Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Help Management 101 La Vida Lanka!

photo borrowed from

After my post on Help La Vida Lanka, an e-mail comment from my mom and a discussion with Diplo Wife, I decided to write about a few learnings from this experience.  As I previously mentioned, help management is an area I am not accustomed to.  Leave that for the “adults” to handle!  And now that I am one of the adults in our home, then this is now one of my responsibilities.  As I am just a novice at help management, I had to go through the learning curve the hard way.  Here are some of the initial learnings I have and I hope it will help you, my dear readers in some way:

1)   Be thankful for help!  I know that when you take a cross-section of the world, not even half of the households would be in a position to hire help – whether full-time or part-time for that matter.  Especially in countries where help is expensive or even looked down upon, managing a home is more challenging.  Of course there are trade-offs (more technology to help you around the house like dishwasher, etc.), having help (the right one for that matter) is still a big convenience.  People say “can’t live without them, can’t live with them” – at least for now, with a growing family, I would rather make it work to “live with them.”

2)   They need constant monitoring and management.  It doesn’t mean that when the orientation phase is over, they will work like a well-oiled machine from then on.  They need constant guidance especially for things that are new (such as my new yoga pants).  Be directive if you must because most of them really do need to be given specific and direct instructions.  My mom said not to give them the space for initiative or even to think for themselves – at least not when they have not yet proven that they can.  I mean even at the workplace we don’t give too many decision-making responsibilities to fresh graduates or new employees in certain levels unless they have proven that they can.  To do that constant monitoring and management, you have to have an opportunity to observe them in action.  I went into this set-up because I would rather do something else (like work of course!) so the cleaner was left with a list of things to do as our constant interaction.  She would then “write back” with the list of things for me to buy (cleaning items that have run out).  But it doesn’t work that way.  Virtual reporting relationships doesn’t work with home cleaning.  So I had to make sure that we at least have a day where I am home and can give her direct instructions / corrections, etc.

3)   Recognition is also vital.  I make it a point to reinforce the things that they were able to do well – as immediately as I can.  I’m a bit particular with the cleanliness in the car and asked my driver to clean the trunk.  Once, when I opened it and I was actually surprised it was sooo clean!  I immediately praised him and the smile on his face was just indescribable.

4)   I also saw my mom taking care of our help especially when they are sick.  First, we give them medicine.  At least the first aid kind.  Second, we actually encourage them to rest when they are sick.  One so they could recuperate easily and two so they also won’t spread the virus! At least the “salaried” ones (e.g. driver), when he calls sick, we give that as “paid leave.”  Third, we also try to give them freebies.  When I was in Manila, I used to get free product allocation from the company I worked for.  Some of it we share with our help and even with the guards in our village.  Now, I don’t have freebies but we can get discounted products and we take advantage of that.  On a regular basis we give our help bulk powder and when there are special products on sale, we share the blessing too with people in our condo – security guards and building office folks.  These small things really go a long way – they see you’re taking care of them, and they will also “take care” of you too. 

5)   Things will not flow smoothly all the time.  No matter how you’ve established rules and routines and whatnots, sometimes things will really just get lost in translation, or people will falter (both you and them!).  In times like those, depending on the situation of course but for those that fall under the “normal” range, take it with a grain of salt, correct immediately or apologize immediately as well, sometimes you just have to bite the bullet and charge it to experience and take time out to reflect on the experience – what went wrong, why, how could it not happen again and what was your contribution to the situation.

6)   Hire for “aura” as well.  Now I understand why my mom doesn’t like it when our help is always frowning.  “Bawal ang nakasimangot dito” (frowning is prohibited here) would be an apt slogan in our house.  You don’t want any negativity in your home right?  Trust your instincts when hiring help – in as much as they are capable, since it’s a very personal relationship, it should feel right as well.

7)   Adjust to their strengths and weaknesses too.  Let me borrow another cliché, “nobody is perfect.”  But you have to work with what they are good at and adjust your expectations on what they are weak on.  It saves you the frustration and gets you the results in the end.  I know one of our drivers really move slow (as in drives slowly, etc.) so I always tell him what time I need to get to this place and what is the importance of getting there on time.  I find him adjusting and exerting effort.  When he gets us there (alive) and on time, I refer to #3 and praise him.     

So what happened after Help La Vida Lanka?  Well, it did not work with our cleaner.  She was failing not only on the yoga pants front but in many aspects as well.  I did ask her to pay but she kind of went AWOL after that so I guess good riddance.  Based on #6, her “aura’s” kind of negative and I wouldn’t want her to be around my baby if she’s like that.  Her negativity was what was affecting her work as well and I guess it was all for the best.  I was able to find another maid right away.  She’s awesome.  Not perfect but a lot better than the last and I always make it a point to apply the above learnings in “managing” her.  She has a nice aura as well – very positive and works well.  However she got sick (she had a heart surgery before) and now I’m back on the hunt!  Our drivers are both quite stable.  Both are competent and are doing their jobs well.  When I stop work, one will take on another role (naks!) in a government agency that pays well.  Good for him!

The chapter on help is not yet over for me (more on this later!).  But I hope my humble learnings will help you dear readers in Help Management 101!       


  1. Very informative! :) OCMom says to treat them like you would an employee of a "company". Give them a career path and help them work towards it, so that they can eventually become more than just household help and earn more in the long run. I think that's a good plan! It may mean you won't have them with you forever (or it might), but at least it shows them they're also valuable.

    My best friend also gave their yaya (as a sign of appreciation) their old laptop, and taught her how to use it so that she learns a new skill.

    Things I think about. ;)

  2. Yeah that is soooo true! We had a maid whom we sponsored her college education. She left before she could finish it though but at least it feels good helping someone get an education! We also had a maid who had great potential for cooking / baking. My mom taught her well and once she came and visit (she left to have a family of her own) she gave us some yummy treats she learned from us. Plus she can make it into a business if she wanted to! I also heard of a friend who planned to take her maid (long-serving like 5 years or something) to an "incentive" trip to Hong Kong with her family! Odiba? Soshall! However, I think they had a problem getting her a passport - but she really fought for it and finally was able to get her a passport eventually I think!

    Be ready for it! Hahahaha!

  3. Thanks for putting it all on WRiting Mrs. O! Gosh I am so glad we got to talk... it really helps talking it out with my BFF! And I'll definitely refer to this list from time to time! You know my problem now is of the "aura" kind... I don't know how to fix it actually. =(

  4. Oh no... I don't think "aura" can be fixed unless the person wants to :-( It's not "trainable" so to speak... so you kinda have to "hire for aura." If you see a spark of interest in her to shift her perspectives and what not, jump for it! Haha! I guess for now that's the only way.


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