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Keeping The House, Keeping The Peace

Housekeepers; you’re not related to them, you’re not in love with them (are you?), and you’re not roommates, so finding the common ground needed to keep the peace might be harder than you’d think. Let’s take a look at what makes and maintains healthy relationships between homeowners and housekeepers.

It can be difficult to spend too much time around another person, especially if you don’t have the romantic or familial bond that helps keeps personal relationships intact, so what do you do when you sense tension between yourself and your housekeeper, and how do you stop it from happening in the future?

Some people might be tempted to fire their maid outright at the first emergence of conflict, but that might not be a wise idea. Your housekeeper probably already knows how you prefer certain tasks to be completed such as the washing powder you prefer or exactly how you like your bathroom to be presented. Do you really want to go through the process of finding someone else to hire, and then teaching them the details of how you like things done? Of course not! It’s an unnecessary hassle that can be avoided by communicating properly.

For starters, don’t be afraid to extend an olive branch if there’s already been an argument. After all, if both sides actually want conflict-resolution, there’s a good chance this will solve the problem before it gets out of hand. Additionally, behaving in this way will make you into a more agreeable person, which will lead to less fights in the future. There’s no reason why two adults can’t coexist, right?

Speaking of coexistence, another necessary element to any relationship is respect. No one likes to be talked down to, especially by their employer. So be friendly! Tell the housekeeper when they’re doing a good job. Not only will it make them happier to work for you, but it’ll remind them of how you prefer certain things to be done. Maybe the living room looked extra fancy, or your bedspread was perfect and welcoming after a long day. Telling your housekeeper that you appreciate them will naturally ease tension and build rapport.

Another thing to remember is that housekeepers need their space, too! Remember that we’re all human. Everyone knows how frustrating it can be to regularly share close-quarters with someone, so try to put yourself in their shoes. They’re probably feeling just as cramped as you, but without any of the comforts of being in their own home. If you can, try to avoid working in the same room as them for too long so they can breathe more easily.

Remember that everyone makes mistakes, and how you bring them up makes all the difference. If a task wasn’t done to your satisfaction, you should bring it up (you’re paying good money, aren’t you?), but handle it with tact. Here’s a tip for correcting behavior without seeming mean or bossy: Don’t phrase your concern by telling someone they messed up, for it will inspire feelings of inadequacy and resentment.

Instead, let them know how you’d like things to be done in the future, and phrase it as if you were asking them for a favor (with a please & thank-you, of course). This feels friendlier than a demand from a superior, and therefor doesn’t seem as critical. In fact, quite the opposite:

The Ben Franklin effect is defined as a phenomenon where “A person who has d a favor for someone is more likely to do another favor for that person than they would be if they had received a favor from that person.” To clarify, if your housekeeper perceives your words as you asking them for a favor (instead of a criticism of their work), they’re more likely to want to do the work correctly the next time.

Let’s quickly recap the main points:

  • Don’t jump the gun on firing your housekeeper after an argument just because you have the authority. Take the opportunity to be the boss you always wanted!
  • Show your housekeeper the same respect you would want. Make sure they’re feeling appreciated and they’ll happily work for you.
  • Give them their space! No one likes to work with someone breathing down their neck.
  • When mistakes happen, don’t reprimand them! Be friendly, and ask them if they wouldn’t mind doing it your way next time.

This advice probably seems strikingly similar to advice you’d find on maintaining more personal relationships, and that’s no coincidence. If you want to get along with your housekeeper, you’ll have to think of them less as an employee and more as a friend, for friendliness will inspire trust, respect, and motivation to do their job well.