In this article, we’ll share some tips on how to breed a harmonious and successful working relationship with your maid. It applies to first-time employers as well as FDW employers who have hired before. We’ll also touch on setting basic house rules for maids, to better manage your Foreign Domestic Worker (FDW / MDW).
Introduce your family
While this may seem like an obvious one, it’s alarming that a large number of employers do not actually do this.
Introduce your family members to your helper, even the kids. Let the kids know that there is a new nanny or auntie that will be taking care, assisting and/or bringing to and picking them from school. This will be useful for the kids as they have been given the heads up versus thinking of your new maid as a “stranger” and not feeling safe/comfortable with her.
Whose Instructions should your FDW follow? Also a critical part in the introduction, let her know whose instructions she should follow. Many employment relationships gets frustrated as as result of non-clarity in this regard - picture this: You (the employer) tells the helper to help pack the school bag of your child, but your spouse thinks that the kids should be independent and pack his/her own school bag. In the instance above, the helper is in a "sandwich" position in that if she follows your instruction, your spouse may be unhappy with her thinking that she didn't follow his/her instructions and vice-versa. Solution: Decide amongst yourselves on who should give the instructions and who should the helper seek for if there are issues.
Set Ground Rules & Expectations
Once you have introduced your family members to your helper, the next area to address would be to set the ground rules and expectations. Tell your helper:
- Set boundaries, meaning to say:
(a) The “negotiables”, &
(b) The “non-negotiables” (i.e. strictly no hitting of kids regardless the reasons)
- What time she should go out on her off day and what time she should be back home
- Mobile phone usage timing
- What you expect from her in terms of:
-Work & chores
-Reporting (what are some areas that she must let you know i.e. if your child had a fall)
-Following a schedule if you have one
- What she can expect from you:
-If she is doing something that falls below your expectations, how will you be handling it e.g. you will tell her about it as you do not like to bottle up the issues
-A listening ear/support for her if she is facing any issues
-If the kids are not listening to her, she can inform you
-If the elderly she is taking care of refuses to take medication, she can inform you
Expectations on work & chores Whether you are hiring a experienced or new-to-Singapore candidate, it is always good to know that the candidate is new to your household. As such, it is important that she knows of what your expectations are so that she can work towards providing you a satisfactory performance. One of the best ways is to provide an orientation of your household, and demonstrate how you would like things to be done e.g. the changing of curtains or bedsheets. In doing so, you are also letting your MDW know what your standards are and what you consider as "passable". This way, it is also clear and undisputable.
Mutual Trust and Respect
Perhaps one of the most overlooked areas is trusting your worker and also showing her the respect she needs.
When hiring a helper, it is important that you empower her by giving her the trust she needs so that she can carry out her role confidently and effectively. Of course, trust and confidence takes time to build. Start by giving her less important tasks and when she does it well, it will build trust and confidence between herself and you.
Recognise that maids are just like you and me. In simpler terms, a maid is an employee/worker. Therefore, it is important to remember that just like everyone else, they would require mutual respect too. In fact, by giving her the respect she needs, she may feel dignified about her job and motivated to do well. From experience and observations, employers who treat their helpers as part of their family tend to have helpers who work for them for extended periods.
Solutions Oriented Approach
It is inevitable that your helper may make mistake every now and then. Importantly, it is how one approach the mistake that will either better or worsen it.
“A mistake is only a mistake if it happens the second time; the first time is a lesson”
Of course, making mistakes can be quite frustrating, but understanding and working with her to prevent it from happening will be a better option than just scolding an reprimanding which can demoralise and add pressure to your helper; some people respond well to pressure, while others may crumble under pressure and end up making more mistakes. That said, that doesn’t mean that you should not reprimand/scold. But using carrots and sticks at the right time helps in effectively managing your helper.
Ultimately, as with anything, we personally feel that a solutions oriented approach is most effective in combating problems and issues. It empowers the individual to do better.
The worst thing to do is to sweep the problem under the carpet, ignore it and/or bottle it up. Instead, whenever a problem arises, try to arrest the problem/issue on the spot, so that the problem no longer persists. Because, if you do not do so, your silence may mean consent to your helper.