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Quick background on the situation. My wife and I bought a vacation house with a friendly couple (we have known each other since the age of 3 - we're practically brothers) that we visit every so often. The house has a live-in caretaker (a 60+ year old woman) that takes care of the house and prepares it for when we visit.

During our last visit, a couple of weeks ago, I discovered that my friend's wife has zero respect for the caretaker's privacy, entering her room without the caretaker's consent.

She does that to get to the east part of the garden quicker since the caretaker's balcony door is right at the edge of the garden, so passing through that room saves her 10 seconds of walking. Another instance was when she retrieved a book from the caretaker's room. This house has a rather large library and the caretaker often borrows books to read at night or on her free time. My friend's wife decided she needed that book and couldn't be bothered to ask her permission to take it.

The caretaker told my wife about it yesterday over the phone and I was a bit dumbfounded at how inconsiderate a person can be. I consider that room as a separate unit that belongs to the caretaker. You wouldn't walk into another person's house to retrieve a book they have borrowed now, would you?

I am thinking of approaching my friend's wife directly but it's going to be a delicate matter.

How can I help her realize that she should respect the caretaker's privacy?

I realize that this is probably only a small part of deeper character flaws and changing her view on the subject might be a colossal task, but I would like to give it a shot as a friend.

Ultimately, I can just ask her to never enter the room again without consent but I am afraid she might push her husband to get the rid of the caretaker. I'd rather avoid that outcome since the caretaker has been working for my family for 20+ or years.

  • 16
    Would getting a lock on the caretaker's quarters be a solution? It's not IPS related, but it might help against using it as a shortcut. – JAD Oct 27 '17 at 7:58
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    She's worked for your family for over 20 years, if your friend can't understand the importance of that to you and explain it to his wife, there is a problem there. The house keeper isn't causing trouble, but rather being intruded upon, so it is unreasonable for them to try to get rid of her for you speaking up. – user4788 Oct 27 '17 at 8:29
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    @AnneDaunted I looked over the contract and technically he can't fire her without my consent. But if words reach the housekeeper's ears that she's not wanted, she will leave for sure. I just want her to be comfortable and wait her retirement in peace. – Xander Oct 27 '17 at 8:39
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    Depending on your contract, it could possibly be illegal for her to enter the room. My landlord would not be allowed to do that, for example, even he owns the building. – pipe Oct 27 '17 at 10:00
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    @Xander: Depending on the type of lock a locksmith may be able to make you a new key for the door. – Chris Oct 27 '17 at 10:08
58

You don't really need to beat around the bush here.

Something friendly yet remindful will work, like

I've noticed you've been entering the caretaker's room without knocking and without her consent. She's an employee of ours and has a reasonable expectation of privacy, as this is as much her home as her workplace. You wouldn't want someone to enter your room without knocking or asking, so please don't do it to her either.

Your friend probably just hasn't thought of that angle and this is friendly enough that it hardly could be percieved as an attack.

  • Straight and to the point. I like this suggestion better than the other because it's closer to a (justified) demand than trying to negotiate. Taking a shortcut by entering someone else's living space really isn't OK on any level, so the response should be firm – Daenyth Oct 27 '17 at 13:47
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    +1 for the simple answer, though I'd prioritize the fact that it's her home; it seems a stronger point both ethically and legally. – Harris Oct 27 '17 at 14:53
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    Couldn't you be a little bit nicer about it? – BonsaiOak Oct 27 '17 at 18:35
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    @BonsaiOak Is there anything not nice in my answer? This is about as nice as you can be without turning something that is really a firm line into a point of discussion. – Magisch Oct 27 '17 at 18:41
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    "...could hardly be perceived as an attack." I'm pretty sure someone can twist anything into an attack in their own mind. – jpmc26 Oct 28 '17 at 6:01
16

In my experience, people tend to get defensive when confronted directly and may not respond as well as you might want. While you do need to let her know her behaviour is unacceptable, I would recommend a less confrontational approach: a group email.

By sending an email to your wife, your friend and your friend's wife, you can phrase the request in a more generic way and without assigning blame. Something along the lines of:

Hey everyone!

Our caretaker has informed me that she has noticed people entering her bedroom without her permission. I'd like to remind everyone that this is her personal space and we need to respect her privacy. If you need into her room for any reason, please be sure to get her permission first.

Thanks!

If the problem persists, you can try a more direct approach but I would lead with the group email to spare her any potential embarrassment at being singled out and avoid her automatically assuming a defensive posture that could lead to a larger conflict.

14

If you don't talk about this, she will continue this behavior and it might be difficult to change it later.

Since you're saying that you're closer to that couple, you should talk about it with either your friend or his wife. Though, it is better to talk with his wife if you and her are also close and she also respects you.

If you are about to talk about it with his wife, say something like,

I have been noticing that you go via caretaker's room to get to garden quickly. However, it is not a good idea to do this without caretaker's consent , since she might be doing some work and not want to be disturbed. You should care about her privacy. While it is okay to do it sometimes after asking her, but let's not make it a habit.

Just imagine if you were in that room not wanting to be disturbed and I pass through it, how would you feel? She's been working here for more than 20 years. It's her workplace and home as well. Can't we do at least this small thing for her? Please go via other way. It will take only 10 seconds more and won't harm you.

If you are going to talk about it with your friend, try something similar to above.

Non-IPS solution:

You can try to change caretaker's room if possible. Though this is not an IPS solution nor the best one, but it is worth trying in the end.

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    "since she might be doing some work", come on, she lives there. This is someone's home and bedroom we're talking about, not an office. – JollyJoker Oct 27 '17 at 13:20
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    The Imagine *x* and... how would you feel? construct rather patronising when speaking with another adult. I don't think this is a good idea at all. – J... Oct 28 '17 at 18:49
  • See my comment on @Magisch's answer. "How would you feel" is a loaded question. They obviously feel their actions are correct. – coteyr Oct 29 '17 at 8:39
6

In many places a live in caretaker's lodging is considered part of their compensation for the work they do. I am not a lawyer, nor do I play one on TV, but violating the caretaker's privacy could very likely have legal consequences. At the very least it's incredibly rude, at worst you and your friends could be open to breach of contract, labor law violations and an expensive law suit.

I would start with a soft touch and simply ask that the people not enter the caretaker's room without expressed permission.

Hey, try to keep in mind that this is the caretaker's private lodging. As long as they work here and take care of the house that room is their home. Please don't forget that.

If that doesn't work, it's probably worth mentioning the potential consequences of violating the care taker's privacy. These consequences will probably differ by country and contract, so you may need to look it up first, but being aware of your employees rights in the situation is probably a smart thing to do regardless.

A worst case, may be something along the lines of being sued for an amount related to the value of the private lodging, backdated to the beginning on the contract, which I would guess would be an awful lot of money.

I'm somewhat familiar with these kind of arrangements, because they're relatively common in my industry. The value of lodging is often considered at market value, which is usually high.

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    I was going to write something along those lines but not sure about Switzerland... But look up landlord-tenant privacy. Unfortunately I'm most familiar with this because of people hiring young intern types and then "accidentally" walking in on them. Depending on the offenders personality, you might be able to shock her into sense by pointing out that she's approaching that territory. – user3067860 Oct 27 '17 at 16:45

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