first new hire. The trouble is that I am expecting, but I haven't told my boss yet.

Where it gets complicated is, I want to hire a director-level person who can take over when I'm out on 4 months' maternity leave, but my boss is pushing for a more junior hire, which would mean my boss would have to step in a lot more while I'm away.

Since knowing that I will be out for four months would influence his decision about whom to hire, should I tell him now? I'm hesitating because I have suffered several miscarriages in the past, and I am reluctant to face dealing with people at work knowing if I have another one. - Mum's the Word

Dear Mum: Given that the information about your impending four-month absence is crucial to his making the right hiring decision, you really do have to level with your boss.

But to avoid "people at work knowing", as you put it, why not explain to your boss what you just told me? It's early days yet, and you'd appreciate his keeping your news under his hat for a while, until it seems safe to reveal it to all and sundry. Surely he can respect your privacy enough to agree to that? Good luck!

Dear Annie: Please settle an argument. I work in finance for a large consumer-goods company that recently liberalized its telecommuting policy to let a broader group of us work from home (if we are so inclined). Since I have a pretty long commute - about an hour and twenty minutes each way - I'm thinking of taking them up on this and working from home two or three days a week.

A colleague and friend says this would be a mistake, as higher-ups don't see telecommuters as contenders for promotion. I say the quality of my work should be all that counts. Who is right? - Harold the Homebody

Dear Harold: It's absolutely true that the quality of your work should be all that matters but alas, in many companies, face time counts too. Of course, I can't speak for your particular employer, but consider the results of a new survey by Silicon Valley-based staffing firm Officeteam: 43% of executives at 1,000 big U.S. companies opined that telecommuting works best for staff employees.

Only 18% said they think managers can be effective from home, and more than two-thirds report that senior executives "rarely or never" telecommute.

"If you have your heart set on the corner office, telecommuting may impede your chances of getting there," says Officeteam executive director Diane Domeyer.

Nor have higher gas prices inspired many companies to encourage working from home: A recent online poll at (Charts) showed that only 2.3% of employers are letting more people telecommute.

So much for technological advances - from instant messaging to videoconferencing - that were supposed to create virtual workplaces and virtual teams: Most employers would still far rather have you under their noses, where they can keep an eye on you.


Many thanks to all who wrote with comments and suggestions regarding last week's column on colleagues who cuss too much. I'll be passing along a sampling of your insights next week, so stay tuned! Top of page