Mending a Strained Domestic Helper-Employer Relationship

Fixing up a broken domestic helper-employer relationship takes more time and energy.

Relationships experience ups and downs, and that’s quite normal. Constant nurturing is crucial though; otherwise, they might just break down (and sometimes beyond repair). The domestic helper-employer relationship is no exception. It can be even more difficult to navigate given the intimate nature that characterizes it – working in a private household can be intricate as the lines can sometimes get blurry. When left unattended, relationships can cause tensions, frustration, and resentment can build up. Fixing up a broken domestic helper-employer relationship takes more time and energy than maintaining a healthy relationship right from the onset – so you might want to invest a little time right from day one.

Fixing up a broken domestic helper-employer relationship takes more time and energy.

Actions you can take to try fixing the employment relationship

If you are noticing certain signs indicating that your employer-domestic helper relationship is under strain, try to fix it no matter how hard it seems. Here are a few tips to help you mend a strained or broken relationship with your domestic helper:

  1. Keep in mind that it is possible to fix the relationship – it will surely take time (and efforts) but it’s not a lost cause.
  2. Start by pinpointing what’s actually wrong and understanding the root causes for the situation. Take time to reflect and question yourself about possible reasons that might explain why your relationship with your domestic helper is deteriorating. Try to identify any issues in the past few weeks that might have resulted in tensions, frustrations and/or resentment.
  3. Talk to her. Don’t assume things. Communication and open dialogue are key to maintaining a healthy relationship. Ask her what’s wrong and what can be done to iron things out. Don’t leave things unsaid – most misunderstandings arise when people are expected to read between the lines. You might want to hold regular meetings with her to debrief about her job tasks and responsibilities, work conditions, expectations (yours and hers), and talk things out when necessary.
  4. Don’t let things drag out. Old feelings die hard. The more you wait before addressing the issue, the more likely it is to remain unresolved.
  5. Build a space where both of you can share openly. Make sure that she is aware of it. Give (and receive) feedback in a constructive way and show you domestic helper that you are willing to accept feedback.
  6. Be open to suggestions – and let her know that you are – even though you have your very own way of doing things.
  7. Show her that you are committed to addressing any issue and taking whatever measure is necessary to resolve the matter at hand.
  8. Let her know that you are willing to compromise to make sure that things work out and that you expect her to do the same thing. Remind her that it is a two-way relationship.
  9. No matter what the issue is, always be diplomatic, calm and respectful.
  10. Be flexible. If it turns out that your domestic helper feels overwhelmed by her workload or pressured by your management style, you might want to discuss how you can optimize her work schedule and consider tweaking your management style a bit.
  11. Giving incentives and showing appreciation are effective ways to keep a relationship on the right track.

It doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with you

Keep in mind that your domestic helper might be experiencing personal issues – that can be family- or health-related – that have nothing to do with you. Let her know that you are willing to support her and help her find a solution – especially as it might be affecting everyone in your household. Again, communication and open dialogue will be your best allies.

Another common reason might just be that it is actually difficult for your domestic helper to adapt to a foreign land, work with a different family, or live far from her loved ones. Don’t forget that your domestic helper has left everyone she knows in her home country. Try to be understanding and give her time.

Culture and language can also be significant barriers hindering her adaptation and straining your relationship. The good news is that it is absolutely possible to work this out.