4 Key Things I Learnt About Negotiating At Work From My Domestic Help

Posted: May 26, 2019

My domestic help is an inspiration in many ways that I had never imagined.  Let me give you some idea…

Another busy morning and I was running around with my daily chores. Then comes my help and drops a bomb – “Didi I will not be coming tomorrow!”

Please note: it was not – “Can I take leave tomorrow?”

I immediately reminded her that she was already taking the next week off to visit her village. Pat came reply, “That’s why I need to go shopping tomorrow.”

I tried negotiating for a while and finally gave up…

Now as nights seeps in and I’m with my hot cuppa of coffee, I can’t help but reflect on the morning’s conversation, and compare our lives. After all, weren’t we just two women, both of us managing a job and a home?! The only difference was one of us was doing a better job with the balancing act and how! Maybe it’s time for me to learn the tricks of the trade form the one doing it better!

Lesson 1 – Be assertive

Remember the leave episode in the morning? So how would I do as an employee?

Cringe, feel upset, stressed-out, worrying about the pending shopping, but all through the conversation maintaining that polite professional demeanour in front of my boss, not even daring to express my need for a leave.

Wasn’t I grateful that I was getting a week off in a few days? What if I was expected to be available on phone and mail all through my vacation? It was still something I was thankful for…

Lesson no 2 – Define your boundaries

Reminds me of the last time I had to request my help to stay back for some extra work and she refused. “Didi it’s not my job!”

Oh! when was the last time I even dreamt of coming close to saying ‘No’ so assertively?!

Lesson 4 – Money matters (Remuneration)

Here again you can learn a thing or two.

Heavens can’t save you if you don’t give in to her demands! You dare to give her ‘feedback’ or ‘appraise her work’ and you will end up learning about everything that you lack in ‘house management’ and ‘people management’ skills. She will even remind you of her worth in the job market and the offers in hand. Try arguing and risk an attrition!

Have you ever tried negotiating a salary raise like that?

Lesson 4 – Perks at work

Gifts, clothes, are considered an entitlement, with no obligation. A very common response is “What’s special? Everyone gives!”

Reminds me of the maid who worked with me years ago. Her afternoon siesta was sacred; so what if it was a weekend right before major festivals? She would remind you that the afternoon was approaching, a subtle hint to stop!

Hmmm. And here we are attending training sessions and panel discussions for women on the importance Self care, Me time etc., and some women like my help are actually walking the talk.

Again how can I forget the times when I (I’m sure many of you too) forgot even lunch and tea break in the process of chasing that project deadline. Was I complaining? No not all, but why?

Well I really don’t know; but I certainly know one thing, that there is a lot that I need to learn from my mentor, my domestic help!

Author’s note: – Maids/ domestic helps are the life line of our homes, women whom we depend upon more than on anyone, and the intent here is not to undermine their hard work or hurt any sentiments.

Image source: a still from the movie Nil Battey Sannata

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