What’s the best way to have difficult conversations with the domestic worker I employ?

Domestic workers labor in the most intimate settings—in our homes, or with our family members—which makes open and respectful communication crucial.

It takes some bravery to address issues in any personal or professional relationship, even strong ones, but greater trust and ease await on the other side! Many of us tend to put off having important conversations when we need to raise a difficult topic, but this just creates more tension.

So how do you raise an issue that’s concerning you? How do you make a change in the daily routine or the terms of the job?

1) Schedule the conversation: Don’t try to sneak in a “quick” conversation about a difficult topic, especially during the often hectic transitions at the beginning or end of their day. If you’re worried about being late for work, you won’t be at your best; neither will your employee if they are worried about getting home to their own kids. Be direct and respectful of the worker’s schedule when figuring out the best time for a conversation.

2) Say something like: I’d like to have a conversation about an issue that has come up for me. I’d also be interested in hearing about any concerns or questions you have for me. What would be a good time for you to talk?

3) Make it comfortable: Let them know that you will pay for them to stay beyond their regular hours. Try to find a quiet time and place to talk, whether in the house or not, when neither of you are juggling household duties.

4) A great communication strategy: Sandwich a critical comment between two positive comments. For example: “We feel lucky to have you taking care of Charlie and I really appreciate how you help her get ready in the morning. But a few times this month you’ve been late, which I know you haven’t intended, but it has caused me to miss important meetings. It’s really important to me that you’re here on time. Is there something I should know about your schedule? Do you have any thoughts? I hope we can figure it out—it would help a lot.”

Tip: It’s a good idea to set up times for regular check-ins during the course of a work relationship.