WHAT I WISH I KNEW BEFORE HIRING MY FIRST EMPLOYEE

I found the answers by getting back to the basics of humanity.

One of the most underrated things about adulting, especially when it comes to living on your own is the art of managing a household. I don’t know about you  I’ve learned most of everything else through experience.

I’ve been living as an I-N-D-E-P-E-N-D-E-N-T Woman since I was 19 and learned some of my most important lessons through this journey. My first experience taught me to share such intimate space with 4 women who had different personalities and different ideas of what ‘home’ looked and felt like. Other living situations taught me the importance of setting healthy boundaries with close friends. I had to learn how to balance my friend and roommate hat. Living by myself for the first time gave me a taste of the beauty of solitude. But nothing could have prepared me for an essential lesson that I’m still trying to finesse almost 4 years later— how to cultivate and maintain a healthy relationship with the people that help me run my home. For my people who live in Western countries, please hold the eye-roll. I’ll explain.

If you live in Africa, chances are, you have a domestic worker. Why? culture and other things that I don’t have the headspace for in this piece. They are the security guard, gardener, nanny, cook, or cleaning person. In Rwanda we call them abakozi [worker], but attributing that definition to a human always makes me cringe. I prefer House Manager or any of the words used above because I believe that there is power in the words we use to describe people. I also believe that there is value in all hustles. Not everyone can be, or wants to be a lawyer, doctor or financier. We all have different skills and talents that are worthy of respect.

When I moved into my own place 2 months after moving back to Kigali, I hired someone to help me out at home because, when in Rome. None of my living experience in Chicago had prepared me for this. I was clearly in over my head with the norms of how to handle the situation. There have been plenty of frustrations, set backs and complete violations of trust, including having plenty stolen from me. I’se used harsh words to express my struggle for trust. I’ve learned a lot of hard lessons but in the end I realised that the responsibility starts with me.

Here are some things I practice in order to build a healthy, mutually beneficial relationship with the people who help me adult better.

KNOW THEIR WORTH & REFLECT THAT IN THEIR COMPENSATION 

In every country, there is market rate,a number designed to keep us from getting played, but sometimes, this number is the devils work. If a person is cleaning your home, watching your babies and cooking for you, they are significantly improving the quality of your life and are potentially shaping what kind of person your child will become. How much you pay for such a role is between you and your conscience. The market rate is sipping tea somewhere in a corner giving you a serious side-eye.

THE GOLDEN RULE ALWAYS REIGNS SUPREME

No amount of money will ever give you the right to treat anyone like they are less of a human than you are. I feel like this is a principle that all of us innately know to be true. Treat people how you’d want to be treated. Be respectful, be kind, practice the manners you’ve learned along the way. Give people regular days off, even God needed rest on the seventh day. Respect the boundaries of their scope of work, this isn’t slavery with a stipend, friend.

ESTABLISH & RESPECT BOUNDARIES 

In the beginning, I left a lot unsaid. I never asked for references(you must), I never had a copy of their IDs(you must). I was handling the situation so casually. Because these interactions take place in our homes, the fact that this is an employee/employer dynamic can get lost on us. I thought, how complicated could it be to be on the same page with an adult about a pretty straight forward arrangement? Wrong.  Like any other relationship, there needs to be some honest, transparent conversation that frankly tables expectations. We can’t expect people to manage our expectations when they don’t know what they are. Have the conversation, it’s worth it.

LIFT AS YOU CLIMB

I can’t express enough how important it is for us to give an assist to the people we cross paths with. We tend to classify this as something that can only be done with capital but the spirit of lifting as we climb is greater than just “secured bags”.  It might be teaching a new skill, introducing a new contact that could open new doors of opportunity, a new perspective— whatever it is, when the time comes, make sure your employee leaves with something they didn’t come with.

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