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Chartered Institute of Ma’am

In Being Ma'am on July 13, 2011 at 6:25 pm

As I sit here labouring away at my Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM) qualification I am distracted by the realities of my real life at the coalface of domestic staff management: I have just sacked my housekeeper: I am uneasy about the situation I find myself in: If only there were a qualification I could take to help me deal with its many challenges.

It seems likely that my housekeeper fabricated the delivery of three tankers of water, over the space of nine days, and pocketed the Rs800 (£11) per delivery. In total that’s about 30% of her monthly salary. As a result I have let her go without salary or severance pay and with no reference.

I quizzed her extensively on the circumstances of the ‘deliveries’ and concluded that she was not telling the truth. However, who am I to decide whether she is telling the truth?  I am not independent and there is room for doubt; the matter was brought to my attention by another member of staff, the evidence against her, although considerable, is circumstantial and she continued to protest her innocence right up to me asking her to go.

Asking someone to leave your home if you do not trust them is a matter of personal protection; not paying money owed or writing a reference is a punishment. So now I am jury and judge. There is a clear power inequality in this situation but in reality there is no alternative (there’s no domestic service arbitration service in India.)

I have all the power. I’ve decided to punish someone even though I have some doubts about her guilt. This is what makes me uneasy. On the other hand, no one said the exercise of power was easy. I had to deal with the situation, I had to make decisions. I did all I could to assess the situation fairly. As a result, I came to the conclusion that she did it. Having come to that conclusion I punished her: I hope that she is clear of the consequences of her actions and is dissuaded from doing it again. With regards to not writing a reference, in reality, I think this may do her a favour as she escapes the possibility of getting a bad one.

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