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How to Talk to Your Nanny About Tough Topics

serioustalkYou’re six months into your nanny placement and everything was going great, until recently. You love your nanny, but you’ve noticed she’s been spending a little too much time on your personal computer, telling you when she needs a day off rather than requesting one, and hasn’t made much of an effort to pick up after herself or your little one while you’re away. You don’t want to put a wedge in the relationship, but you really can’t let these issues slide much longer. What should do you do?

Take a deep breath. Like many new relationships, the nanny and employer relationship also has a honeymoon period and chances are that the honeymoon period is over. But don’t panic. This is a natural progression in the relationship and indicates that your nanny is feeling comfortable in her role and her in position with in the family. This also means that now is the time you’ll need to establish boundaries and reaffirm your commitment to your expectations.

For most nanny employers, confronting their employees is a difficult task – even for those who manage people for a living. Nannies work in your home, caring for your most prized possession, so it’s not surprising that talking business with your household employee can be a bit awkward and uncomfortable.

Fortunately, there are things you can do to make managing your employee feel a bit more natural and set the frame work for providing both positive and negative feedback to your nanny about her performance.

1. Be sure to complete your nanny work agreement.

If you didn’t sign a written work agreement with your nanny prior to her start date, it’s not too late. Draft up your agreement and request a meeting with your nanny to review it. Schedule your meeting for a time when you can meet with your nanny without the children present. Take responsibility for not completing the agreement sooner and let her know you’ve put it together so that you have a mutual understanding of each other’s duties, responsibilities and expectations, as well as any house rules you wish your nanny to abide by.

2. Review your work agreement.

If you do have a mutually agreed upon working agreement, give it a once over to be sure it covers what you think it does. If your nanny is violating the agreement, set aside a time to meet with her and call her attention to your agreement. “When we signed our agreement, we both agreed that computer usage was off-limits.

3. Establish a weekly meeting.

Each week, plan to spend a half an hour meeting with your nanny, ideally when the children are not present. Use this meeting as an opportunity to offer positive feedback, to ask questions, to troubleshoot problems and to provide constructive criticism. Remember to always sandwich negative feedback between positive feedback. Doing so will make it easier for your nanny to process. After sometime you may wish to meet every other week or once per month.

4. Address issues as they arise.

Like with any relationship, when an issue comes up the longer you wait to deal with it, the more your feelings about it will fester. When this happens, you’ll be less likely to address the issue is a calm, constructive manner and more likely to make an off the cuff comment that won’t go over well. When something comes up that bothers you, let your nanny know. Use I feel statements and sandwich negative comments between positive ones to help the message be well received. “I really like how you spend so much time playing with Anna, but I feel the kitchen needs more attention after meal preparation. Can you please be sure to wipe down the counters before heading off on your afternoon adventure? I love that you take her to so many great places.”

5. Keep the lines of communication open.

Having a daily check –in call, using a nanny log book, and ending the day with a short debriefing can help to keep the lines of communication open. Encourage your nanny to ask questions, when she has them and be sure to communicate with your nanny in a direct and respectful manner.

6. Have professional boundaries.

At the end of the day, even in the best relationships between parents and nannies are those of an employer and an employee. It’s important to establish professional boundaries so that this line remains as clear as possible. Avoid talking to your nanny about financial and relationship issues and don’t pry too much into your nanny’s personal life. While of course it’s always thoughtful to ask if she had a good weekend, avoid asking for too many details about how she spent her off-duty time can easily blur the professional line.

Managing a household employee can certainly have its difficult moments. If you’re experiencing an issue and you need some advice, give our office a call. We’re proud to offer ongoing support to all of our clients and are dedicated to helping them grow healthy nanny and employer relationships.

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