What do you do when your customer, a Hong Kong person says "it happened this way" and your client, a Filipino worker, says "No, it happened that way"? When a helper leaves her employer before the end of the contract, there are sometimes accusations of poor performance from the employer, and of mistreatment from the employee. Who should we believe? We don't have an investigator in our company (although in a past life, I did work as an investigator). The helper wants another employer and the employer wants another helper. Does the helper deserve another chance? Does the employer deserve another helper?
Helper: "Do we give the helper another chance? introduce her to another family? Will she succeed the 2nd time around if we match her better? At Arrow we let the lady rest for a day to calm her emotions, and then I have my staff, usually Bolen or Kathy debrief the lady to discover what went wrong. We review all of our follow up records and often call the employer for more insight about what happened. If our staff thinks they deserve another chance, we will try and find them a situation better suited to their abilities and personality.
Employer: Do we give the employer another helper? If there really is mal-treatment, can we, in good conscience, put another helper in that home?" 95% of the cases where we give replacements, we don't need any discussion at all. The helper was homesick, did something serious, was obviously treated fairly and given many chances to succeed, etc." But in a small percentage of cases we have to wrestle with this question "does that employer get a 2nd chance?" For example, an employer fires the helper in less than 2 weeks because grandma doesn't like her; OR the helper resigns after one month claiming she is given only leftovers to eat and works til 2-3 a.m. every day; OR we discover the employer has had 5-6 maids in 2 years. Where there is smoke, there is usually fire.
When we receive wildly differing reports from the employer and the employee (she said, she said), we try to debrief both parties, asking them what happened. We review our follow up records, and talk to our staff about their interactions with the HK customer and Filipino client. We look at the employer's record: how many helpers have they had? (not just Arrow). Did their previous helpers finish their contracts? You might say "Wait a minute. I never fired my helpers? Is it my fault they all quit?" The answer is "maybe." Why can't you keep a helper? What is going on that makes them not want to work for you? We ask the helper to tell us what happened. What did the helper say about the employer after she left their employ? We know that may be feeling bitter, so we have to sift through what they say to try and understand what actually happened. We will talk to the employer about it and try to determine: "Was it mostly cultural? miscommunication? or was mal-treatment involved?" And yes, constant verbal haranguing might be abusive. In the vast majority of cases the problem is cultural or related to mis-communication. More importantly, Is the employer coachable? Are they humble enough to accept some advice on how to manage Filipino workers? OR Will supplying another worker, simply result in more verbal abuse and an early resignation?
Recently we have had a customer call up and loudly yell at our office staff. They even started swearing. If they treat us that way, what treatment must their helpers be suffering? When the employee resigns (they almost always will when working for someone with a temper), should we put another helper in an employment situation like that? How do you make a decision?
Arrow: Finally, we look at our role in the relationship. Did we follow up complaints promptly? meet with the helper for coaching? What other things could we do to better serve customers and reduce their stress. For example this month, we are offering cooking classes, Cantonese classes, English classes and Infant care classes for helpers. The cost is $100 for a 2 hour session. We constantly review our 1 week orientation in the Philippines with Ma'am Nely to see what ways we can improve it.
Most of the cases we deal with are pretty clear, but occasionally we're faced with a "she said, she said" situation, where it is very difficult to know what to do. In those cases we especially need wisdom and courage.