Monday, September 27, 2010

Conflict Resolution and Nannies

Through the years we have observed a myriad of areas for conflict between nannies and their employers. Any of these issues, left unresolved will inevitably lead to a break down in communication and mutual understanding. It is our contention that at least 90 % of these conflicts could be avoided by ongoing communication and investment in the developmental dynamics of the relationship. Too often nannies and employers bottle up feelings, hoping they will fade away. Oftentimes, nannies and employers turn to relatives, friends or associates with little or no knowledge to discuss, analyze and obsess over these grievances. Multiple definitions of reality for family and nanny can sometimes get in the way of understanding and resolution. We also note that nannies do not always have the tools of empowerment needed to negotiate conflicts with their more “powerful” employers resulting in a really unequal power dynamic. It becomes a real problem when the nanny is too intimidated
to express true concerns or resentments and a classic misalliance is formed.

How do we avoid this?

Be selective about who you decide to work for. If you feel intimidated by their interactive style it might be a red flag. Take steps to ensure that you feel comfortable and trusting enough to engage in authentic dialogue with your employers. Ongoing and open communication is key as the relationship is dynamic and developmental. Your job satisfaction and performance hinge on having this communication link in place. Ultimately, everyone wins.

What are the largest areas for conflict and concern?

In our experience hours abuse, salary and benefit issues, lack of communication, lack of respect, divergent views on discipline, limit-setting, child care philosophies and priorities riddle many relationships. We also see conflict around the household responsibilities assigned. Not having authority backed up by parents is another leading area for nanny concern.

Who can help? What is the role of the agency in situations like this? In what ways can a Nanny Support Group be helpful?

We see our role as supportive and respectful to both nanny and family. Listening, coaching and helping nanny and employer determine whether conflict is cosmetic or structural is one way we can help. We also offer constructive and effective ways to best express concerns to employers. There are times when the nanny and employer are engaged in a misalliance and it might be time to assess whether or not the relationship is viable. Families and nannies are not mind readers. It is critical to help nannies and parents talk about their issues.

There are local nanny support groups and organizations that can be helpful. Joining larger, national professional organizations is also a great resource. Nannies might want to consider taking an assertiveness training course if really unable to speak up.

What do we do in the case of parents afraid to express concerns because as many have confessed to me, “What if she bolts?”

We explain that without giving feedback to a nanny they forego the opportunity to enhance job performance growth. Holding on to issues also results in passive aggressive behavior that can be far more damaging than constructive feedback. We also encourage them to give feedback in a constructive and positive way.

Positive Communication has to be stressed.

Issues that are ongoing must be addressed in a timely fashion by both sides. A solid job description that is discussed prior to employment can prevent many conflicts.

At what point is the relationship so riddled with problems that it should end?

There comes a time when conflicts are so habituated and so disruptive and the relationship is so compromised that it might be best to end the relationship.

Scheduling a time to sit down and talk allows the channels to be open and bring up concerns before they become disasters.

Weekly or bi-weekly routine meeting is a structured way to assure that uncomfortable topics or concerns will be aired.

How do stereotypes of nannies or of affluent parents get in the way of understanding or get perpetuated by nanny or parent peer groups? How can we encourage nannies and families to talk in a real way?

It is critical that nannies and employers regard each other as people with needs, feelings and goals. Mutual respect, understanding and collaborative sharing of goals are one way to obliterate negative stereotypes. Proximity and interaction is the best way to dissolve stereotypes.

Addressing these issues can possibly prevent……

two parties holding things in until they explode into either a firing or a packing bags and walking out scenario. The biggest victims in this situation are usually the children who do not fare well with revolving caregivers and the hostilities in the aftermath of such big, dramatic blow ups.

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