Domestic HR Management 01/06/2010

Ever tried managing a bundle of domestic staff? Ask any husband this question and he would chuckle and say, “What’s so difficult about it, I am sure it is a left hand job for any intelligent person. We manage them by the dozen in our corporate world.” Yes, I tend to agree with him if the household staff are half as intelligent and efficient as their employer and understand the meaning of loyalty. If you are lucky, your work load is not only halved, leaving you with enough time to concentrate on your other interests but if you are not, and are faced to deal with a permutation and combination of staff with an overdose of intelligence (or a total lack of the commodity), shrewdness or stupidity, greed or jealousy  and a pretense of loyalty or honesty, I can assure you that you are in an unenviable position in spite of possessing the whole lot of them.

Take the driver for instance. After a lot of deliberation you choose to employ a man who is on the wrong side of sixty rather than one half his age thinking he will not grudge driving your old Ambassador and will refrain from overspeeding unlike the young ones who prefer to be at the wheel of the latest jazzy air conditioned cars with a music system. But let me tell you what a foolish decision it had been.

The problem arises sooner than you expect when you want to attend a meeting late in the evening, when you are informed that your past-sixty driver has been postponing his cataract operation as he could not save enough money that is required to pay for it!  Since you are left with no alternative you shell out two months’ salary of his as advance not hazarding to drive the car yourself. You eagerly look forward  to his appearance giving him enough time for the surgery and rest thereafter. But to your surprise  he presents himself the very next day saying  the  operation has to wait  till his sugar level came  down and until then he would continue with his job during the day.

You feel helpless and want to sack him but do not have the heart of writing off the advance you paid just the previous evening. The month goes by with you foregoing all your evening engagements and no sign of your driver’s sugar level decreasing. When you pay his salary withholding a part of the advance, he comes out with another sob story as to how he has to maintain a family consisting of his wife and four children.

As days pass, you are in for more unpleasant experiences that you begin to have second thoughts of shopping for expensive things because you notice your driver jealously eyeing those huge and attractive carry bags you are shoving into the rear seat of your car. You prepare yourself for what follows next – another instalment of advance, the sum varies according to your shopping whether it is for gold, silver or clothes. If you try not to give in to his pleadings, his tone immediately changes, to one of bitterness and you are forced to put up with his monologue of the strange ways of God, of how He is kind to some who are fortunate and not to others like him who have to slog all their lives.

Next comes the cook-cum-help you have engaged with an idea that you will be relieved of household chores and other nitty gritties of daily life. Before long this species called cook/help proves to be more a hindrance than anything else because she is neither a good cook who can cater to the varied tastes of the family nor efficient at housekeeping besides turning out to be an intruder into the family’s privacy.

By the beginning of the third week your stock of groceries, which usually lasts a month, starts dwindling, your gas runs out before the month passes out, the conversations among the family members during dinner become extinct and entertaining almost disappears. You end up eating out most of the time or getting food home as the lady is familiar only with pure south Indian culinary, that too items you can count on the fingers of one hand and displays a total reluctance to learn anything new arguing that it is all junk food and not good for health.

You notice your  part-time help engaged to do top work, who had all along been quietly going about her chores without compalining, suddenly displays her freedom of expression as she finds a willing confidante in the cook/help; they are so absorbed in sympathising with each other that they are oblivious to the overflowing overhead water tank or running taps.

Sometimes, you find the watchman too (whose job is to keep a vigilant eye on screening the visitors entering the house) is more watchful of what is happening inside the house than outside with the result you find all and sundry making a sudden appearance!

Will anyone give me some tips on how to manage this domestic human resource?

N Meera Raghavendra Rao




5 thoughts on “Domestic HR Management 01/06/2010

  1. Prof.V.N.K.Kumar

    Some tips for whatever they are worth : Get rid of all the people. Dismiss the driver. Forget the advance given. Recovering it requires you to be a Pathan. It’s never too late to learn to drive through driving schools.Dismiss the domestic help. Use the washing machine for under-clothes, vacuum cleaner and the dry cleaners for sarees, pants and shirts. Next dismiss the cook who cannot cook. Buy a rice-cooker if you do not have it already. Buy packets of MTR Ready-to-eat packets of Bisibele bhat, Palav, Mattur Paneer, Chana masala. Put it in a microwave for a short while and serve. MTR Kheer/Payasam is ready within 10 mts……….

    Phew ! You can maintain status-quo and keep complaining about their loyalty, duty-consciousness and service-mindedness, increase your blood pressure and have a stroke or become independent and forget your journalism, book writing or blogging. There are costs & benefits attached to every decision in life. Which moron said that life is simple ?

    1. meera rao

      Thanks for your prompt comments.I want to know what “to become independent ” means. I have stated what life means in my editorial.

  2. Prof. V. Raghavan

    The key lies in thorough screening before hiring. If you hire the wrong person, even if you sack him/her later, they can create a Union problem like threatening anyone coming in his/her place.

    I agree with Pof Kumar. Cook yourself. I cook breakfast everyday, usually Idlis eaten with MTR Chutney powder or sambhar left-over from the previous day’s cooking done the cook. It hardly takes any time, what with Thayaar wet maavu available at all stores.

    1. meera rao

      My past experience had taught me that one can dispense with the cook, a driver and even a watchman, but certainly not one’s maid, not in the Indian context atleast. A maid is a necessary and indispensible evil .One has to put up with her whether one likes it or not.

  3. Prof.V.N.K.Kumar

    When I said “To become independent” what I meant was “To become less dependent on others, specially drivers, maids & cooks if you want to retain your sanity”. Since energy of a human being is limited, after attending to these chores by yourself, you will be left with no energy for creative work like journalism, writing a book or blogging. So it is a case of a Hobson’s choice for you. Since your work is your calling, you do not have any choice in the matter.

    You have to take the help of others who might not have your values, who will keep frustrating you in all possible ways and testing your breaking limit. The trick of maintaining your equanimity is to avoid the efficiency & effectiveness criteria used by commercial organizations and to evolve a much more humanistic criteria of reduced expectations and compassion, which you seem to be doing already. When you write about them, you show so much empathy. I liked that. Initially some people no doubt will take advantage of your kindness, try to get away with minimal effort but I am sure they will see in due course of time, your innate goodness, feel guilty and try to serve you better. I feel you have unconsciously picked up this compassion thing from your MIL .

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