Nannies and Au Pairs: Saying "No" to Your Boss

Do You Find it Hard Saying “No” to Your Boss?

Over the years many nannies and au pairs have complained about some of their job duties to me, yet they don’t simply say “No” to their employers when asked to do something they don’t want to do. Instead of griping to their friends, it would serve most caregivers better to calmly and respectfully stand up for themselves at their jobs.

There are many reasons it may be hard for caregivers to say “No” to their employers. Nannies and au pairs may not say “No” because they want to please their employers, they think not doing what is asked shows they don’t appreciate their employer or their job, they are insecure, or they may be afraid of confrontation.

When working in a private home with no human resources department nannies need to stand up for themselves, since no one else will do it for them.

That doesn’t mean in-home childcare providers should be disrespectful and not perform some duties they do not enjoy. Everyone has to do some tasks they don’t love in order to make a living. But, that doesn’t mean parents have the right walk all over their in-home employees. Overworked and unappreciated nannies and au pairs that cannot communicate openly with their employers are not happy employees.

Saying “No” is easier for some people than others. The key to saying “No” is to be prepared, respectful, calm, and kind when standing up for yourself.

Saying”No” to Your Boss:

Be prepared.

Anticipate questions you might be asked and practice how you would like to answer them. Role-play saying “No” to your boss with a trusted friend, spouse, or family member. Rehearsing the conversation with your boss out loud can help build confidence before the real conversation. If you know every weekend the family goes to the shore and will be asking you to walk their dog without compensation, practice saying you cannot walk the dog, long before they ask you to walk the dog.

Be honest.
Tell your boss why you have to say “No” to the request. Assuming that you have a legitimate reason for saying no, (you are too tired, you are busy, the request will interfere with proper childcare, or you haven’t the skills necessary), you have no reason to lie. Saying “No” comes easier when you value yourself and know you have to say “No” sometimes to take care of yourself.

Choose the right time and place to speak with your boss.
Figure out the best time to contact your employer. Is she a morning person or is it easier to talk when she comes home from work? Is it easiest to text, email, or chat on the phone while the baby is napping?

Pay your boss a compliment while denying the request.
If your boss is asking you to take on more responsibility of being the housekeeper as well as the nanny, that shows you that she has faith in your ability to do the job. Acknowledge that it means a lot to you that she trusts you to do the cleaning job before telling her that you feel you cannot be both housekeeper and nanny.

Try a compromise.
Perhaps you can’t do exactly what your boss asks of you, but it might be possible for you to do some of it. For example, if your vacation time corresponds with the family’s vacation time but they ask you to care for their dog while they are away, you can offer to care for the dog for the two-days, but then ask your employers to hire a dog-sitter to care for the pet for the rest of your vacation time.

What is the worst that can happen?
Do you really think you will get fired if you say “No” or stand up for yourself? Put yourself in another nanny’s shoes and consider what advice you would give her in the same situation. Consider your employer’s viewpoint as well. If you really think you will be risking your job by simply saying “No” perhaps you are in the wrong job and deserve to work with more compassionate parents.

You have to communicate too.
It isn’t fair to your boss to complain to your friends and family about your job without trying to communicate your issues with the parents. It may not be obvious to the parents that you have an issue with what they ask you to do. They may assume you can always say “No” if you don’t want to do it. You respect yourself and your employers more by being honest and saying “No” sometimes.

Do you find it hard saying “No” to your boss?


  1. "NO" is the the hardest and most difficult word for me to tell me boss. I guess I just need to start practicing saying it over and over again. I don't think I risk losing my job, but I guess I feel guilty because my boss has done so much for me and my husband, that I feel like I can't say "NO" to anything. Very frustrating for me, so hopefully this is something I can work at.

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