Good Boss, Bad Boss

More than the salary and the perks you provide for your helper, your relationship with her will define how she serves you and your family.

+ Work Environment

"The work is so easy, but the job is so difficult because my employers constantly attack me emotionally"
-From a testimony at Jubilee International Filipino Fellowship

"The most important title of any boss is Not CEO, but rather CEE (Chief Environmental Engineer)"; you are responsible for creating an environment where people can grow and perform at their highest levels." Allan Smith

As an employer you are responsible for creating an environment where your employees can flourish. This environment consists of physical, professional and emotional elements.

Does your helper have adequate storage for her clothes? A decent bed to sleep on? Sufficient privacy? Adequate food to eat? It's 2016 and we still hear that some of our Arrow ladies are sleeping on the floor. If you think that is ok, then I suggest you try it for 1 week. Invest in a good fold out bed to get your helper off the floor and improve her rest. Give your helper storage and hanging space for her clothes and personal items. Discuss with your helper arrangements for mealtimes.

Ask your helper to inventory the cleaning supplies and give you a list of anything she thinks she needs to do her job well. Many of our ladies are professional helpers and they know what they need. Make sure she has the tools needed to do her job well.

What is "air quality" in your home? Is your home, the workplace, characterized by encouragement, laughter and fun? Or is it one of pressure, stress, criticism, and unhappiness? Armed forces train soldiers to perform well in combat situations, but most people perform best in low stress, encouraging workplaces. Employers have asked me "Why should I care about my helper's happiness when the way she does her job doesn't make me happy?!" The answer is simple: It works! A positive, low stress workplace has better outcomes than a workplace full of stress and pressure. If high stress and pressure worked you wouldn't be calling Arrow for advice and help about what to do next. Establish a positive, encouraging workplace and if your helper, after a reasonable time period, does not improve her performance then re-train, re-focus or replace her with someone better suited to your family.

+ Evaluations

Many of us hope that our domestic helper will eventually become a "member of the family". Although we hope to have a good, close relationship with our helpers, it is also important to remember that they are employees and we are employers. At Arrow, we talk to employers every week. They give us feedback on how the helper is doing. Most employers (including me) do not regularly sit down with our employeesand do a "job assessment". Instead, we allow little "irritants" to build up and finally "lose our temper" over some relatively minor offense. It would be much better if we set aside some regular feedback time (once every two weeks for the first two months; once a month after that).

Establishing a "feedback habit" will ensure that:

  • you and your helper are moving in the same direction,
  • will help them to understand your goals and priorities, and
  • will establish a regular forum for communication

Before you do an assessment you need to be clear: What do you hope to achieve? Clarify expectations? Communicate your priorities? Give performance feedback? Encourage? Listen?

I did some homework (on the internet at and found some good tips on how to do an employee assessment. Here is what I learned:

How to conduct an employee evaluation

Step One: Write a simple job description Be sure that your employee has been given a job description and knows what he or she is being evaluated against. Write a simple job description and use your first meeting to discuss and modify it as necessary. It is okay to say "I'm sorry I didn't give this to you when you first started working for us. I was too busy, and I know it wasn't fair to you, but now I want to let you know clearly what our expectations are. I apologize for not doing this earlier." We suggest you keep your job description to one page only. Some employers are "big picture" kind of people who say "I want the house clean and tidy". That is okay, but please describe a bit more about what you mean by "clean and tidy", so they know the standards you are aiming at. Other employers tend to "micro-manage" and list 15 steps to complete each job. Whether you are "big picture", "micro-manager", or somewhere in between - make sure your DH has the resources (time, supplies, money, etc.) to do what you are asking them to do. They are responsible for the work, but you are responsible to "enable" them to do the work in a timely way.

Step Two: Employee Self-Evaluation Give the employee a blank copy of the evaluation form and have her evaluate/rate herself. You will need an evaluation form. The evaluation form should reflect your values and priorities. Here is a simple example:

Rate yourself for 1-5, 5 being the highest and 1 the lowest:

  • Housecleaning __
  • Marketing ___
  • Cooking ___
  • Laundry __
  • Childcare ___
  • Carwash __
  • Communication__
  • Attitude ___
  • Carefulness/Thoughtfulness ___
  • Other: __
    If punctuality is important to you, include it. Personalize the evaluation form, but keep it simple. Allow the employee to "self evaluate" first, then you can agree or explain to them how you view their performance in these areas.

Step Three: Set up a time and place to meet so that you'll have privacy and quiet. Take your helper out on a Saturday morning to a "dai pai dong", have some breakfast, and talk about her performance in a friendly and positive way. You want her to succeed!

Step Four : Leave adequate time. Set aside at least an hour, even though you might not need it. You've spent the time and money to bring your helper from her home country to Hong Kong. By investing a little more time for feedback, you will increase both your and your helpers productivity tenfold.

Step Five: Have a clear goal. What do you hope to achieve via this evaluation time? Do you want to improve theemployee's performance? establish new performance expectations? focus on one specific area? receive feedback?

Step Six : Dialogue. Avoid doing all of the talking. Ask questions and let the employee tell you how they feel and what they need. You might want to ask, "What can I do to help you succeed at your job?"They are responsible for the work, but you are responsible to "enable" them to do the work by providing the supplies and time necessary. You are also responsible to make sure that they have adequate food and rest. Arrow employers have a reputation of "caring for their employees". By listening, caring and accepting feedback, you will find that your employee will work much harder to please you.

Step Seven : Help them relax. Do your best to put the employee at ease, or anxiety will keep her from hearing what you say. Let them know that you plan to do this regularly, that this is a mutual feedback time and not a "judgment". Let them know that your goal is to establish good positive communication, increase your teamwork and to help them "succeed".

Step Eight: Start and stay POSITIVE. Avoid focusing only on areas that need improvement. Every employee wants and needs to be praised, so spend just as much, if not more, time describing what he or she is doing right. This is crucial to keeping a good employee around! Your helper has left her family and home country to come and serve you. If all they ever hear is negative feedback, they will probably decide that the money you are paying them is not worth it.

In my limited experience as an employer, I have come to understand that "appreciation is more important that money." Employees, all employees, want to be appreciated and they would rather work in a low paying job where they are praised and appreciated than in a high paying one where they are regularly criticized. Your DH is no different. Your positive feedback is more important to her than a $1000/month raise.

Take time to sit down with your helper and do a "job performance evaluation". Stay positive. Do it regularly. If you do this well, you will avoid a build up of negative feelings, increase your worker's productivity and happiness, and your whole family will experience greater blessing as a result.