Quickly come in for a group hug if you are one of many employers in Africa whose maid didn’t come back. *insert tight group hug*. Imagine my surprise when I saw a post by a southern African saying “Maybe your maid didn’t come back because she’s getting rid of toxic people in 2019” *insert sarcastic face*.
It dawned on me that the issue of maids not coming back after being released for a break is not limited to Nigeria alone. Like many employers, you have probably come to accept that it is a normal occurrence and have settled in your mind to find a replacement every year. As employers, we like to assume that no reason could have been a good enough reason for a maid to leave. Be that as it may, whatever the reason she had for leaving, was good enough for her. The responsibility now lies on us to top their reason for leaving except of course you do not mind the turnover.
I wish I had all the answers to the unending questions employers have in this area. Unfortunately I do not. But I ask my own questions and from my interaction with both maids and homeowners have come up with a variety of possible reasons your maid wasn’t motivated to come back. This is assuming all other conditions are in place. E.g. Good living and working conditions, sound health e.t.c. If any one of these reasons ring a bell and you think it is a possibility of what might have played out for you, then it’s time to make adjustments where you can.
Hopefully when you do, your new hire will work for you much longer.
- Too Young (Exploration phase): If you hire a maid in this phase of her life (late teens to early twenties) where she may be experimenting with housekeeping. She will go on from your home and explore tailoring, hairdressing, working as a sales girl, baking and so on. She still has a lot of time to explore so she thinks “why not?” Your home for her is where she is considering if pursuing housekeeping long term is possible. She is not interested in doing it if it isn’t enjoyable. She has nothing she is working towards and once she doesn’t find momentary satisfaction, she is gone. It’s not your fault and nothing you can do may be able to keep her because she will always believe the grass on the other side is greener.
- Too Old (Settling Phase): In you hire a maid in this phase; she probably wants to make money quickly. She concerned about her age, settling down and feels that her time is running out. So she will ask you for an increase in salary and if/when you decline, she’s already scouting for a higher paying job. She is not a fan of long-term savings. She wants to make money in the shortest time possible. Now, by too old, it doesn’t mean she is elderly, it only means she feels too old and left behind in life already.
- No long term plan: In 2018, I interviewed so many maids and I realized the ones that were willing to work for a minimum of two years with their employers, were those who had a goal in view; schooling, a definite craft, a family project and so on. The other when asked questions to determine if they were willing to work long term just gave vague answers like “it depends” or “I can’t say”. When next you are looking to hire, consider someone with definite plans for the future that is willing to work for some time, save up and then move. It gives both parties room to plan.
- Pressure: In this case, the person you hired is a money-making tool in the hands of someone else; probably an agent or even parents. Whenever they find another opportunity that is able to give them higher returns on this person, they put relentless pressure on them to leave. They usually don’t have a choice but to leave you. You can curb this by hiring from a credible agency and signing a contract agreeing to the minimum number of years you are willing to take a maid for.
- Personal insecurities and demons: If you notice that no matter how much you tried to make that maid feel comfortable, she still felt out of place, was reserved, depressed, too emotional and finally insisted on leaving, It had nothing to do with you. She has probably been unexposed all her life and felt like a fish out of water. Coming to a large city and your home intimidated her, made her feel stripped of her covering and comfort zone. Her desire to leave is to be able to return to a familiar terrain. Many employers spend (more like waste) a lot of time trying to change these kinds of maids and end up frustrated at the end of the day.
Make sure to determine during the interview level of exposure. If you eventually find yourself here, start to look for a better replacement before you let her go.
- No Structure (Spontaneity): There aren’t many things quite as frustrating as working in an unstructured environment. As informal as you may think being a domestic staff is, lack of organization and planning can leave your maid tired, burnt-out and frustrated. Due to her lack or education and proper exposure, she might not be able to articulate clearly why she isn’t productive and not able to get things done in a timely and well planned out manner, but she’ll be totally frustrated. An example of lack of structure is a case where your maid wakes up in the morning not knowing what she’ll be doing that day especially major chores. You call 10 times in a day, disrupting it with different unplanned chores and so she’s confused and only able to accomplish little. In 2019, put structure in place. (This is my forte).
- Distraction: Boyfriends, fellow maids, neighbors. These people can serve as distraction for your maid. She listens to them, they earn her trust and she begins to trust their opinion in certain areas. Once they start to tout the idea of leaving and paint it beautifully to her, she starts to consider it. It is at this point she starts misbehaving because she wants to go.
- Capability: If you hire a square peg in a round hole, she’ll probably be overwhelmed. Some employers say they are looking for housemaids when who they really want is a nanny to oversee the kids. In the event they end up hiring a maid (who loves housekeeping and maybe detests working with kids), she’ll be frustrated. No matter how much you teach her, she will be incapable of learning or adjusting.
Your lesson is: be clear before hand on who exactly you need, down to the details e.g. Age range, level of education, qualifications, skills etc.
- Deceit: Many maids have been deceived by their employers. Deceived about the extent of work especially. During the interview, the employer probably painted the job as simple without fully disclosing the extent of work at hand. From experience, normally the extent of work will determine the salary the maid proposes. So if after she has been hired, she discovers that the extent of work far exceeds the compensation she is receiving, she will not come back. Once your maid starts to complain about poor salary, she probably falls into this category.
Ask her what she was expecting when she resumed and what she didn’t expect she will have to do. If you can afford to, you can negotiate a raise.
Always, always disclose the full extent of work during an interview and let there be a signed agreement in that regard.
Which of these reasons ring a bell? Would love to hear your experiences. Drop a comment.