Another Challenge for Working Parents

There has always been resentment from childless coworkers toward colleagues who are parents, especially when women, and some men, take maternity and paternity leave or family leave to care for ill family members. Organizations tend to expect the coworkers left behind to pick up the work of their absent colleagues rather than planning for supplemental workers to pick up the extra load. This adds stress and pressure for the workers who are covering the extra workload.

I have seen this resentment from childless employees expressed over the years in all types of organizations, but new reporting by Daisuke Wakabayashi and Sheera Frenkel for the New York Times focuses on resentment from childless employees in the tech industry. Their reporting reveals interesting policy changes by many tech companies in response to the Covid-19 pandemic for both parents and nonparents along with a torrent of resentment from nonparents.

Wakabayashi and Frenkel report that “when the coronavirus closed schools and child care centers and turned American parenthood into a multitasking nightmare,” many tech companies reached into their deep pockets and rushed to help their employees. They implemented many generous policy changes to try to help their employees work from home and help parents care for their children. These policy changes seem to have exacerbated the resentment of childless employees who complain that the new policies “primarily benefit parents.” The tensions released have been most prominently displayed at Facebook, where childless employees are angrily challenging the company about their perception of unfair treatment, and they are disparaging their coworkers who are parents. Here are some of the changes Facebook has made in response to the pandemic that have unleashed resentment:

  • Facebook offered up to ten weeks of paid time off for employees if they had to care for a child whose school or day-care facility had closed or for an older relative whose nursing home was not open.
  • Facebook announced that it would not be scoring employees on job performance for the first half of 2020 because of all the changes in everyone’s lives.
  • Every Facebook employee will receive a bonus usually reserved for very good performance scores, which especially annoyed the childless employees who felt they worked harder and should see more rewards.
  • Facebook offers thirty days of emergency leave for all employees if they need to care for a sick family member, and all employees receive an unlimited number of sick days and twenty-one vacation days a year.

Facebook also offered these benefits to all its employees:

  • All Facebook employees received a $1,000 stipend to buy equipment for working from home when the pandemic required total remote work.
  • All Facebook employees can take up to three days of leave to cope with physical or mental health issues without a doctor’s note.

Google, Microsoft, Salesforce, and Twitter have each implemented similar parental/family leave policies.

I don’t know about you, but I find the Facebook policies generous for all their employees. I know that tech companies are well known for hiring young people and demanding long hours of work from them. It seems likely that because they are young, these workers have not worked outside the tech industry and do not realize that most organizations do not offer these types of generous benefits for either parents or childless employees. I tend to agree with Laszlo Bock, Google’s former head of people operations, who was quoted in this article as saying that the complaints of the childless tech workers reflect a “lack of patience, a lack of empathy and a sense of entitlement.” I fear that our culture has bred this sense of entitlement and individual focus rather than valuing a sense of community and a sense of responsibility to others.

Something needs to change in our society. What do you think will help?


Photo by Tim van der Kuip on Unsplash

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