Navigating Challenging Conversations
We’ve all been there. It’s time to have a challenging conversation with your nanny about performance issues. Or maybe you’re a nanny, and you need to bring up some concerns. It’s tough - I know! How do I approach the conversation? Do I give them a heads-up
about the conversation beforehand? What if they get upset with me?! Well, as a previous nanny of 16 years and now a mama of three littles, who has hired a nanny. I get it, and I am here to help you navigate some of these more difficult conversations.
So, you need to have a challenging conversation with your employer. My most significant piece of advice is that honesty, transparency, and understanding go a long way when having hard conversations. I always recommend having both parents present when chatting and that the conversation be child-free. This may mean that you must schedule a time to sit down together when the kids are napping or down for the night. The three most common issues that warrant a serious discussion from the nanny’s perspective are behavior, contract-related matters, and giving notice. I will touch on each of them from my perspective as a nanny, mama, and agency owner.
Behavior // When discussing problematic behavior with your employers, remember to have grace. These are their children, and these things are tricky for any parent to hear. Wait to have this conversation when you feel calm and not flustered – as tempting as it may be, having these conversations right after a challenging day is not the best time. This discussion is also very important to have when no little ears are present. Make sure to start the conversation on a positive note. What significant behaviors are they exhibiting? What are they enjoying? What is the best time of your day together? After talking about one or two positives, you can start the conversation about the behavior. Explain what behavior they are demonstrating and what the triggers seem to be. Tell them about your response to the behavior and whether you think it is helping or making things worse. Asking the parents if they have experienced the behavior is important and can give you an idea of if this behavior is occurring with everyone. Then talk about solutions, the importance of consistency, ensuring you are on the same page, and the plan going forward. Wrap the conversation up by agreeing to check in on the behavior in writing or in person (whichever is preferred) every week or two until it is a thing of the past.
Contract-Boundaries // You may be worried that setting boundaries or referring to the contract when it isn’t being followed may cost you your job. I am here to tell you that if setting those boundaries and enforcing your contract costs you your job, it is not a position you want to be in. You are a professional and deserve to be treated as such. One of the biggest hesitancies I see nannies feel is around sick days. I get it; you don’t want to put your nanny family in a bind. Please remember sick days are there for a reason. Take a sick day, and don’t feel any guilt about it. When faced with your family going against the contract, the most important thing to remember is that it is okay to say “no” and that reminding the parents of the contract right when the issue arises is crucial. The last thing you want is to have a sit-down and realize that the parents are confused because they have been banking hours or haven’t been paying you on time for the last three months – and you never said anything. As nannies, most of us are people pleasers, though please remind yourself that your contract is there for a reason, and it needs to be followed.
Giving Notice // Giving notice is so so hard. Especially when you are close to the family; your heart may break even thinking of leaving them. I cried crocodile tears every time. I recommend having this conversation in person rather than over email (please, don’t send a text.) Arrange a time to talk to both parents and thank them for your time with their family and say that you have made the hard decision to give notice. Make sure to let them know when your last day will be. At the end of the conversation, relay to them that you will send a follow-up email so that everything is documented accordingly. If you feel inclined, you can offer to be a reference for them as they search for a new nanny. This is also the time to ask them if they would write you a letter of recommendation and if they are open to being a reference. Nannies, if possible, please give a minimum of 4 weeks' notice.
Navigating difficult conversations with your nanny can be tricky. This is someone who spends the day in and day out with your little one. The last thing you want is for them to feel uneasy. It is important to remember that although your nanny may or may not have become a part of your family, they are still your employee, and sometimes tricky conversations have to be had. The most common things I have seen that need to be addressed are performance issues, significant family changes, and giving notice.
Performance Issues // Your nanny has duties outlined in their contract, though you’ve noticed that the tasks have slowly been slipping over time. My first piece of advice is to assume your nanny has had the best intentions. I don’t recommend going into this conversation with a list of everything they haven’t been doing. Instead, check in with them. How are you doing? How have the children been? Have naps been going well? Saying to them, “I’ve noticed a few things slipping a bit. Is there a way that we can get those back on track? How can I support you?” This will likely lead to a productive conversation about their time and how everything is managed during the day. If it continues, it may be time for more of a serious discussion about your standards and expectations.
Significant Changes // If a big change is happening in your family, you may have questions like when do I tell my nanny? How will this affect our nanny? Most adjustments in your family will indeed affect your nanny in some shape or form. For instance, if you are expecting a new baby. The first thing to remember is that this is your family and your personal life. You get to decide when you share the news with your nanny. Keep in
mind that if you tell your child, they will likely tell your nanny. I recommend sharing the news with your nanny first, though when you tell them is entirely your decision. Next, I would recommend scheduling a sit-down with them about how things will change with a new baby in tow. Offering them a raise will be necessary, as will adjusting the contract to add in the responsibilities of a new baby. It’s also possible that your nanny may not be interested in caring for another child or that your nanny doesn’t have previous infant experience. These are all things that need to be discussed so that a plan can be put in place. Another significant change that will impact your nanny is if you are moving. Again, it is entirely up to you when you share this news. If you are hoping your nanny continues with you – I would recommend having the discussion with them sooner rather than later so that if they decide to terminate the agreement, you will have time to find a replacement. Some ways to incentivize the move would be to offer mileage reimbursement for the additional miles or offer them a raise.
Giving Notice // I know this isn’t just tough for the nannies. It’s tough for parents too! You’re essentially losing your little one’s best buddy, and chances are your nanny helps you keep your household together in more ways than one. Unfortunately, when you hire a nanny – the time will come for it to inevitably end since most families don’t keep a nanny until their children are 18 (wouldn’t that be lovely, though.) Make sure to have this conversation in person and understand that this may be stressful for them. You are their livelihood, and chances are they are emotionally invested in your family. Remember to thank them for their time with your family and give them at least 4-weeks’ notice. If you don’t need them for four weeks, please offer them a severance package with at least two weeks of severance. Offering your family as a reference will give them ease of mind as they start looking for prospective positions.
To conclude, families and nannies should be conscious and aware of the other party. Try and show empathy and grace. If your nanny family is running home late from work, try to be accommodating and understand that these things happen from time to time. Families, if the laundry doesn’t get folded one day, assume the best of your nanny and don’t accuse them immediately of not completing all their duties. Remember that good communication is vital for a healthy relationship with your nanny/employer. Don’t be afraid to have hard conversations. They are how we grow and learn.
If you need help navigating a difficult conversation, please don’t hesitate to reach out. I am always happy to assist.
The Nanny Consultant