Fdw Dear


Culture Gap

Customer is Always Right

Managing Stress

A Tale of Two Maids

Skills Equal Power

Stressful Situation
how to rectify it

Dear FDW

In the previous letter "The Customer is Always Right", we saw how a fine-dining restaurant might not always welcome a fussy diner. We noticed that, like the fussy diner, an employer could also be described as fussy.

Some maids have described their employer in negative terms. Do you see your employer as fussy or demanding? Do you consider her a nit-picker? Or do you see her as a nagger? Whether you are happy or feel stressed depends on how you see your employer.

One maid Christina (not her real name) could not understand why her boss suddenly, for no reason, started speaking to her in an unfriendly tone. I reminded her that when Madam first offered her the job, she liked her better than the other helpers she had interviewed. (Christina agreed with me.) If Madam became disatisfied after a couple of months there must be a reason behind it.

First, her employer might be stressed from work, business or something else which had nothing to do with her maid. If this was the case, then perhaps the unhappy situation Christina found herself in might hopefully be only temporary. But the situation may not change if it arose from longer lasting causes. Then Christina must make a serious effort to understand her situation.

After taking time to understand the situation, a domestic worker may conclude that Madam is at fault for being unreasonable even though the helper is doing her best. If Madam is at fault, then the maid may have the doubtful satisfaction for being in the right. She may conclude that Madam is at fault and if Madam would not change, then she could either ask to transfer or put up with the stress. Both choices are not good.

If she stays on, her health will be affected in the long run. Or she might be fired. If she transfers, she may find herself in another stressful situation. Her work history will not be good. Prospective employers are not impressed by maids who never complete their contract. They have little confidence in someone who has worked 3 months here and 6 months there, never completing her two-year employment contract.

On the other hand, a helper might ask herself if she has given Madam a reason to be displeased. She might try to recall recent events that may explain why Madam is unhappy with her. Is she waking up later and later? Has she forgotten more than once to thaw the frozen meat in time for Madam to cook when she comes home? Was Madam unhappy because three months after she hired Christina, she stil had to rush home after office to cook for her family and her maid?

Once the helper recognises the problem facing her, she can do something about it. If she cannot wake up early enough, is it because she stays up late into the night with Facebook? If after a couple of months Madam still cannot depend on her to cook for the family, can she try harder to improve? Even if she cannot improve immediately, Madam can see she is trying. All employers appreciate their maid for trying.

Improving one's skills is not everything. Attitude is equally important. If a domestic helper is taking too long to learn to cook, is it because she has an attitude problem? Is it because she is not willing to learn? If she is successful in learning and takes over the cooking from Madam, she will have more work to do. But the good thing is that Madam will be pleased with her and her situation would not be so stressful. She might even get a raise, if not immediately, then when her contract is extended for 2 more years.

Conclusion: Hard work does not kill but stress will.

Are you currently having some difficulty in your situation and would like to "talk about it"? Write to us; we will reply soonest possible.

Yours truly,

Karl Tan,
MOM Reg: R1105061