By Susan Tokayer
A lot has been on the news about white lies because of politicians using this as an excuse for their behavior. As I’ve been listening to the commentary, I started thinking about the negative effects I see with nannies and clients I work with who tell “white lies” to avoid being confrontational or to not hurt the other party’s feelings. I would like to share some wisdom that I have gained in my 23 years as a nanny agency owner.
Example #1: A nanny working with a family isn’t happy in the job. But, instead of discussing the issue, and trying to resolve it, she tells a white lie. “My mother is sick, and I have to leave the country to be with her.” After that nanny leaves her job, she then applies to work with an agency, and that agency says that they need to check her references, most importantly her most recent reference.
At this point, the nanny realizes she made a mistake in not telling the truth to her employers, that she was not happy in the job and wanted to give notice.
Example #2: A family is not happy with their nanny’s performance and they decide to let her go, telling her that the grandparents are moving into town and will be caring for the children. That nanny finds a new job in the same town, and a few weeks later runs into the family’s new nanny in the park with the children.
In example #1, the nanny now may have a difficult time finding a job. In explaining her situation, it is apparent she lied. Will the agency trust that everything she is telling them about past jobs is truthful? Or, are there other white lies in her work history? It may also affect the nannies relationship with other families and agencies because the family will tell others that the nanny lied.
In example #2, will the new nanny trust her new employers to be honest with her, now that she has found out about what they told their previous employee?
Sometimes it isn’t easy to tell the truth, I know. But if things are communicated in a sensitive way, both parties will benefit from hearing the truth. Without honest feedback, the nanny is not able to improve her skills and the family is not able to make adjustments.
In example #1, the nanny first needs to decide if she would want to stay in her position if the family were to acknowledge her complaints and try to resolve them with her. If she would consider staying, then I would advise that she ask to have a meeting/discussion with her employers. Many nannies shy away from meeting with parents for fear of a “confrontation.” But if the nanny plans for the meeting ahead of time, and is prepared, the family will most likely be grateful that she was honest and communicated her feeling with them.
The nanny should start the meeting by saying something she likes about the job. This should be a genuine feeling. An example is, “I really love working with your children. They are fun and smart, and I look forward to coming to work every day.” The next sentence should address the problem. ”I do have one issue with the job that I am uncomfortable with though, and that is that the workday rarely ends at 6:00, the time I was told that I would be leaving every day. I find myself leaving between 6:10 and 6:30 most nights and have never been compensated for my overtime. I am happy to work until 6:30 PM, but I would like to be compensated for the time.” Then the nanny should end with another positive statement such as, “ As I said, I really enjoy working with your family. The children and I get along great, and I would like to work here for many years to come, but we do need to resolve the issue with the ending time or additional compensation.”
If the nanny has no intention of staying, regardless of whether the family makes changes, it is ideal to be honest about why she is leaving. An example…” I have enjoyed working for your family. The children and I get along well, but I need to find a position where I can leave by 6 PM every day. I am giving you my 3 weeks’ notice. I am happy to help with the transition in any way I can.”
When a family lets the nanny go, I advise that they be honest about the reason too. At the very least, the nanny will have the opportunity to reflect and to change his/her behavior with the next job. An employee can learn and grow after losing a job.
The explanation should be short and to the point. “Sarah, although you have done a good job in many ways for us, we are continually late getting to work because you often arrive late to our home in the morning. And, although we have spoken with you about this a few times, you continue to arrive late, and so we’ve decided to let you go.”
Susan Tokayer is the owner of Family Helpers, a full-service domestic agency located in Dobbs Ferry, NY. Susan has been involved in the INA for many years and is a past president
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