Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Sorting out conflict between parents and nannies.

From time to time we receive calls from both parents and nannies complaining about a range of issues that seem to be threatening the placement and often asking for help to sort things out.

For parents issues most arise because the nanny:
  • isn't punctual or isn't flexible about doing extra work or hours;
  • is untidy, leaving the children's toys all over the place and not cleaning up after preparing meals;
  • and very occasionally because the nanny is lazy, spending the day watching TV instead of being actively involved with the children.
For nannies the main issues seem to be:
  • 'job creep' ie more and more is added to the job description, particularly household tasks, or hours are regularly extended;
  • parents refusing to consider extra payment for extra duties.
One of the first things I ask is 'have you spoken to the nanny (or parent) about this, and frequently the answer is no.  I can't help wondering what I can do when they haven't taken the first step in trying to resolve the issue.  It seems that each part is concerned about hurting the others feelings, and is probably a reflection of the difficulty many women have with being assertive.   The issues will grow in significance and all parties will become increasingly heated unless they are resolved quickly using basic communication skills.

Recently a nanny reported to me that a parent wanted to deduct hours from her time sheet for a lunch break, which a nanny never gets because she is always on duty, and for the time the baby was asleep.  In this instance the nanny was quite clear with the parent what the arrangements were, pointing out that her presence at these times ensured the baby was safe and well cared for. The parent saw the sense of what she was saying and the time sheet was completed properly.  This was an example where by using basic communication skills, a problem was resolved without needing to bring in a third person.

In the above examples of a nanny not performing her duties properly, it is important that the parents bring their concerns to the nanny's attention and ask for a commitment to change, then to observe over a period of time whether there has been an improvement.  If there is no change, it is certainly appropriate to tell the nanny that her performance is not adequate and that they will contact the agency. 

Most nannies are happy to occasionally help out eg put washing in the dryer or in an emergency stay on a little later. If, however, this becomes a regular pattern, they need to discuss it with the parents, referring to what they were contracted to do and pointing out that these changes are beyond what they initially agreed.  Apart from their work with children, nannies have their own lives to lead, friends to see, shopping and household tasks of their own, appointments to keep and a right to 'down time' so that they remain fresh and committed to their jobs.  Adding too many hours or tasks leads to burn out so if nannies and parents cannot come to an agreement over changes, the agency should be contacted.

It is not appropriate for the discussion of concerns of either parents or nannies happens on the run during the changeover of responsibility for the children.  If there is to be a discussion, a meeting time needs to be set aside that suits both parties so that the issue can be discussed calmly and if possible a solution reached.  It is only necessary to contact the Agency if a solution cannot be found.

Conflict resolution skills This is one of the best simple guidelines for conflict resolution I have seen.
Communication skills This is a clear explanation of basic communication skills, with a link to listening skills.
Kids and communication skills A useful resource to start you thinking about making sure children have good communication skills.
Assertiveness A great British booklet to develop your assertiveness skills.

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