A trend that threatens to put women right back into their domestic place was highlighted this week in the New York Post: Employees are trying to get ahead by babysitting their boss' kids. More specifically, female assistants are the babysitters (more often than not) to their female boss' babies.
While hiring a trusted, low-paid colleague who needs extra cash may seem like a no-brainer to the boss with a busy social life, this is a bad idea for everyone involved.
This scenario happened repeatedly at a former job, and with the right mix it did seem -- on the surface at least -- to work out beautifully. In a roundabout way, I experienced it myself when my occasional babysitter saw a listing for an internship where I was an editor. I recommended her, and she got the gig. But then she was no longer my babysitter, but my co-worker, as I didn't feel comfortable either applying pressure as a boss, nor creating the perception at the office that she might be in my favor due to her amazing ability to get my daughter to sleep on time.
A co-worker of mine pointed out, as this article does, that for some young women climbing up the ladder in NYC publishing, this could be the only way they get ahead. That may be true as the competition for jobs reaches an all-time high in an industry in crisis. But as someone who never babysat, and as someone who now hires babysitters -- it's a conflict of interest to hire your employee for personal matters.
If my editorial assistant is my baby's favorite babysitter, you bet she'll have an advantage even if I try hard not to let that influence me. Alternately, if my baby has an accident while the assistant is on duty, don't think that won't play into my feelings when it's promotion time. That's not fair, and it's certainly not fair to judge a woman in the workplace based on her skills in the domestic arts.
For your own protection, imagine this scenario: You're the authority figure at work, and after you have one too many drinks after a night out, you come home to your assistant who has put the kids to bed and is hanging out watching your DVR. What are you going to say to her that could potentially be inappropriate due to inebriation? Or what might she see on your DVR that is meant for your eyes only? Or in your medicine cabinet?
The job market is tough right now, and blurring the lines is nothing new (golf game, anyone?), but if you want to keep your professional relationships pure, ask your friends and neighbors for a sitter recommendation. Keep your assistant where she belongs -- in her cubicle until all hours of the night.
Would you ask your employee to babysit?
Image via CarbonNYC/Flickr