Three Signs of a Miserable Nanny

I read a terrific fable on one of my recent flights to Hong Kong written by Patrick Lencioni called Three Signs of a Miserable Job. 

I’ve always questioned why some nannies stay with employers for years even though they are at the bottom of the pay scale while those who have top salaries change employers like underwear.  This little novel brought such clarity for me and I’d like to share Lencioni’s thoughts as it relates to you, the nanny employer.

        The first sign, anonymity is the feeling a nanny gets when she realizes that her employer has little interest in her as a human being, knows little about her life outside of their home and has no idea who her friends are or what her interests are.  The fix:  It’s easy, get to know your nanny better.  Engage her in conversation about her family, her dreams of her future, her friends, what she did on her days off.  If she needs a lift somewhere, offer her a ride.  You’ll have an opportunity to ask probing questions enroute that you may not have been able to ask during the busy work day.  Show that you have a genuine interest in her as a person, not just as your children’s nanny, will make her feel special. This gesture proves that you really do care for her as an individual.

        The second sign is irrelevance.  This happens when your nanny does not feel that her contribution makes a significant difference in someone else’s life.  Essentially, if you take your nanny for granted, she probably suffers from “irrelevance”. The Fix: Every nanny needs to know that what they do positively impacts your life and that of your family.  Acknowledging this on a regular basis is essential. We all think that we can’t live without our nanny but does she really know that? You can easily send this message to your nanny by recognizing her with kind words and written thank you notes just for doing the things that make your life easier that day.  Flowers, movie tickets, an extra afternoon off, mentioning to someone else in her presence, just how special she is goes a long way in making her feel relevant.  Compliments are free so don’t be stingy.

The third sign of a miserable job is “immeasurement”.  This is when your nanny cannot assess for herself her contribution or success.  Nannies who have no way of measuring how well they are doing on any given day feel that they cannot measure up to your expectations.

This is one of the most common reasons nannies leave jobs.  The fix:

Take the time to set specific goals for your nanny to achieve.  This could be teaching your child a new skill, reading your child 3 books a week, preparing 3 new nutritious snacks a week.  Schedule regular performance reviews.  Many families feel that this is not necessary because they are so happy with their nanny.  Remember, unless you give her an opportunity to measure her success by outlining your expectations, she will assume that she is not able to achieve success.

It’s really very simple.  Make sure your nanny feels that you really know who she is outside of her job.  Ensure that she feels that her contribution to your family is important, necessary and has a significant positive impact every day. Give your nanny a way to measure her success, outline expectations clearly and acknowledge her achievements.  If you follow these three elements, I can assure you that you will have a happy, long term relationship with your nanny. 

A good relationship with your nanny is not just luck.  It takes effort.

Audrey Guth


Diamond Personnel Inc.

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