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Misplaced Expectations on Domestic Staff

So far, we have unlearned three ideologies; perfection, ownership and packaging.

Today, we’ll unlearn misplaced expectations

Have you ever heard the phrase “Jack of all trades, master of none?” I’m sure you have. It is often said to refer to people who do everything but don’t have an area of expertise. But the full phrase actually reads “a jack of all trades is a master of none, but oftentimes better than a master of one.”

Now, it takes on a different interpretation looking at the full phrase. But what I hear when I read it over and over and interpret in the context of domestic staffing, is that every employer has a choice to make. You are either going to be hiring a jack of all trades or a master of one. Two different kinds of domestic staff and therefore two different levels of delivery and job expectations should be placed on them. If you hire a jack-of-all-trades domestic staff, it means they can have knowledge of everything you actually need them to do and confident enough to attempt tasks but may not be able to deliver the level of excellence and expertise you need in certain areas. They may be great at one or two things, but the excellence may not extend to all areas of their work. Think of someone who can do laundry, but doesn’t iron or fold meticulously. They’ll wake up on time to sweep, but you’ll find out they missed out on certain areas. They do not complain about their work but they may not just get it when you complain about certain things about their work. In contrast, a master of one is actually really really good; expert in childcare or housekeeping or cooking. But may not be able to transfer that expertise to other areas. When you tell your very great nanny to wash dishes or clean the children’s room and she does a poor job, you wonder if the reason for doing a poor job is because she isn’t doing it wholeheartedly, when in reality, she just hasn’t developed an expertise for it.

Where am I going with all of this?

In the context of domestic staffing, I wouldn’t quite agree with the phrase implying that one option is better than the other. However, what I would say is that once the choice has been made, understand what comes with your choice and be willing to work with the outcome of your decision. Expecting a jack-of-all-trades to deliver at expert level in all tasks may be too much to ask. Also, expecting a master-of-one – who has spent hours training, learning, practicing to do that one thing very well, to deliver that level of expertise in all trades will not work.
For you, the action point from this blog may be to determine which of these two categories your domestic staff falls into, and then start to observe or assess her performance in light of this.

Maybe you also need to re-assess your home’s need and check if you are still okay with the choice of staff you made. The frustration you feel may be because you hired a jack-of-all-trades when you should have gone for a master of one. Or that your home has evolved from needing the former to the latter. If you find that you lean towards preference for a master of one, then you may have to start looking for different masters of one in the different specializations of domestic staffing that your home needs. Masters of one in housekeeping, childcare, cooking etc.

So, let me tie this up. You may ask if it is possible to convert a jack-of-all-trades to a master of one. Yes it is possible. But trying to convert your jack-of-all-trades to a master of one will take time. It will not happen overnight. Find their strength and what they already do well out of all they do and then be willing to spend time training them in that area. Also, to teach a master of one to be a jack-of-all-trades, they have to learn how to transfer their excellence to other areas. Again, it will take time. So, don’t be in a hurry.

Phew…hope this gave you something to go think about and take action too.
One thing I enjoy is that I really love how I also learn when I am writing. Best believe that I am going to be reading this over and over again.

You’re the real MVP for reading to this point.

I’ll see you in the next post.

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