Monday, October 22, 2012

Reality Check

Here at Nannies from the Heartland we are often asked  - "How do I tell the family  . . . ?" or "How should I let my nanny know . . . ?" What they are asking is how can I communicate clearly and honestly while still remaining nice or feeling OK about the conversation. I believe it can be done. I believe that being real is important, even vital. Everyone deserves to know the truth - the reason why a position doesn't fit or the real reason why the job needs to end or to address an issue so improvements can be made. Further I think it can be communicated in a way that while difficult or even painful at the time will be for the best in the long run. This honesty is especially helpful when nannies and families are working on improving the job parameters for long term success.

So how can you be honest, particularly when you have something unpleasant to share, and still feel good about it?
  • Identify exactly what you are trying to communicate. Is it about personality differences, differences in child care style, compensation, hours, responsibilities, duties, respect, etc.? Clearly define it. Writing it down can be helpful. Seeing it written can solidify exactly what you are thinking and feeling so you can communicate it.
  • Timing is everything. Ask for a meeting. Make sure that time and location allows for everyone to be comfortable and able to speak freely. This usually means outside of work hours and may mean outside the work setting. You definitely want to plan a conversation without the children around.
  • You should only speak from your point of view. Use "I Statements" to express yourself which shares your feelings and thoughts with others and invites the listener to see your side. When you use "You Statements" it feels accusatory and points the finger at the other person which immediately puts up barriers to communication.
  • Share positives as well as negatives. While communicating issues and concerns you also want to share what is going well. It may be possible to build from the positives and problem solve as you move forward dealing with area for improvement. Even if a job is coming to an end, hearing the positives can help ease through the process.
  • Give examples. Giving a broad title to a problem doesn't always provide enough information. If the issue is about being "organized" then provide details about that. What did you observe that gave you the impression organization was an issue. Go further and state what you would expect so that there are goals set going forward.
  • Just say it. Often the best way to address a problem is to state it, get it out into the open. Frequently we wait and brood over the issue which adds anxiety to the process. It's better to get it out so changes can be made - even if that change is to end the employer/employee relationship.
  • Listen fully. Wait until the other person has made their point. Don't interrupt while they are speaking. Focus on what is being said. Restate what you hear to clarify you've interpreted them correctly.
  • Think before speaking. Take a moment to formulate your answer so that you do not respond out of anger, frustration, or hurt feelings but respond to the issue itself. Sometimes it is appropriate and helpful to let the other party know you want  time to consider what they've said before providing a response. If this is the case give them a time and/or date that you'll get back to them.
  • Call to action. Now that you have the issue out in the open, what do want to happen next? Clearly state your expectations. Are you interested in continuing to work together to improve the situation or are you ending the position? If the job is ending determine an end date. If you are working out issues, when will you return to evaluate progress. Be specific. Then follow through.
Being nice doesn't mean you cannot be honest and real. Being real and honest doesn't mean you can't be pleasant. Having challenges in a job can be an opportunity to change and strengthen the work relationship. Sometimes the job comes to a close for all types of reasons. All parties should know the real reasons things are coming to an end. No one, employer or employee, can improve or make changes for the future if they don't have real information. Honesty really is a very good policy.

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