Updated: Aug 26
I spend time each morning surveying a few popular cleaning forums. This morning there was a post that I feel really speaks to the attitude of some cleaners when it comes to our chosen vocation. The topic was genuine enough. A third party had mentioned that she was having an issue with one of her clients (anonymously) leaving excessive clutter, toys and other stuff on the floors. Essentially that extra work is more than what she had agreed to do for the money that she is charging. Apparently the place was tidy when she looked at the job to write her cleaning proposal. Anyway, her approach to the problem was to offer her client an ultermatum; She told them that they could pick up the contents themselves or face an additional $25 fee to cover her extra time with that task. Not suprisingly this wasn't received well and the entire invoice is now many days outstanding.
Okay I realize that this not very exciting material, but hold on, it gets better, this is where the story begins to get intereseting. Another member on the same page replied with the following retort;
"I have a confession: When people leave a mess like that. I usually just shut the door to the bedrooms and don't even touch it!"
Which is fair game, presuming that the specifications of the job are transparent, for all parties, from the beginning, in regard to the tasks to be performed. It shoul;d be clearly stated in the proposal that the cleaner expressly exclude picking up more than a given quantity of contents from the floors. With Top To bottom Left to Right Dusting for example, our company allows up to ten items on a shelf for the same money. If someone has a collection of small figurines that is a very different commitmtent to pick up, wipe off and replace so many items. One size does not fit all when you are in a tight margin business. The whole point is to find the right price for the particular job. Fortunately such collectors are the exception to the average project. Bottom line, there must be a meeting of the minds about expectations between the parties of any agreement. But here is the kicker, another cleaner on the forum then responds in the thread to say this;
"If they have a puzzle they are working on, I take a piece and flush it down in the toilet, by accident of course"
You can't make this stuff up. So I responded to the post with the following:
Yeah that isn't cool, I mean you are in the service business, so if being of service to fellow human beings isn't truly gratifying for you, then perhaps consider doing something else for a living. Have you even thought about why you do what you do? Confessions are good for the soul, so long as we change the behaior that causes guilt in the first place. Look we all make mistakes, we all have off days, but dishonesty is simply unaccpetable.
Before you judge me as being too judgy, reflect in your own conscience and just see if we agree. These days we ought to be grateful to be working at all. We're living at a time when so many businesses are shuttering, many dreams have been completely demolished by the economics of this pandemic. Think of our entertainers, theature owners and retailers. So in the future please try communicating more effectively and have more patience with your clients. Service comes from a place of love and love is kind and patient. Remember that change is difficult for most people. Your client's are just people and they don't like suprises anymore than you do.
Some folks are more private, about what they are willing to share with others. As for myself, I seek to understand and to be understood. Oftentimes it is possible to communicate your needs if you come from a place of honestly and humility. You might try explaining that you have some concrete goals (one of my own is to be able to afford decent health insurance) And that all your hard work and education is purposefully suppose to bring you closer to your financial objectives. You are in business for yourself to achieve things in your own life. To make that happen you really do need to charge a bit more when the workload is greater than expected. A few people simply won't care about you or your lifestyle, but most do. But if someone really doesn't care about your wellbeing, do you even want to be working for him or her? The other thing is that we need to be mindful of tigheting budgets and market demand for our serices. Many people's investments and incomes are taking a hit right now. Since our industry has histroically always made due with tight margins that can present a real challenge. You might try expressing your appreciation and willingness to revise the cleaning tasks to be financially sufficient.
Employers, know your costs. At Happy Window Cleaning when we send a two person crew out there to sites, there are really four people involved. Three directly in service delivery. So there is $40/hr labor between the two people and another $20 per hour for the person working in the office greeting customers and scheduling their projects. Additionally, I'm usually on the road marketing. All of that is just labor, not even the entire direct costs of service delivery. Add in vehicle costs, fuel, insurance, telephones, cloudware membership fees, marketing costs, office stationary, postage and so on and one beigns to realize what it really takes, money wise, to be finacially sufficient in this business. To succceed, (meaning a slim profitability) we must be business people whose operations are cleaning. We can't be "cleaners doing business", because if you think about it, cleaning is merely one forth of what we really must do (operations). Remember we are also marketers, finance people, staff recruitor's and managers.
If that cleaner worked for me at Happy Cleaning she would have been fired for destroying someone's property intentionally. As leaders we have a responsibility both to our client's and and to our staff. There is a time and place to stand up for your staff. In a case like this you need to protect your customers. We don't shred people for making mistakes, we train people to be able to do their jobs. Some are able to do their jobs but unwilling, using Situational Leadership, the manager must be able to coach those who demonstrate unwillingness to do their jobs. There has to expectations and boundaries. But dishonesty isn't easily fixed, and holding someone accountable is really the only way to ever help such a person. losing a job can be hard on someone, but they will find another and perhaps learn a valuable lesson from the experience. Some clients are known to use hidden cameras to monitor those who are in their space. It is wise to assume that other people are just as smart as you are and to act accordingly.