I always feel conflicted when someone else cleans my house. On the one hand, there are times I’m sidelined due to injury or illness, or just plain too busy to keep things looking tidy. On the other, it feels much too “Lady of Leisure” to be lolling about while someone else does the scut work, regardless of how much they’re being paid. Ideally, I’d be out of the house but it’s not always practical.
This feeling of guilt makes it even more difficult to fire someone if they’re (OK, she – because, let’s be honest, it’s usually a woman) is not doing a good job. Admittedly, this is a “high end” problem that won’t get you a lot of sympathy from any friends and family who clean their own homes.
Nevertheless, whether and how to do it is a legitimate quandary.
I hate to generalize, but I’ve found that even the best cleaning people become complacent after a while. If you really like your housekeeper but are becoming unhappy with the quality of work, here are some suggestions before you pull the plug:
- Make sure you’ve given clear direction, such as “Please clean under the bed.” Leave a pair of shoes under the middle of the bed and if they’re still there after she’s finished, well, there’s your first clue she’s not too motivated.
- Give her several chances to do better if you really like her, without letting her know she’s on probation. Each time ask for specific chores to be done and notice whether she added these to her to-do list or skipped other tasks to make time.
- Ask her to help plan her schedule and make sure you set reasonable expectations. Maybe she only needs to clean the oven or guest shower every two weeks or once a month, whereas she must do the master bath every time. Make sure she actually has enough hours to do what’s needed and adjust accordingly. And of course, make sure you pay the going rate for your neighborhood.
After a few weeks, one of two things will happen: Either you’ll be happier with the work or it will be time to part ways. Needless to say, never break up with someone if they still have your keys!
This is one of the few instances where I believe fibbing is in order.
- Say you’re going on vacation. Then try a cleaning service.
- If the service does a noticeably better job, it’s time to cut the cord and trot out your best excuse. My suggestion: “I have to cut back on our spending. So I’m going to have to clean the house myself. I’ll never do as good a job as you do.” There is absolutely no percentage in telling someone she’s not up to your standards.
- Wait until after she’s done for the day. You don’t want her to be simmering with resentment while she’s dusting the breakables.
- Pay severance if she’s been with you for a while – at least the amount of one or two service calls. She counts on the income and it may take a few weeks to add a new client.
- If you’re letting her go because you’re moving, make sure to give her plenty of notice. An extra bonus is a nice gesture.
All things considered, I prefer using a cleaning service. You always get new people, so you don’t develop an awkward relationship. And I think they try a bit harder.
Remember: Be fair. Be firm. And line up your next option before you quit cold turkey.