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Management And Training

Letters To The Editor

November 10, 2011
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Editor''s note:

A recent discussion on the Cleaning & Maintenance Management Online Bulletin Board pertained the best way to terminate the employment of an under performing employee.

Advice on how to deal with under performing employees and how to handle their possible dismissal follows below.

Posted by:
Melissa Jent

I have an employee that has been with me for five months.

She started out okay, but I had to remind her several times about cleaning the base area of the toilets and inside the bowl.

I even made sure she had a big refill jug of Clorox Clean-Up and two spray bottles.

I intentionally waited a month to do a thorough walkthrough, with the permission of my building contact and, low and behold, it was a mess.

Dusting was bad, and the bathrooms were pathetic.

I even questioned whether she was mopping the floor.

Some things I had to cleanup and didn''t get pictures of, but I had another supervisor with me and also my contact in the building saw some of these things.

It''s the end of the month and I want to terminate her.

I have terminated employees before, but I think I might have an issue with this one.

Just want some insight on how some of you let people go.

Any help would be appreciated.

Ed Samson

Document your repeated issues with the employee and make sure she understands she will be terminated for not completing the work properly.

Make notes on your verbal criticisms and put as much as possible in writing to your employee.

When you terminate her, give her a list of the problems and specify she is being terminated "for cause."

If you let her work for months without supervision I think is it only fair to give her a chance to improve — perhaps do inspections at the completion of each shift for several times.

If I have to terminate someone, I do at the end of their shift so I can collect keys; I don''t want to chase after someone for keys.

If you think she could cause physical trouble, have someone with you.

End of the month, beginning of the month, middle of the month, makes no difference.

Melissa Jent

I did tell her several times about the bathrooms and the issues with them.

They seemed to be the same every month: Base of the toilets dirty, hair and debris in corners and behind toilets; the worst was the urine stains on the urinals and inside of the bowl, as if a brush was not used on a regular basis.

I guess I should rephrase this: I did walkthroughs and documented what I saw, in writing and in pictures.

I just wanted to see if she would rectify the issues herself, without my constant reminder.

It didn''t happen.

This was the last day and the company we clean for has asked that we remove her.

So, thanks Ed.

Just want to say, I don''t have a problem giving people the benefit of the doubt, but when you are closely trained in detail for a month in the building you are going to clean, I don''t feel I should have to "babysit."

We do weekly walkthroughs and may find small things here and there, but when it is repetitive on a monthly basis, it looks like a paycheck is wanted but not deserved.

There are a lot of people out there that want to get paid, but don''t want to do the work.

Aaron Baunee

Like Ed said, give her reasons for why she will no longer be employed by you.

If she has been notified of your displeasure and still failed to improve her techniques, you are more than justified in terminating her.

Show her the imagery and your notes.

This is irrefutable.

However, remain kind and professional throughout.

It is unfortunate that actions such as this must be taken, especially after you have invested time and money extensively training her.

But, at the end of the day, you work for your client, and if the client is not satisfied, that is taking food from your dinner table.

Nobody enjoys being the barer of bad news, but turnover is a sad reality in our industry.

Ed Samson

You did the right thing.

Some people don''t care.

Some people can''t handle the job either physically or mentally, and some people are just hoping to get fired so they can claim unemployment compensation.

When firing someone for cause, don''t hesitate to protest their claim.

My wife says some people are simply "dirt blind."

Posted by:
Wayne Myslinski

Okay, so I went and looked at a 10,000-square-foot building to be cleaned three times per week.

After looking at it and talking to the person who will award the job, I asked what the price was that he is paying right now … $800 per month is what it is.

He said that, if I wanted this account, I would need to provide better service and a lower price.

Now, I know that I can provide better service, but I really don''t want to go in any lower than the $800.

Any ideas as what I could do or offer to get this account?

I was thinking about stripping and waxing the bathrooms and the kitchen/breakroom at no charge — just one time.

Ken Galo

Are you looking for business just to have something to do?

Why would you take an account that isn''t offering a decent profit and then give them something more for free?

Tell him you are better than what he has and you can prove it at $800 a month.

You are not a car dealership with flexible overhead, government rebates, etc.

Wayne Myslinski

I am looking to pick up one or two accounts to help pay some bills.

I do have a full-time head custodian job, so I guess I am not looking to make a career move — just some extra money for bills.

Posted by:
Karl Blair

I know this subject has been discussed a lot on this board, but I would like opinions concerning the ease or difficulty of getting new contracts given the state of the economy today.

It seems to me that it is more difficult than it used to be where we are located at in Florida for at least two reasons:

  1. A shrinking market — i.e. more vacancies in office parks
  2. Conjecture on my part
I can''t prove it, but with high unemployment, people who can''t find jobs are starting cleaning businesses because of low startup costs and bidding whatever just to put food on the table.

Opinions please and advice as to how to overcome these obstacles.

We specialize in small professional office buildings.

Peter Weiss

Here in New Jersey, there are definitely many more vacancies as well as more people with a vacuum that now call themselves cleaning services.

In the last week, we started two day care centers, two surgery centers and one church.

There is plenty of work for those who operate a good service and know how to sell it.

Aaron Baunee

The key is to differentiate yourself from the competition and show a personable, professional dedication to satisfaction.

While many customers shop solely on price, some care about quality service above all else.

If you are looking to fill your time, price-shopping customers are alright.

However, these types of accounts are generally more work than they are worth.

Of course, in this unsettled economy, any work is better than no work.

Though it takes considerable time and effort, visiting accounts you would like to secure and introducing yourself can be quite helpful.

The link below is to an article from our August 2011 issue about marketing your company versus advertising.

This reply could go on forever, as there are a plethora of factors that go into finding and securing new accounts.

If you want, feel free to send me an e-mail ( and I can provide you with some points of contact that might be able to better lend you some advice.

In the meantime, best of luck to you and Godspeed.

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