Many nannies today aren’t the only household employee working in a home. It’s not unusual for a family to also employ a housekeeper, a household manager, a cook and other people to help them manage the day to day tasks that come with running a home and caring for a family. While having a co-worker can be a welcome relief to the isolation that often comes with having a household job, it can be challenging to work alongside other employers in the home environment. Here are some tips for being successful when you’re part of a household staff.
Keep the terms of your employment to yourself. One of the quickest ways to cause problems with other staff members is to talk about how much money you make, what your last bonus was, how much paid vacation you get or any other terms of your work agreement. Even if your contract doesn’t state it directly, you should consider this information confidential between you and your employer. Mostly likely, some staffers are paid more than you and some are paid less. Those side by side comparisons only lead to hurt feelings.
Treat everyone with respect. Even in a private home, there’s a hierarchy in place. Someone has to be the boss. That may be the parent, the lead nanny or the household manager. Regardless of who you officially report to, treat all of your coworkers with respect. It can be easy in private service for people to feel that their job isn’t as important as another’s. This feeling can lead to unhealthy relationships. Treating everyone with respect for the hard work they do and the contribution they make, whether that’s scrubbing the bathroom or caring for the baby, will create a much happier work environment.
Don’t tell others how to do their job. It’s easy to see how someone can improve their performance when you’re standing on the sidelines. However, unless it’s part of your job description to manage the staff, it’s not your job to offer unsolicited advice on how the housekeeper, your co-nanny or other staff members should be doing things differently. You’re not privy to the instructions they’ve been given by your employer, and even if you feel confident your employer would agree with you, it’s still not your place. Because the professional boundaries in a private home are less defined to begin with, it’s especially important to abide by the ones in place. Conversely, offering suggestions when asked or providing key pieces of information the person needs to do her job well are part of being a good team player.
Avoid the gossip trap. Gossip is something that happens at every workplace. It’s not something that’s unique to the private service industry. However, because you work in a private home and maintaining confidentiality is part of your job, gossip can be a job killer. It’s easy to fall into the trap of commenting on what’s happening with your employer or repeating what another employee has told you. These innocent comments can quickly grow into destructive rumors and threaten your professional integrity and reputation. The best policy is to steer clear of gossip altogether. Don’t comment on your employers or co-workers, don’t repeat things that you’ve heard and don’t participate in conversations where gossip is center stage. It’s up to you to set strong boundaries in this area.
Be a team player. When you’re working with others in a household, everyone’s job is dependent in part on the other staffers. By working together, you can all do a better job and get tasks done more easily and effectively. Ask others how you can help and support them. Ask for help in return when you need it. Keep others in the loop on issues that will directly affect them. Keep the lines of communication open so others have the information they need to get their job done and to support you in yours.
Don’t add more work to another’s job. In a private home, often a staffer’s job description will include serving the family and also the nanny. However, this is a benefit provided to you, so take great care not to misuse it. If you have a housekeeper who cleans the nanny’s quarters too, make sure that your area is tidy and ready for her to clean. It may be her job to pick up the parents’ clothes off the floor, but it isn’t her job to do that for the nanny. If you have a chef who cooks your meals, make sure you offer suggestions when he asks and eat at time that doesn’t take away from his other duties. He’s on call for the family, but not for other staffers.
Working in a staffed household can be tricky. By keeping a few key rules in mind, you’ll be a welcome and important part of the staff.