Understanding your management style as an employer of a foreign domestic helper (maid)
Published on 3 Dec 2023, last updated on 2 Feb 2024
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Managing a domestic helper at home is not too different from managing someone in a formal workplace in that it helps to understand your management style and how your helper best responds to management.
Every employer has a different set of expectations for their working relationship with a domestic helper. While some may want a purely professional relationship, others may prefer that the helper is treated as “part of the family”.
For this reason, it is important that employers understand both their management style and their preferred employment relationship type before hiring a domestic worker.
Management style refers to the preferred methods for managing and communicating with an employee.
On one end of the spectrum, employers may prefer to micromanage and provide detailed instructions to the worker, preferring that the worker always asks for permission/clarity before making decisions. On the other end, employers may prefer to provide high-level guidelines and instructions, preferring that the worker works autonomously and independently to manage her own time and make her own decisions pertaining to the household where possible.
There is no right or wrong management style, but it is helpful for employers to know their preferences and clearly communicate them to their domestic helper or the agency that they’re hiring from.
How can employers of domestic workers understand their management and communication style?
Below are some useful questions to guide employers in understanding their management and communication style:
- How do you prefer to organise the work schedule?
- Do you prefer to discuss the working duties or would you rather just give instructions?
- How much flexibility and autonomy do you want the domestic helper to have when organising their own work?
- Are you direct and task-oriented or do you prefer a collaborative decision-making process together with the helper?
- How frequently do you interact and communicate with the domestic helper?
- Scenario question: The domestic helper is doing grocery shopping and the product that your family uses is out of stock. Do you prefer the helper to ask you for instructions first or make a decision on their own?
Some employers prefer a strictly professional relationship with clear professional boundaries. On the other hand, some employers prefer to build a close emotional relationship with the domestic helper and for the domestic helper to be integrated into the family. While we always recommend for the foundations of the relationship to be professional first, it is natural for domestic helpers to develop close bonds with family members, especially after working for a household for a long period of time. Again, there is no right or wrong choice, but it helps for employers to know their personal preference and understand their expectations and boundaries on roles, behaviours and responsibilities.
How can employers of domestic helpers better understand their preferred employment relationship style?
Below are some useful questions to guide employers in understanding their preferred employment relationship type when employing a domestic helper:
- How important do you think the social or familial element is in the relationship?
- Do you prefer a closer relationship or one that is strictly professional?
- Do you prefer to have clearly defined employer-employee roles?
- Are you able to provide constructive feedback to someone close to you and your family?
- Scenario question: How will you and other household members such as children address and greet the domestic helper?
- Scenario question: Will the domestic helper take part in family quality time and gatherings? Will the helper dine together with the family or separately? Will you include the domestic helper in family events and special occasions?