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Helper - Should She Stay or Go?

  1. #9
    jgny is offline Registered User
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    Thanks ladies for all your replies.

    A little bit more about the situation. I have my own business from home and some days I have time to cook, and some days I don't. I do love to cook but I think what frustrates me is that every time I cook I also try to teach her at the same time. She does not pick up quickly and it ends up frustrating me and her. So that's why I think cooking classes would be a good idea. Does anyone know if the classes at Town Gas are better or the ones at the Y?

    The other issue is that she can be defensive and insists she is right (even in the face of common sense). Sometimes the lack of common sense is just something I don't want to deal with (particularly when I have a busy day). For example, when she buys eggs I ask her to write down the expiration date since she throws the container away and puts everything in the egg holder on the side. The other day I noticed she wrote the eggs we have now expire at the end of October. I explained to her that it must be wrong as eggs do not last for that long but she was adamant that the container did say October. Another example is that she called me from Park n Shop where I asked her to buy Haagan Dazs strawberry ice cream. She said there was none. Fine, I asked her to tell me which brand had strawberry ice cream. She said no brands had strawberry ice cream. Now, that seemed strange to me but I had to believe her. So I asked her to go to Wellcome that was 2 minutes away and get it there. It was there. Common sense would dictate that you go to another supermarket or 7-11, right? I mean they are all on the same street (Robinson Rd). Now it may not sound like a big deal but if you get a bunch of these things every day it starts being annoying.

    Lisa88 - good points. I was too "general" when I was hiring. We were just happy to finally find someone that we both liked and I was so sick of cleaning and going to the market. She can cook basic Chinese but I need a make dumplings from scratch level cook and to be fair to her, this was not obvious in the beginning. We are a couple, no kids, husband travels a lot but when he is here I like to make healthy dishes that taste really good as he spends a lot of time in hotels and restaurants eating food that is too rich and greasy. The problem comes up when I travel (I'm gone for 2-5 weeks at a time) and he does not like her cooking so he will go out and eat at the noodle shop and Tsui Wah and all these other places that are not good for him. So it's frustrating because what good is it to have a helper when you can't even enjoy her cooking?

    But (to your points Gracey) I feel terrible about letting her go, she has a horrible personal situation.

    Let me think about this and see if I can work out some solution.

    Thanks for all your thoughts ladies. So very helpful.

  2. #10
    mazamarie's Avatar
    mazamarie is offline Registered User
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    For example, when she buys eggs I ask her to write down the expiration date since she throws the container away and puts everything in the egg holder on the side. The other day I noticed she wrote the eggs we have now expire at the end of October. I explained to her that it must be wrong as eggs do not last for that long but she was adamant that the container did say October.
    You might find she is indeed correct with this. I have just check the eggs I purchased about well over a week ago and they have an expiry of 29/09/11. So the eggs she has just purchased could very well have an expiry in October. I would never have thought eggs would last that long either.

  3. #11
    TheQuasimother is offline Registered User
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    A working couple, no kids and the job is not done to your satisfaction (which I feel is your own doing given that you don't have time to train her). You're going to be even more unhappy when the baby comes (I'm presuming you are pregnant). Otherwise, if your husband is the baby, you are on the wrong site!

    Let me get this straight. You want to fire the poor woman because
    (a) she cannot cook for your husband who is a grown man capable of managing his own diet and making choices about them i.e. healthy or unhealthy options.
    (b) she doesn't have the 'common sense' to go to another shop to find you strawberry ice-cream, check the expiration eggs ... . The 'common sense' that you require MUST be trained as every family's 'common sense' expectations differ. You could have simply told her to go to another shop.

    I don't expect my helper to know everything I would do as I'm Type A and I think a mile a minute ahead of even my own spouse. My helper is a helper for a good reason. Cut the poor woman a little slack please. You're two grown-ups in a household who can't seem to 'manage' a helper. A good helper requires a lot of help from us. Given time, they become excellent helpers. We've gone through our fair share and have learnt that employers play a crucial role too in assisting good people achieve their potential.

    Unless she outrightly refuses to improve herself to suit your family's needs, then I'd say, fair enough, she needs to look for a new employer. But sounds like she simply needs further training. So give that a go instead of pondering whether or not to fire her because she can't cook/clean the way you don't have time to train her. It just doesn't sound like the fair thing to do.

    My helper who has been with us for two months, cannot
    - cook the meals we like the way we like it to save her life, she can however cook great Filipino and Chinese food (which is not a norm in household) so we have that instead
    - organise my cabinets they way I like it
    - clean my home they way I like it

    But I'm not going to fire her as I recognise that I am at fault for not having the time to train her except for an introduction every so often when I have a spare moment on Saturdays (and even then, I'd rather be spending time with the kids than train her). Sometimes, a helper is just used to a certain way of doing things and takes a long time to break a habit. Just like you like your dumplings made a certain way. It doesn't mean that she is not a good cook. She simply is currently not able to cook they way you like it. One of our old helpers took awhile to manage a two week menu plan. How bad was it, try 10 times to get French Toast right.

    For us, as long as the house is cleanish, did not burn down, she didn't lose our children, the kids seem happy with her, didn't steal, we don't fire our helpers because I know how much harder it is to cook and clean for my children after work.
    “If you want to get to the castle, you’ve got to swim the moat.” Richard Jenkins in Eat Pray Love

  4. #12
    jgny is offline Registered User
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    Mazamarie - really? I will look next time for sure.

    Quasimother - some fair points there. I don't agree with all, but I do appreciate your taking the time to post. This "managing a helper" is different from "managing business staff" so it is good to have some perspective.

  5. #13
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    Gataloca is offline Registered User
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    I do agree that what may be a common sense for one, might not be common sense for other. I don't know how long she has been working for you, but probably she just need time to know you and know what your expectation is.

    And about your example about your helper calling to tell you that there was no Haagan Dazs strawberry ice cream on Parkn'Shop... what is wrong with calling and asking "Ma'm, there is not strawberry ice cream, do you want another flavour???"

  6. #14
    thanka2 is offline Registered User
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    Quote Originally Posted by jgny View Post
    I'm really on the fence about my helper. She is an excellent cleaner, no complaints at all.

    BUT she is a horrible cook. I do admit I have high expectations as I am a good cook and I love cooking, but all in all, she can only cook a few basic dishes which my husband and I are sick of. I have to give her a recipe and watch her closely to make sure things are being done right. She does not have a cook's intuition and often lacks common sense - for example, she once almost put 4 bars of chocolate in a recipe which called for 4 ounces. The thing that grates me is that she always give me a blank look whenever something like this happens.

    I see my other friends that have helpers have fantastic Chinese and Western food on the table every night and just think that I will be able to find someone who is good at both cooking and cleaning.

    At the same time I do feel bad for terminating her. I did offer to send her to cooking classes but she was insulted. She told me she could cook but I told her she could not, not up to our standards. She has been trying, but I've concluded she will never be a decent cook.

    What would you do in my situation? Wait out the contract (another 18 months?) or terminate and find a new one? It's also a bit tricky as she is live out.
    If you've hired a helper to cook and clean only and childcare isn't an issue, I'd just wait it out 18 months. The likelihood you're going to find the exact person you're looking for is slim. Not everyone is a good cook and if you have particularly high standards then you may not be impressed with what others might think is just fine or even good.

    As far as sending her to the class--that is the only thing I would have an issue with. In my job, I have to do a lot of professional development courses. I can't just say to my boss, "Oh, no thank you, I already know how to do that" or "I'm insulted! How dare you want me to be better at my job!" I'd lose my job. That is where I would draw the line.

    I would tell her, "You need to improve your cooking skills or I'm going to fire you. I will send you to the class and you need to learn something from it. If in ______ months you do not show a big improvement, you'll need to find new employment."

    Her attitude is the problem but it also could definitely be an ability issue. Our first helper couldn't cook to save her life but she cleaned like a dream. Did you, by chance, hire the one we let go? :P
    “Many women have described their experiences of childbirth as being associated with a
    spiritual uplifting, the power of which they have never previously been aware …
    To such a woman childbirth is a monument of joy within her memory.
    She turns to it in thought to seek again an ecstasy which passed too soon.”

    ~ Grantly Dick-Read (Childbirth Without Fear)

    Mother of Two
    JMW, boy, born November 29, 2007, 9:43 pm, USA
    MJW, girl, born March 17, 2011, 4:14 pm, HK

  7. #15
    thanka2 is offline Registered User
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    [QUOTE]
    Quote Originally Posted by jgny View Post
    The other issue is that she can be defensive and insists she is right (even in the face of common sense). Sometimes the lack of common sense is just something I don't want to deal with (particularly when I have a busy day). For example, when she buys eggs I ask her to write down the expiration date since she throws the container away and puts everything in the egg holder on the side. The other day I noticed she wrote the eggs we have now expire at the end of October. I explained to her that it must be wrong as eggs do not last for that long but she was adamant that the container did say October.
    I know it seems awful but irradiated eggs from the US DO last that long! No joke! I've seen expiry dates that were 10-12 weeks away from the date of purchase.
    Another example is that she called me from Park n Shop where I asked her to buy Haagan Dazs strawberry ice cream. She said there was none. Fine, I asked her to tell me which brand had strawberry ice cream. She said no brands had strawberry ice cream. Now, that seemed strange to me but I had to believe her. So I asked her to go to Wellcome that was 2 minutes away and get it there. It was there. Common sense would dictate that you go to another supermarket or 7-11, right? I mean they are all on the same street (Robinson Rd). Now it may not sound like a big deal but if you get a bunch of these things every day it starts being annoying.
    Nope. You think that your helper thinks like you do and she doesn't. This doesn't make her devoid of "common sense" or "stupid." This means that she is in a position as a servant. And servants aren't generally paid or trained to "think outside the box."

    My psychology professor in university said something memorable my first week in his class. He said, "If you don't remember anything at all from this class, please remember that in life, the people who make the decisions, make the money. If you want to make money, you need to be making the decisions in your life."

    In your position, you are the one who "calls the shots." You run your own business from home. You know about "thinking outside the box" and problem solving. That's why you're not working for $3,580 (or so) HKD/month to cook and clean and live in a home that's not your own away from your children. I'm not saying that all domestic helpers aren't good at making decisions but they are trained to be subservient and wait for YOUR COMMAND. To think on their own, in some ways, is like stepping outside their assigned role. Not saying this is the way it should be, but this is the way it is. Go to Mainland China and you'll find the same thing among employees. No one does anything unless they are specifically instructed to do so. Not a lot of autonomy, but also not a lot of risk--they don't have to run the risk of trying something (problem solving), it not working and then getting blamed. This is the way of thinking and the mindset. I just have to say that the reason why our helper is so amazing in our family is that she is very administrative but that is not the norm for helpers. But, my helper also worked outside her home back in the Philippines and was up for management in the company she worked for but because she didn't have a high enough degree she couldn't get into management. She still has those skills, though.

    She can cook basic Chinese but I need a make dumplings from scratch level cook and to be fair to her, this was not obvious in the beginning.
    Chinese dumplings are not easy to make "the right way." I've been trying for years to do it right and have yet to succeed. Cut her some slack!

    We are a couple, no kids, husband travels a lot but when he is here I like to make healthy dishes that taste really good as he spends a lot of time in hotels and restaurants eating food that is too rich and greasy. The problem comes up when I travel (I'm gone for 2-5 weeks at a time) and he does not like her cooking so he will go out and eat at the noodle shop and Tsui Wah and all these other places that are not good for him. So it's frustrating because what good is it to have a helper when you can't even enjoy her cooking?
    2-5 weeks out of 52 in a year isn't bad. I think he won't die from that. Cut him some slack too!
    “Many women have described their experiences of childbirth as being associated with a
    spiritual uplifting, the power of which they have never previously been aware …
    To such a woman childbirth is a monument of joy within her memory.
    She turns to it in thought to seek again an ecstasy which passed too soon.”

    ~ Grantly Dick-Read (Childbirth Without Fear)

    Mother of Two
    JMW, boy, born November 29, 2007, 9:43 pm, USA
    MJW, girl, born March 17, 2011, 4:14 pm, HK

  8. #16
    jgny is offline Registered User
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    Thanka2 - your posts made me crack up. I definitely have a tendency to be Type A and my husband tells me that I need to stop expecting so much from our helper.

    Thank you ladies for giving me some perspective on this, it's made me appreciate out helper's cleaning (making bed perfectly with assorted blankets, duvet, shams), laundry (not one item ruined in these 6 months), and gardening skills (she resurrects orchids).

    I've decided to spend some more time training her on key dishes we want her to make, and to take it slowly and not expect her to get it the way I like it until after a few tries. I think if I can get her to the point where she can make about 10-20 of the dishes we like, then we will be good.

    Everyone's advice was much appreciated.

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