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The 10 Sins that Sabotage the Nanny / Employer Relationship

July 29, 2012

By Michelle LaRowe
Editor-in –Chief

For many parents, once they hire a nanny they enter into one of the most complex employer/employee relationships that exist. In addition to the personal dynamics that drive the parent and nanny relationship, the business aspect of the relationship can’t be ignored.

As parents adjust to their role as household employers, they should beware of committing the top 10 sins that sabotage nanny and employer relationships.

1. Forgetting to leave your nanny’s paycheck. At the end of a busy week it’s not surprising that many nanny employers check into weekend mode before their nanny’s workday ends. Forgetting to leave your nanny’s check is a faux pas that you don’t want to commit. When you fail to pay your nanny you’re sending the message that her work is not important. Consider using a household payroll company, like Breedlove & Associates or HomeWork Solutions, or enroll in direct deposit through your bank to ensure your nanny is always paid on time.

2. Adding additional duties. Prior to starting work, you’ve likely discussed the duties and responsibilities you expect your nanny to take on. Adding additional duties that were not agreed upon, like doing the family’s laundry or running errands, can pose a real problem to the nanny and employer relationship. If there are additional duties you’d like your nanny to take on, speak to her about them and adjust her compensation, if necessary.

3. Coming home late, without notice. It is common courtesy to let your nanny know if you’re running late. While it can be tempting to tell her you’ll be home in 15 minutes, don’t underestimate your time frame. Instead, pad it by 15 minutes and be sure to compensate her for any additional time she’s worked.

4. Flipping out about non childcare related concerns. It’s not atypical for a nanny employer’s feelings of frustration, guilt, or nanny envy to emerge in bizarre ways. Sometimes when a nanny doesn’t load the dishwasher the exact way her employer does or forgets to empty the lint trap in the dryer, an employer will overreact and harshly scold the nanny. Outbursts can be prevented by discussing issues as they arise and avoiding the urge to take out any unmerited negative feelings you’re having on your nanny.

5. Altering the schedule, without notice. While most nannies understand that a fair amount of flexibility is required on the job, changing your nanny’s schedule without discussion or notice is likely to cause problems. Working as a nanny can be a tiring and isolating job. Nannies need time to recharge, reconnect with friends and family, and fulfill their own personal and professional commitments and obligations.

6. Changing the rules, midgame. Once the relationship has become established, changing the governing principles of it can be a real challenge. For example, if your nanny has always been allowed to take your children on outings and two years later you decide you’d no longer like her to do that, expect resentment to follow. Before making game changes, have an open and honest discussion with your nanny.

7. Volunteering your nanny without asking. While many nanny employers innocently volunteer their nanny to drive the carpool or to care for their friend’s children during a “playdate,” it’s best to discuss these additional responsibilities with your nanny first. While most nannies are glad to accommodate such requests, they could have real concerns that need to be addressed prior. Concerns could include having the appropriate car seats for all of the children or meeting the children prior to having responsibility for them.

8. Neglecting the work agreement. If you’ve established a work agreement with your nanny, adhering to it always best. If you’re unable to keep a commitment, perhaps honoring a specific holiday you’ve promised her off, discuss the possibility of altering the agreement and be ready to make a fair compromise and to offer any necessary additional compensation. It’s also a good idea to have a backup plan in place and to let your nanny know that you’re prepared to make alternative arrangements, but wanted to explore the possibility of altering the agreement with her first. Many nannies will agree to help you out, sacrificing their own plans or commitments to do so. Having a backup plan can take the pressure to say yes off.

9. Failing to sign an updated agreement. After your nanny completes her first year of service, signing an updated agreement is more than a mere formality. Doing so allows you to revisit the agreement, to make mutually agreeable adjustments, and to have an annual review. The typical nanny annual salary increase is 3-7% or more.

10. Ignoring your nanny. Open communication is the key to a successful nanny and employer relationship. Facilitate an environment that welcomes and respects your nanny’s advice, guidance, questions, compliments, and concerns. Remember, many nannies have years of childcare experience under their belt and often have solid strategies that can solve many of the most common parenting dilemmas.

While one of the most complex relationships, the nanny and employer relationship can also be one of the most rewarding. Mutual respect and open communication will pave the way for a long-term and successful working relationship.


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