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You're the Boss -- Like It or Not

Jen Geller
Aug. 8, 2017

"I know she broke these glasses we had in our cabinet but she acts like she has no idea what I'm talking about."

Ten years ago, Julie, a journalist in Manhattan, could be griping about her roommate. This time it's her nanny.

"But I'm just going to let it slide. I figure, I'm not going to fire her over this, and she's great with the baby so why make a big deal about it? Still, it makes me wonder what else she isn't telling me."

Anyone who has ever employed a nanny knows that it's different from any other employee/employer relationship. She is in your home and spends more waking hours with your children than you do. You need to trust her and form a bond with her to make this relationship work. In many cases she becomes more like a friend than an employee. But along the way issues will arise. Problems that would normally be nipped in the bud in an office setting are often swept under the rug, straining the relationship.

Most likely, your kids adore her and you want to keep her working for you. (If not, there are tons of nannies to choose from on this site). So, you can learn to be a better boss. It will probably make all of your lives easier.

"After some awkward situations with our previous nanny, we decided to keep things more business-like with our current one. From the very beginning, we let her know of concerns/complaints we had as soon as they arose so that she got used to the idea of sometimes having to talk about problems," explains Rebecca, a teacher and mom to Phoebe and Jordan.

This is a good idea says Guy Maddalone, author of "How to Hire a Nanny".

He says that frequent communication and using the tools you learned at your own workplace will make you a better boss.       

Maddalone suggests that when you hire a nanny, have a job description written up, as well as a nanny work agreement and terms of employment.

"One really important thing, and where a lot of families get tripped up is creating "Rules of the Home" for your nanny," he recommends. "This can include things like cell phone use, the amount of time the children can watch TV, use of your personal computer, leaves of absences and notice for time off. You have an employee handbook at your workplace. So should your nanny."

A quick conversation each day with your nanny and a longer one at the end of each week can address issues that arise and help with communication. Maddalone also advises having a yearly compensation review which highlights the positive the nanny has done in the past year -- using specific examples and then bring up any concerns your have.

If your nanny has been with you for years, that may feel like an abrupt change. Use the new year as a fresh start.  Start with a 'strategy-session' meeting with you, your partner and her. Try and have it when the kids aren't around. Treat it as an important work meeting. This may be your home and she may wear sweats to work, but it doesn't mean that she doesn't take her job seriously, so have respect for the meeting and her job.

  • Discuss some of the goals that you have for your kids no matter what age they are; from walking, to talking to sharing better to improving their grades.
  • Ask for her insight. Your nanny's perspective may enlighten you.
  • Use this dialogue to discuss things you want changed at home in a constructive way; "I think his vocabulary will improve if there is less TV time," is a way of making changes and not appear draconian.

As for Julie and her broken glasses. She did the right thing letting the issue slide.

"Always think to yourself, what do I want to accomplish before having this conversation," says Maddalone.

Smart advice for both home and work.

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