Friday, February 15, 2013

Communicating with Your Employer

Whether a job is going well or there are issues, good communication is essential between the nanny and the employer.  Obviously it’s much easier to communicate all the positives – how much you enjoy your job, how great the family is, the latest fun activity or humorous comment from one of the children – these are enjoyable to share.  It’s when there are issues that we need to really work on effective open communication skills.
Avoiding conversations about issues of concern is not a good approach.  Nothing can change in a situation unless dialogue is begun.  Nannies are great at teaching these concepts to the children in their care, but not always the best at communicating with their employers.  Certainly the personal nature of a nanny position is part of the challenge. 
Consider the following tips in effective communication with your employers:
1) Communicate Daily
            Whether you connect at the start of your day or an update at the end, it’s helpful to make a daily contact.  Many nannies use a log noting the pattern of the child’s day, but making the effort to have a short conversation can go a long way to keeping the communication flowing.  Keep this connection light – this isn’t the time for an in-depth conversation.
2) Timing is Everything
            While a light chat at the end of the day is nice for touching base, it isn’t always the best time for a serious topic.  If your employer has had a challenging day at work this might not be a great time for bringing up issues. In this case let them know you would like to talk, the subject matter, and ask when would be a good time for them to discuss this with you.  If it’s a child related situation that you feel needs immediate attention you should ask, “Is this a good time to discuss . . . ?”  Then they will know you have something that needs their attention.  Launching into a topic without this kind of notice doesn’t promote good communication.  If something of a serious nature relating to the children has occurred, you may want to call or email them as soon as possible so that when they arrive home they know what’s happened. Never discuss issues in front of the children.
            Sharing all the wonderful things the day held also needs their attention.  While a log is a great option so is a quick email, phone call, photo or text message – it helps them feel that they are in the loop when it comes to their child.  How wonderful when parents can come home to good feelings about their children and you!
3) Periodic Meetings
            It is a good idea to set a plan for meeting with your employers periodically – perhaps after the first 30 to 60 days, 6 month, year anniversary, and at least yearly thereafter.  This time should be set aside to discuss all aspects of how the job is going, any concerns or challenges, and set goals.  It is best to meet away from the house if possible and definitely at a time when children are not present.   Remember we have a Performance Review Form that can be used for these formal meetings.
4) Balanced Approach
            Starting a conversation can be challenging, especially if there is an issue that needs attention.  Beginning with some positive comments can help ease into more serious matters.  Then be clear and direct about concerns – your employers are not mind readers.  Giving concrete examples can be helpful in illustrating your point.  Then listen to responses and reactions.  Be prepared with options and ready to problem solve together.  Set new goals which may include another follow up meeting to discuss progress.
5) Good Listening Skills
            Being an empathetic listener is a valuable skill and goes a long way in communication with your employer.  Try not to react or be defensive, really think about what they are saying so that your response will be thoughtful and appropriate. There are times when sensitive topics need to be discussed; your supportive listening skills will help ease uncomfortable feelings that may arise.   
6) Be Prepared
            It is a good idea to write down topics you wish to discuss with your employer before you meet with them or complete the Performance Review Form.  Make sure to note examples and have some suggestions ready for options to consider.  Also, if you feel you may need to compromise or negotiate on things have those ideas prepared as well.  Then as you meet you’ll have your notes to reference.  Some nannies feel intimidated in these formal meeting settings; taking notes as you are discussing issues can help you ease tension and are a good source of information after the meeting is over. 
Effective communication skills are an asset worth developing – a life long skill.  Your employers will appreciate the professionalism you demonstrate and the children in your care will benefit from the model you provide.

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