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My mom is my coworker. I get to see her more, but we keep it professional in the office.

Kelly Burch   

My mom is my coworker. I get to see her more, but we keep it professional in the office.
  • Greg Bockman is the Senior Events Manager at AT&T.
  • His mom, Kathryn Bockman, is the company's Assistant Vice President of Accounting.

This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with Greg Bockman, senior events manager at AT&T, and his mother Kathryn Bockman. It has been edited for length and clarity.

Sometimes when I'm at work in the AT&T office in Dallas, the elevator will open and my mom will stroll out. It's not a crazy coincidence or an issue of mom overstepping: we both work for the same company and in the same building.

If I bump into my mom coming out of the elevator or in the hall, we'll give a quick embrace, but not the type of mother-son hug we save for family events. Since we work in different departments it's rare that we're in a meeting together. If we are, we acknowledge each other with a polite smile or nod — the same way we greet coworkers who aren't family.

We've learned that it's important to keep up professionalism. And yet, working with my mom has been a really cool growth opportunity. I know her better because I get to see her as a professional and mentor, not just a mother.

I wouldn't want to report to my mom directly

I never expected to be working with my mom. Growing up I knew she worked at AT&T and had a lot of loyalty to the company, but our interests were totally different: I love planning events, while she's focused on numbers and finance.

Even after I graduated college and looked for a job in the corporate world, my mom didn't intervene. She didn't want anything to be spoon-fed to me. And yet, I felt a familiarity with life at AT&T, and when a job presented itself at the company where my mom is in leadership, I took it.

Luckily, I've never had family or coworkers give me a hard time about working with mom. I don't report to her and we rarely cross paths professionally. I'm glad we maintain that division.

I see my mom a lot more since we work together

Like most moms, mine would appreciate it if I saw her more. Outside work we get together probably two to three times a week. I'll head to her house for dinner and catch up with the rest of the family, including the dogs.

That doesn't give us too much time. So, bumping into her once or twice a week at work has really strengthened our relationship. We even have the opportunity to put a lunch date right on each other's company calendar, which makes keeping in touch much easier.

Having a mom and mentor in one can be complex

In our situation, I get a mentor and a mother. There's no doubt that my mom is good at her job, and seeing her in this environment as a career woman has really enriched my understanding of who she is.

Because of that, I really value her professional mentorship. There's a definite difference in her tone when she's speaking to me as a mom, versus as a mentor. As a mother, she tries to be understanding and soften the blow of any tough love. As a mentor, she's a straight shooter, reminding me to buckle up and get the job done.

There's love in both deliveries, but sometimes it can be hard to take advice from my mom. Once or twice she's told me things I didn't want to hear. I might get annoyed with my mom about that, but at the same time I appreciate the honesty from my mentor.

My mom has a great understanding of my work

In a big company like AT&T, it's easy to let other departments handle their areas of expertise, without really understanding why they're important. The same can happen with family — we often only have a vague idea what our loved ones do.

My mom has told me that since we work together, she has a better understanding of the value that my area of the company has. It's taught her about an area that she might not be aware of, if she didn't have family working within it. That can strengthen the organization because we recognize the potential for collaboration, and the value that everyone brings to the table.


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