Don’t Gossip About Your Boss

Nanny Do’s and Dont’s of Speaking with Parents

In July we started the discussion of teaching children to respect themselves and others. Click here to see the first post on the topic. When discussing respect we must also consider how nannies respect children and parents.
We already talked about Ariel T., a nanny that admitted the boy she cares for does not speak to her in a respectful manner. Then, Marilyn C., confided that the child she cares for simply has no respect for her valuable possessions because all material possessions she wants are given to her. We also considered what Maria F., should do about nannies that are disrespectful towards children. In fact, we posted all last week about nannies that yell at children and ways to overcome that disrespectful behavior.
Today, we hope to help a nanny, Erin S. of Englewood, CO, who has issues with disrespectful caregivers. Erin says, “It irks me when nannies gossip negatively about the parents that hire them. I feel like if the parents are paying them and trusting them to care for their children and home the nanny should respect her employers and keep intimate information private.”
Nannies often rationalize that they do not have a human resources department to air their job grievances, so they have no alternative but to complain to their peers about their jobs. But, the reality is many job positions do not have human resource departments. All employees (no matter their job title) should be careful not to gossip about their employers or they risk their employers hearing about the gossip.
Whenever you have an issue with your boss you must communicate directly to your employer to resolve the issue. Speaking to a third party doesn’t help you deal with the issue directly.
According to Anne Merchant Geissler author of The Child Care Textbook, one of the most common obstacles to good communication is the inability or reluctance to deal with issues directly, honestly, and in a timely manner.
Ms. Merchant Geissler recommends that nannies speak directly to their employers about any problems with the job rather than gossip to their peers when they have an issue with their job.

She suggests setting an agenda before speaking to your boss. Determine the topic for discussion, ask the parents for a time to talk about the topic, and agree on how much time will be allotted with the understanding that there may be future meetings.
Ms. Merchant Geissler recommends the following when speaking to your employers about a problem:
Begin with something positive. Acknowledge the positive aspects or qualities of the situation or individuals involved before addressing frustrating or difficult issues.
Focus on positive results. Believe that everyone’s needs can be met in a satisfactory way. There are solutions that can work for everyone. The challenge is to honor everyone involved in the communication and to be open to all possibilities.
Be patient. Allow the parents to speak without interruption. Listen to what each person has to say with an open mind. Let go of judgmental thoughts. This allows each person to express their feelings freely and comfortably.
Be empathetic. Acknowledge each other’s feelings and concerns. Practicing empathy instead of opposition or intellectual feedback can bring remarkable results in creating nurturing, and mutually supportive relationships.
Talk honestly about your feelings and concerns. You have a right to express your feelings but do so without accusing others or making others feel they are wrong. Take a few moments so that you can state your feelings clearly and directly without being overly emotional.
Develop an inquiring attitude. Ask open ended questions — not statements hidden within questions. For example, “Why do you always so that?”
Use “I” statements. Avoid defensive reactions by coming from your own personal experience. Instead of beginning with accusations that begin with “you,” shift the tone by stating how you feel. For example, “When I heard what you did, I felt angry because I felt like my input was ignored.”
Paraphrase and use expanders. For example you might say, “You felt sad. Tell me more.” This conveys understanding, interest, and inquiry.
End on a positive note. Always end conversations with parents by thanking them for their time and effort for participating in the communication process.
Do you know nannies that gossip about their jobs? Do you have any advice to share with nannies about talking with their employer’s about problems with their jobs?


  1. Gossip is NEGATIVE comments about others. So I think it's perfectly ok to brag about a child's great performance in a play or share how excited your boss is that she is pregnant. But negative stuff should be shared only in a generalized manner.For example, I like that the nannies with issues didn't use their last names in the past week on this blog to protect the privacy of their charges and the parents that they work for.I wonder though is talking about how much we make gossip? I find a lot of nannies comparing salaries.Once one of the mother's I worked for told her friend what she pays me and I was insulted. No one else's business. But is it ok to tell other nannies what I make?Gossip is sometimes hard to define.Karen R., Austin

  2. I agree. You should not gossip about what your family makes, does for a living, what they did during the weekend, what they didn't do…etc. BUT, I have to say that it often helps for me to bounce my "issues" off of my Nanny friends before sitting down and discussing it with my boss. Sometimes, I may have over-reacted and I prevented a unnecessary conversation with my boss. Other times, I just need some suggestions on how to approach the situation. Other nannies have often dealt with the same issues in their jobs. So, I think asking for suggestions is not a problem and I don't think that's technically "gossiping".

  3. Nanny support groups always ask their members to discuss problems in a "generalized" manner keeping names out of the discussion.I think parents do this all the time too. I was very upset when nannies knew how much I was making because their mom bosses already knew because the mother's speak to one another too.In a perfect world we wouldn't gossip. I think you have to confide in only a few very respectful friends that won't spread the info to others.Before negotiating with parents we should be expected to role-play with our husbands and best friends and former bosses. Why not? Venting to a boyfriend is better than venting to your boss. But it's true most nannies I know really aren't respectful and just blurt out personal info to anyone and everyone. I think respecting a family's private info is partly what defines a professonal vs unprofessional nanny.Also, parents should add a confidentiality clause in the work agreement. If the parents don't want photos taken or private issues discussed write it into the contract.

  4. I think that there is a fine line between gossiping and getting advice or help from your friends. Everyone I know talks about their jobs, no matter the job. Everyone. I agree we shouldn't tell others about the private matters of the family inside the home. No one will trust you if you gossip a lot. But I hear nannies talking all the time about the issues in the home they work in and despite our trying to convince others it's not appropriate it will continue.Nanny Sara B.Mount Kisco NY

  5. My biggest pet-peeve is nannies speaking negatively about the parents they work for or job in front of the children. It doesn't bother me when adults ask one another for advice. I just don't think the kids need to hear any greivances or complaints. As caregivers we need to think before we speak in front of kids. I applaude all you do publishing this amazing publication. I show copies to the parents and friends often.Camille HuntersChicago Suburbs

  6. I feel this is a bigger problem with mothers than nannies. At least that is my experience. Some of the mothers I have worked for just create so much drama and I haven't heard nannies do the same thing. It hurt when I found out others knew my salary too. How rude. The mother compare what their nannies are asking for, which is disrespectful. I would never tell anyone or ask anyone how much they make!Nanny Candice15 yrs Professional Nanny ExperienceAtlanta GA

  7. I agree with first commenter that bragging about the kids or job isn't disrespectful. I think parents would agree since they aren't your kids nannies should be allowed to brag freely. I love telling funny stories and acheivements of the kids. I think everyone is supposed to confide in their husband, wife, girlfriends, parents…the problem is when nannies think it's fun to discuss problems of the day. Since the topic is respect I think it is disrespectful when nannies tell friends embarassing things about the kids and the kids over hear what they are saying. It embarrasses the child. We want them to feel good not ashamed.

  8. The sad thing is the nannies that subscribe to your newsletter and read this blog are more likely to be professional nannies that know better than jeapordize their jobs by gossiping about the parents and kids. The ones that are disrespectfully gossiping to everyone and anyone about issues with the family aren't the ones reading this. I think we all complain to a few people closest to us and that is to be expected. It is the nannies that aren't thinking it is a problem that are the problem. Most of us just gossip to a few best friends and family which is normal and to be expected.Maria LopezMiami FL

  9. Confiding in friends about how to approach the parents with an issue wouldn't be considered gossiping would it? Aren't you talking about nannies that complain to others about their jobs or parents about pet-peeves or private matters rather than asking a few friends for advice and support?I think there is a difference between asking for guidance respectfully and gossiping. Asking friends for advice is acceptable I think. But whether the parents sleep in different beds, the parents are temp separating, the father leaves his dirty socks on the floor aren't things nannies need to tell other people. Right?I think that distinction is important because I def want to get advice from my parents and best friends on issues before bringing them up with the parents.The advice for speaking to parents is good. Now let us hope the parents read this and listen to us and use "I" statements and end conversations on a positive note too!Anja, Hoboken NJ

  10. I don't generally gossip about the family I work for and I definitely think it's a bad idea. I think you should treat your employer the way you would want to be treated by anyone coming into your own home to do work. How would you like it if a repairman or cleaner or whatever came to your home and then told everyone they knew private details about what they saw or heard while they were there. People have an expectation of privacy within their home and if you gossip then your employer has lost their privacy which isn't right. The only time I could see justifying it is if you are genuinely seeking advice about a particular situation from a trusted source. Your employer should not be a source of entertainment for the masses and if that's all you have to talk about…well…get a hobby or read a book so you'll have something to talk about! I am interested to hear what others have to say.

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