Should I make the effort to be extra warm, or would they take advantage of our close-knit relationship to expect that I readily grant frequent monetary favors? And would the children understand if I had to lay her off when she practically raised them as a second mother? Maybe instead, I should keep her at an arm’s distance, acknowledge her presence and go about my work as she goes about hers. But, I must supervise; I must mentor so that things are done the way I want them to be done. Then again, I mustn’t be overbearing. She might find a better opportunity elsewhere. Should I increase her salary annually? Will she even last a year?
These are questions that every employer will almost always ask themselves when hiring house help; thoughts that would almost always cross their mind in some way or form. But depending on many things, the way in which everyone then treats their house help will differ. Everybody has their own rules, expectations, upbringing, ways of interacting and so forth. Therefore, the notion that there is one set way that everyone will treat one’s Help is presumptuous. However, one can attempt to take certain factors into account and advise people to perhaps follow them. There are certain do’s and don’ts that most of us could (hopefully) agree on.
Do not be inconspicuous about what you expect from your domestic help staff; make sure you communicate these to them. They can’t read minds, and neither should you expect them to. Furthermore, ensure that what you do expect is not totally ludicrous. They are there to work, yes, but if they use their phone to make a short phone call home once or twice a day, that should not be prohibited. They too have their own homes and families to worry about, and you should be understanding of that fact, letting this be shown to them. Besides that, what is expected should not be of superhuman proportions; they should not work beyond their physical ability, or for longer than 8 hours a day (or however long it is that employer and employee have contractually agreed upon). If, for example, you would like them to stay overtime on rare specific days, ask them! Do not demand this right off the bat, and definitely be transparent about your reasons for asking them to go the extra mile. Surely, in that case, they won’t even object or think it unfair, rather, they would be happy to help you out.
Feedback is vital; the domestic help staff needs to know what they are doing wrong. As mentioned earlier, you cannot expect them to read your minds. If your Help is not carrying out the work in the manner you wanted, let them know so that they can learn from it and perform better in the future. Do not sit idly by, observe in disdain and then simply let them go. That is unfair because you did not give them the chance to better themselves. On the other hand, however, feedback is also given to let them know what they are doing right. It is so beneficial for employees to know that their work was appreciated; that they did what they were meant to do and that their employers are happy with them. Appraisal, appraisal, appraisal.
Tied to the previous point is the existence of this trust in you, of your Help. Everybody has different techniques and has their own way of doing things. It may not be ideal in your eyes, but perhaps this works best for them. If in the end, the same result is achieved and no one is affected because of it, consider that to be okay for you to stand by without interfering just because you do not like their methods.
Something like an extra day off here and there, a bonus, or even a treat out along with the family are just the kind of things that one underestimates, and can go a long way. It is truly disheartening (at least to me) when one sees a family enjoying a lovely fine-dining experience in a restaurant in the city, while the maid is made to hover around and tend to the toddler; she is not included. Everybody likes incentives to work and working for a reward so simple to give, is not too much to ask. It could give your Help exactly what they need in terms of recognition and motivation to work harder; to feel like they are a part of something.
Too many instances come to mind, with too many ways of practicing them. A lot of people believe that, simply because they can afford house Help, that they can afford to treat them like dirt. I am sure you readers have all witnessed occasions on which a friend or an acquaintance, or any odd person, has shocked you with the way they treat their Help. Perhaps even some of you yourselves are unknowingly (I hope it is unknowingly!) guilty of this. It may be what one says, but more often than not, it is how one chooses to say it. A tone of voice, body language and the lingering smell in the air of one’s supposed superiority, speaks volumes. One can be downright derogatory in one’s outlook and subsequently, actions. This is quite sad to see in today’s day and age, and one can only hope that all of us take notice of our own attitudes.
Help is not synonymous with slavery and people are free to easily take off and find work where they will be treated as equal human beings, not as objects devoid of feeling. When in doubt, “Treat people how you would like to be treated” is something that you can always go by.
TAF Foundation, under its Vocational Training Institute’s (TAFF-VTI) Cooking and Housekeeping course, has a process of not only vetting their graduates but also employers of those graduates. These women, who are working in this undocumented sector, are usually deprived of their basic rights granted according to the labor laws of Pakistan and face lack of courtesy extended as human beings. TAFF-VTI not only ensures all the basic rights of their graduates are defined in the contract signed with employers but also has an active complaint management system for employers to raise concerns with their employees if any.