Occasionally a nanny or housekeeper will work for years for a family and then get a bad reference, no reference, or a 2 minute phone interview after 5 years of loyal service. Her career is basically over.
There could be several reasons why a family refuses to give a reference.
· The employee really wasn’t competent, or she wasn’t as good a fit as the children got older and the duties morphed.
· She gradually took more and more advantage of the family’s good will and the family wasn’t decisive. Dad is saying, “Get rid of her!” but Mom is hedging, “But she loves the children so much! Or “I don’t have time to deal with this now!”
· A nanny begins quietly judging your parenting style, has crossed boundaries or broken confidentiality.
· A bad judgment call resulting in immediate termination.
If I feel it’s a misunderstanding, I will encourage the nanny go back to the family and hash things out.
In these tough situations, the family needs to discern whether the nanny was just not a good fit for their particular family, or ages of children, or skill sets required, or if there are serious character flaws that should not be foisted on another family. Was it a onetime problem? Could she learn from it? Some Moms would prefer to let their nanny go rather than addressing things like macaroni and cheese left on the counter all day. They really don’t like the manager part of their role, and I can relate to that. I had to have a friend ‘hold my hand’ as I let my first employee go. It was painful, but she just wasn’t a good fit.
However, in these tough economic times, a family doesn’t want to cause someone to be struggling financially simply because personalities didn’t mesh, or they don’t like communicating.
Here are some guidelines to ease the pain.
1. It’s crucial to make distinctions, since the well being of other families and children are at stake. Reliability, trustworthiness and honesty are core values that you deserve and your children need to see lived out daily.
2. Sometimes personalities don’t mesh, communicationstops, and attitudes and work habits worsen. If this is what happened, try to see both sides and be fair.
If you never told your nanny what frustrated you about her lack of effort, is it fair to put that on her reference? But if you told her and she didn’t improve, then you’re right.
3. When talking to another family, ask questions first. Maybe the problems you had won’t apply and she would be a better fit for them.
4. Bring out the good as well as the bad.
5. As an alternative, consider writing a letter of employment verification.
6. At her exit interview, gently and frankly tell her why you’re unhappy and can’t give a reference. This will give you peace of mind, and she will know her status and can move forward. You will save her weeks of wasted effort, giving your name out as a reference and wondering why no one hires her.
7. Learn from the experience and let go of it emotionally.
In October, Caring Nanny staff enjoyed a fabulous APNA (Association of Premier Nanny Agencies) conference at the Firesky resort in Scottsdale, just two blocks from our office. Premier agencies from all over the country came to learn from each other and discuss our shared issues. Since we work in an unregulated industry, we find that we have to create and maintain ethical standards for self regulating.
Ann Klein from White House Nannies (author of the book by that title), taught us how to deal with difficult situations. We discussed how to recruit top nanny candidates, how to recruit and train quality housekeepers, building and retaining a great office team, and psychologist Ann Wycoff Ph.D. shared with us how to assess personality traits to select the best candidates for our clients. A team of attornies discussed legal questions. We got into small groups and hashed out sticky, nitty-gritty ethical questions.
Above all, we made friends with great people from all over the country who we realized we have a lot in common with. We all want to make our clients happy. We want them to like us and we can’t sleep at night if they don’t. We are an ethical group. We really love children and care about who is with them in their formative years. We like to laugh.
It took a lot of work for Caring Nannies to join APNA, and APNA works hard all year to make this industry professional.
Because of APNA’s high standards and rigorous screening process, only the best and brightest agencies belong. Nearly 4 years ago, we had to make significant changes and have all of our documents, applications, website and contracts scrutinized. We had to stop asking illegal questions, we must conduct ourself ethically and uphold professional standards. APNA spies called and caught us explaining that sometimes a nanny can just fill out a 1099, rather than a W-4 tax form. (We thought there were some exceptions, but they actually can’t.) Joining APNA means we commit to excellence in everything we do.