Are Nannies and Au Pairs Being Bullied?

We have been discussing kids that are bullied. But what about nannies that feel bullied by their employers?

Photo from ABC television series What Would You Do?

In February, 2009 ABC’s “What Would You Do?” television series asked what you would do if you saw a nanny being mistreated. Would you speak up or look the other way?

In a monthly poll conducted by Best Nanny Newsletter we asked nannies if they are bullied by their employers. Their responses are summarized below.

1. Have you ever been bullied in the nanny work setting?
Of those who responded to the poll just 54 of the 172 nannies, (31%), answered that have been bullied in a nanny position. For the rest of this poll summary we will only calculate the responses from those 54 participants who said they had been bullied in the nanny work setting.

2. If so, who bullied you?
Forty-two of the participants, (78%), answered they felt the father was the bully. Five of the 54 nannies, (9%), said the mother bullied them. While four nannies, (about 7%), said that the children had bullied them. Two nannies mentioned other household employees were being nasty towards them and two others wrote that other nannies in the neighborhood had been bullies.

For example, Maria, a nanny working just outside of Boston explained, “The children call me fat, make fun of my boyfriend, and boss-me around. My friends and family say I am ridiculous to feel bullied by a four-year-old child and her older brother. But, the parents do not allow me to punish or discipline the children. In another situation I would punish such nastiness, but the parents don’t think it’s a problem. I work for them.”

3. What form of bullying were you a victim of, (for example, verbal, physical, or relationship bullying)?
Forty-eight, (89%), of the 54 nannies who have been bullied in the workplace, said the bullying was verbal in nature. Only two women answered that they felt that they had been sexually harassed.

4. What did the bullies do?
The top tactics the bullies used ranked from most to least frequent were: blamed for errors, criticism of work ability, threats of job loss, yelling and screaming, and two participants felt that unwanted sexual jokes were made in their direction.

5. How has, or did, the bullying affect job performance?
All of the 54, (100%), participants have had thoughts of wanting to find another job. Fifty of the 54 participants, (93%), felt anger towards the bully. Forty-three participants, 80%), of the poll said the bullying created stress and anxiety in the workplace, 32 said they had self-doubt in their work ability, (59%), while some mentioned losing sleep making them tired at work.

6. What did you do about the bullying? Did it work? Did the bullying stop?
Most important is that 40 of the 54 participants, (75%), of those who reported that bullying had stopped said it did so only because they left the job.

For example, Sandra from San Diego wrote, “At first I would make sure the kids and I were busy away from the house as long as we could whenever the father was home. I used to try to defend myself which made him even more sarcastic and bitter. I also would argue to defend the mother and children when they were blamed or accused of things too. But, I finally realized that I can’t change him. If the mother wants to stay with the father that is her problem — not mine — and I looked for, and got, another job.”

7. What would you suggest to other nannies about bullying in the workplace?
Iman from California wrote, “Everyone is on their best behavior during an interview but do the best you can during the interview to discuss discipline styles and listen to how the family members communicate with one another. If you have a bad feeling during the interview, just keep looking for a family that seems nicer to work for.”

Genevieve, a nanny working in Montreal explains, “If your employer is a bully, leave. There are plenty of friendly parents who would love to have a great nanny care for their children.”

To see complete monthly poll summaries subscribe to Best Nanny Newsletter.

How would you answer the questions above? Are you bullied at work?


  1. I worked for a bossy father who bossed his wife and kids around, but he hardly even spoke to me, so he was not bad to me. I think many nannies and aupairs are very sensitive and sometimes when an employer asks them to do something they get insulted, feelings get hurt and think they are being bullied when in fact in every job their boss will tell them what to do and boss them around because they are the boss.Kylie, Zionsville IN

  2. I never thought to describe an employer being bossy as being a bully but I can see that happens all of the time.What makes me crazy is bossy kids. They boss me around. I know I am doing something wrong because I am always thinking to myself why is a 9 yr old bossing me around? So utterly annoying and disrespectful! The tone is just so rude. The parents know about this too and we know it's wrong but haven't been able to correct the problem.I feel it's because he is copying his parents and me so he's just repeating what we say to him. Linda ThompsonNanny with 15 yrs expNanny of 4yr old girl, 9 yr old boy

  3. Sometimes I think childcare workers just need to grow up. Of course bosses are bossy sometimes. Boss is in their name!

  4. I think that it is more likely for the mother to bully their nanny since I have always spoken to the mother more than the father at my jobs. The fathers speak to me of course and may occastionally ask me to do something but it is the mother that gives me most of my directions.Nanny of 7 yrsStephanie GellorsMadison Wisconsin

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