By Janet Adetu

There is so much palava around domestic staff today, whether they are in your home, office, or environs. Due to the gory stories one keeps hearing you are torn between concluding that they are a necessity, or they are evil.

I have heard some friends say that due to a past experience or a friend’s past experience they can never have anyone to stay in their home again.

Well since we are talking about human beings you can be sure to experience all manner of personalities, character, temperaments and more. Yes you will see the ugly, the bad, the good if you are lucky the very, very good.

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I have had my cook and driver for up to 18 years now. People always ask me what I did or how I have been able to maintain them. There must be something magical that I am doing to keep them, not all domestic staff are bad.

Well, the truth is I have an etiquette strategy that has worked for me all these years. I cannot claim to say that it has been rosy all the way, but indeed I have structured my home in a way that my staff have learnt more from me than the service they are providing in my home.

They have understood what I want, what I like, they know when they have overstepped their boundaries, because I will scold when I need to and reward when necessary.  We all have domestic staff for varying reasons, whether they are nannies, cooks, housekeeper, cleaners, errand boys, drivers, security, they come from all works of life.

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Who are you bringing into your home? Is the person young, older, mature, married? How comfortable are you with that person? There are so many reasons you may need to hire domestic staff, it could be:

  1. Due to the nature of your job, where you finish late, it could be a project you are working on that requires you close late hours; you need someone to be home with your kids.
  2. You have young children you need someone to pick them from school. You need someone to assist them with after school lessons or to assist with homework. It could be that your child is too small or too young to start school at the moment so someone needs to be at home with your child.
  3. For health reasons or a disability can also be why you need staff.This person may act like a mini nurse or health aid in and around the home.
  4. It could also be by nature of your status at work, domestic staff comes as a benefit so you are stuck with them anyway.

It is important to remember though that nobody is indispensable; do not be fully reliant on any of your domestic staff. Be ready to take on any task if push comes to shove, have your eyes and ears on the ground, learn new skills if you must.

Back to why I have staff for so long. I have developed a process in my home that identifies the role of everyone who works for me in a clear and concise manner. You know what is to be done the entire week long. You have a responsibility to take charge of your job role and be outstanding at it. Yes there are days when things are not working the way they should or my staff have fallen short of expectation, but it is how I manage that situation that makes the difference. It does take the right behavioral attitude from your staff to achieve that.

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one thing I must say hear is that if for any reason you have any iota of doubt, or you feel that the person somehow is not right, the vibe you are getting  is quite negative, please get rid of that person immediately. Do not leave room for doubt or for circumstance to arise before you blame yourself and your gut feeling. Take action now.

Domestic Staff Etiquette Strategies

My Tips as I promised.

Appropriate Age

There is a common practice for people to have children, teenagers, aged 13, 14, 15 years as house help. Be careful as you may be seen to be violating some laws here, as it is deemed that  such ages are eligible and entitled o be taught in a school environment and not to be seen working. I prefer working with mature staff, who will value the income that they have worked for. By this I mean the salary is going towards their children and family welfare. Choose age appropriate staff that are adults without risking violating the law.

Comprehensive Interview

It is not enough to take someone based on the words and recommendations of another person. It is important you conduct a detailed interview with anyone you plan to take into your home. Find out their level of experience, their goals and ambition they have for themselves. The interview should determine their mannerism, behavior, character and countenance towards you. What kind of lifestyle do they live, are they single or married? Be aware that many lies are told at this stage, note what you hear and verify later.

Trail Period.

After you are satisfied with the interview process, which is all verbal provide an opportunity for that person to have a trial period for 1-3-7 days depending on what you are comfortable with. A lot of times you may see the best performance during the trial period and this may change once you have fully employed them. What is key here is for you to identify the level of exposure, professionalism, behavior and respect they show during this trial period.

Medical Test

This is a complete necessity that should not be overlooked. Any staff coming into your home should complete a medical test to clear themselves of any issues, health scares, contagious diseases or pregnancy. Keep that record safe. It is important this is conducted at a reputable medical practice.


Watch out for the temperament of that staff, you would have noticed during the initial interview if you can work with such a person. I agree most times they appear cool, calm and collected during interviews and this may be quite deceptive. Watch if they blow their temperament, or they have harsh and aggressive tendencies. Sadly many children experience the harshness of their nannies, however due to fear and anxiety they are unable to talk out loud report or act accordingly. Please once again I say have your eyes and ears on  the ground.

Don’t miss part 2 on Domestic Staff Etiquette.  Share your experience with me I am keen to listen to you.


Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.