Issues can sometimes arise and complicate your relationship with your domestic helper. If they have not promptly been dealt with, they can end up deteriorating your relationship with your domestic helper. Here are some of the most common problems you can face and a few tips to overcome them.
Problem 1: You are not satisfied with your domestic helper’s work
There might be various reasons why you are not satisfied with your domestic helper’s work, causing you to feel frustrated and even angry. Sometimes, it is because she does not clean the house as thoroughly as you would like, or because she lets the grocery out on the kitchen counter for too long instead of storing them where they belong or because you have reasons to believe that your children are not being well cared for or even neglected, etc.
Have a talk with your domestic helper to frame the issue and understand why she is not performing as you would want her to and take adequate measures to solve the problem.
- Be clearer as to what you are expecting of her. If she is underperforming because she does not understand your guidelines due to a language barrier, repeat instructions several times, write them down for her if necessary and encourage her to take language classes.
- If she is not as competent as advised, allow her time to improve some of her skills i.e. through classes or training. Being patient indicates that you are willing to make this relationship work. However, be firm and make it clear that you have expectations and let her know that termination is not off the table should those expectations not be met after a reasonable amount of time or should she give you no reason to believe that she is committed to doing better.
- Try to understand why she lacks interest in certain tasks. If she is not keen on improving her performance, make it clear that termination will eventually be your only resort left.
- If you find out that she is underperforming because she is tired, sit down with her and review her work schedule. For example, if she is tired because she is the one taking care of your toddler who cannot sleep through the night, you could decide to implement night shifts.
- Should you be asking too much of her by setting unrealistic goals for her to attain, review them and ensure that you set clear and realistic goals, and reduce her workload if necessary. Create a space for open dialogue and ensure that you give your domestic helper regular feedback on her work and encourage her to share feedback too.
- Your domestic helper might be distracted which could prevent her from focusing on her work. In some cases, she might just be brain-scattered. Talk to her to understand what may be going on, remind her of her responsibilities and let her know that you expect her to pay more attention to her work or, if not, measures will have to be taken.
Our advice for employers-to-be
To prevent this scenario from unfolding, be clear and firm about your expectations during the screening phase of the hiring process so both parties can know what they are in for.
Problem 2: Your domestic helper is being dishonest
Dishonesty comes in various forms i.e. your domestic helper not telling the truth or stealing from you. While duplicity and abuse of trust can certainly be real, other factors can be at play:
- It might just be that your domestic helper does not understand your guidelines because of her limited language skills;
- It can be due to a cultural difference. In some cultures, it is considered respectful not to ask any questions and agreeing is the most appropriate thing to do.
- You might be spotting certain objects in new locations around the house or be under the impression that they do not belong here or there, prompting you to be suspicious and question your domestic helper’s honesty.
- Be patient. If that’s a cultural matter, it might be necessary to repeat several times that it is absolutely fine for her to ask questions when she does not understand what it is that you are expecting from her. If you don’t find an object anymore, you may find it again in the coming days.
- If that is due to a language barrier, make sure to repeat instructions on various occasions, slowly, and write them down for her if necessary and/or recommend that she takes a language course.
- If you find out that she is actually lying to you, sit down with her and make it clear that this is not a behaviour you condone. Let her know that if she keeps deceiving you, this will be a serious deal-breaker.
- Stealing is a serious misconduct and an abuse of trust. You should never accuse someone of stealing without evidence. Instead, ask your domestic helper if she knows anything about the missing or misplaced If you are sure that your domestic helper has something to do with it – and only then – the best attitude to adopt is threatened to call the police – which might get her to return any stolen items – and give her a chance to explain herself. Some employers decide to install a video camera to monitor their domestic helpers; while it can surely dissuade from stealing, it can backfire and negatively impact the relationship.
Problem 3: You are afraid that your domestic helper might get pregnant
This is a common cause for concern for many employers who fear being left high and dry without any support should their domestic helper get pregnant at some point during their employment. While it is understandable that employers in such circumstances might feel helpless, you must keep in mind that your domestic helper’s reproductive choice and sexual health are private matters.
- If this is putting you in distress, it can be a good thing to initiate a conversation on the subject with your domestic helper – only and only if – she seems open to it. It might enable you to put your mind at ease – who knows, you mind end up finding out that she does not even want to have a child. It could even benefit your domestic helper should she have any questions regarding contraception or sexual health for instance. In such case, you should recommend that she sees an OB-GYN for further information.
- Should your domestic helper decide to have a child, you need to accept that it is her right. Pregnancy or fear of a pregnancy of a domestic helper should never be a reason for dismissal and is punishable by law. Moreover, it is unacceptable to impose any contraceptive method on your domestic helper. Domestic helpers – similarly to workers in any other sector – are entitled to their reproductive rights.
- If your domestic helper is pregnant, the best thing to do is discuss with your domestic helper as early as possible so both of you can make arrangements and come up with a contingency plan. In this case, you may want to plan to hire part-time help during her maternity leave.
- Some employers choose to opt out of hiring young candidates. Nevertheless, it is highly discriminatory and this measure does not guarantee that the ones who make the cut won’t have children at some point during their employment with you.
Problem 4: Your child is too attached to your domestic helper
Children can easily get attached to those individuals they spend a lot of time with and are comfortable with. While it is a good thing for your child to bond with your domestic helper, as a parent, it might be difficult to accept that your little one is connecting with someone else. Feeling hurt, ignored or even jealous are legitimate feelings. Sometimes, you might even be under the impression that your child just prefers your domestic helper. While this certainly isn’t true, the whole situation might create tensions.
- Try to spend as much time as possible with your child by allocating ‘private time’ moments to share with them. Ensure that you are the one spending time with them when you are home. You might want to discuss this with your domestic helper and agree that when you are around, you will be the one taking care of the feeding, changing and bathing them, tucking them into bed and playing with them.
- Do not hesitate to share your concerns with your domestic helper. No matter how painful it might be, being mad at your domestic helper won’t do any good – after all, it means that she is taking good care of your child. Instead, bring up the topic and tell her how it makes you feel and discuss the solutions you could find together to overcome the situation. She may be a mother too and surely won’t have any trouble putting herself in your shoes.