Imagine if you were offered an opportunity to work for someone you’ve been hoping all your life to meet. Not as a Personal Assistant, but as a maid. Will you decline it? I bet NO. Because all that matters to you is to be close to the person. You would watch, take notes, observe and give it all it takes. Would you trade that opportunity for all the gifts in the world? Maybe NO. It is with this same reason I say “What training is supposed to do, all the gifts in the world can’t do”.
I have had the privilege to serve in leadership positions before, and all I can say is having people who look up to you isn’t a feat for a faint heart. Many of us are unaware of the responsibility we incur when we choose to hire maids. A brief look into the background of your maid will make you see that her coming to work for you was her only escape route from an environment that constantly told her she could never become something in life.
I am sure some of us have had experiences where these maids come with just two pieces of cloth and that’s all that they have. We employ these kind of people because at least for now, nobody sees housekeeping as a job for educated people.
Imagine for once what goes on in the mind of your maid the first time she enters your house. Her uncertainties, her fears. She says to herself…”How can I ever fit into this environment”? Later on, those fears become aspirations “One day, I will have things”.
It is those aspirations that lead them sometimes to lie, to steal, to try on your clothes and shoes, to take your big meat from the pot, to drink the juice from the fridge, fill in the blanks. They are misguided aspirations. She wants those things but doesn’t know how or when she’ll get them.
These actions might get us angry as employers. And for many of us, this is the stage where we say we can’t take it anymore. Having to look after and teach a grown adult is not a responsibility we are ready to embrace. So we send them on their way, and then the cycle of firing and re-hiring continues. We have a turn-over of eight maids in one year.
When I preach the message of training, it’s not just about classroom, pen and paper. It is about making your maid see that if she watches and follows closely enough, there is nothing that she wants from life that she won’t eventually get. It’s about correcting and teaching from a place of understanding, about making her see the importance of her job and making her see a side of herself she has never seen before. My manager when I was working in the bank is a perfect example of the picture I’m trying to paint.
The bank employed a new driver for the branch that was totally clueless. If you have ever worked as a marketer, you know how important it is to have a driver that knows everywhere. And not just the normal routes, but shortcuts inclusive. This guy was totally new in town and to make it worse, he had just learnt how to drive. He was rude, he was like a walking time bomb. Any joke could tick him off and he’ll flare up. It was a normal thing for him to insult one of the marketers daily. I’m sure this description fits some of your maids. All of us would complain endlessly to my manager, but the man refused to fire him. Instead, he gave us his driver and asked this new driver to drive him. One thing that could be said of this new driver was that he was very neat and he always resumed early. Gradually, we started to see changes. His attitude didn’t change overnight, but he became better. He was working with someone who was determined to teach him and patient enough to watch the transformation take place. I don’t think I can say he was fully transformed, but he outlasted every other driver in the branch. In no time, he knew everywhere. From my manager, I learnt what it means to be the ultimate example. I don’t know what he could have been saying to him regularly, but I am sure he was able to connect to the driver even though he would have been firm, like the boss he is.
So when we compare our maids comprehension to that of our kids, saying even our children are more teachable than they are, also have in mind that they are adults whose minds have been formed in a totally different environment. Training will take time. Transformation may take even longer. This doesn’t mean we are to be slack or side observers. No. We will correct firmly and punish where necessary but in it, we will communicate that the end goal is to see them THRIVE.
Many times, once we are able to push through that “aspiration phase” I described above, we will be astonished at the person that would emerge. Something that could be of help during this seeming unending phase is to focus your energy on the good things about her. Like the driver who I mentioned was neat and timely. We all have our limits and they vary from one person to another. So at the point when you feel you are reaching your breaking point, you have the option of asking for help from an experienced person or terminating her.
And as you would expect, not everybody would accept training. Wisdom is knowing when to say your final “enough is enough”.
I will continue to create resources till there’s a structure every employer can replicate aimed at helping maid employers discover ways to get the best out of their maids. A fantastic maid is not a coincidence. She is fantastic because deliberate efforts were made to make her that way.
I would love to hear your experiences and work together with you, helping you to make your employer-maid relationship better. Please drop a comment or send a mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Your Maid Whisperer.