Author Topic: Help with Housekeeper and communication -updated post 35  (Read 5056 times)

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TabathasGran

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Help with Housekeeper and communication -updated post 35
« on: March 30, 2014, 12:50:52 PM »
This might seem like a ridiculous problem but it's important to me.

I travel frequently for work and about a year ago threw in the towel and admitted I needed help keeping my house clean.

I found a housekeeper, Shirley, online and it has improved my life greatly to have her come every other week and do the basics.  I'm more motivated to keep things organized now and not so overwhelmed by life in general. This part is really important! I like her, trust her in my home and with my pets and want to maintain a good relationship with her.

Also, most of our communication is either over text or via notes. I hardly ever see her and probably will not see her again for months.

But...she's done, or rather said, a few things that really tick me off and I want to hear opinions about a) if others would be bothered by her comments and b) if and how I should address these kinds of comments in the future. I also have some issues with how she does certain things, but I will keep that separate for now.

Here is the most recent example:

I have a friend, Ann, who hired Shirley after I introduced them. Ann has a full time job, is a single parent of two very active kids and has aging parents that she regularly assist. We are very close. Ann's life has been particularly chaotic the last few years and as a result, her house can be chaotic, too.

Just before her last visit, I texted Shirley to ask her to leave the part of my bedroom near the closet alone, as Ann had helped me organize all my work clothes and we had pulled all my shoes out and did not want her to put them back. (She tends to cram things in closets and cabinets to make a room look nice, which drives me nuts! A hidden mess is not less of a mess!)

When I got home Shirley had left me a note. In her note she said "Did I hear you right that Ann actually helped you organize your closet?! Ha!"

I was offended at her making jokes about Ann's ability to organize things. It just seems out of line to mock a friend of mine to me, especially as Ann employs her, too. Also completely unkind and lacking in understanding of just how tough it can be to keep a house clean while raising kids with no assistance.

I would prefer she text when she leaves. I think sometimes she's in and out of here so quickly that she prefers notes because then I don't know how long she was here.

I also have come to despise these notes she leaves a note each visit, always on a notecard and always containing something that sets me off and feels passive-agressive. If you want more examples I will share them.

She also makes passive aggressive comments in person. Last time she was here I said I was going to do the vacuuming. I wanted to do this because I was home, wanted to speed her visit that day for her benefit and because I vacuum after she leaves each time, anyway.  She repeatedly said "You are scaring me" as if I was incapable of cleaning, until I was ready to blow my top!

I would like your opinions on this and perhaps ideas for dealing with the PA comments without being hurtful or negative toward her. She can be a lovely person and I truly don't think she realizes how judgmental she sounds sometimes.

« Last Edit: April 04, 2014, 01:12:58 PM by TabathasGran »

jmarvellous

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Re: Help with Housekeeper and communication
« Reply #1 on: March 30, 2014, 02:45:05 PM »
Is there something you DO like about your housekeeper? It seems to me like all these problems would be solved by hiring a new housekeeper whose communication style was more in line with yours.

There are just so many people in this line of work that I'm struggling to understand why you'd keep her around. I've never had a cleaner, but I have had hair stylists, elective instructors, or service industry professionals I've "fired" (i.e., not gone back to) for this sort of thing. It's a business decision, not a relationship choice.

MorgnsGrl

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Re: Help with Housekeeper and communication
« Reply #2 on: March 30, 2014, 02:51:34 PM »
To me it sounds like you don't like the way she communicates (she is rude about your friend,) you don't trust her (you think she leaves notes instead of texting because otherwise you would have proof that she is not working the amount of time she claims) and you don't like the way she cleans (she chucks everything into closets to make it "look clean" when it really isn't.) With so many strikes against her, I think you'd be better off just hiring someone else.

TootsNYC

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Re: Help with Housekeeper and communication
« Reply #3 on: March 30, 2014, 02:59:56 PM »
Is there something you DO like about your housekeeper? It seems to me like all these problems would be solved by hiring a new housekeeper whose communication style was more in line with yours.

There are just so many people in this line of work that I'm struggling to understand why you'd keep her around. I've never had a cleaner, but I have had hair stylists, elective instructors, or service industry professionals I've "fired" (i.e., not gone back to) for this sort of thing. It's a business decision, not a relationship choice.

I sort of agree with this.

Especially since you seem to be worried about how long she spends cleaning your house. I'm wondering why that is--do you feel that she's not actually cleaning things?

And the whole "chucking things in closets" is a no-go for a cleaner, in my opinion. None of them should do it; they should be asking what you want them to do with stuff that's left out and following those directions.

It's one thing to take the empty glass from the coffee table and put it in the dishwasher. But if you've left a stack of stuff in the corner, the proper thing to do is to take it out of the corner so you can vacuum, and then put it back right where it was.

"Don't mess with my stuff."  That's a basic tenet of etiquette.

I'm w/ MorgnsGrl; three strikes against her. Find someone else. Start looking, and then switch once you've found someone.

m2kbug

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Re: Help with Housekeeper and communication
« Reply #4 on: March 30, 2014, 03:04:45 PM »
To me it sounds like you don't like the way she communicates (she is rude about your friend,) you don't trust her (you think she leaves notes instead of texting because otherwise you would have proof that she is not working the amount of time she claims) and you don't like the way she cleans (she chucks everything into closets to make it "look clean" when it really isn't.) With so many strikes against her, I think you'd be better off just hiring someone else.

In addition, she's in peoples homes and sees the messes and works in a more intimate way in your personal space and life, she passes judgement, and then shares.  What is she saying behind your back about you and your home?  This whole scenario makes me very uncomfortable.  I think I would be seeking services elsewhere.  She works in an industry where she needs to keep her opinions to herself, at least as far with other clientele.  Your referral got her a job with Ann.  You don't bite the hand that feeds you.

As for words, I really have nothing specific.  You could explain to her that it is not appropriate to talk about Ann and other clients, and of course explain to her about keeping closets organized.

Hillia

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Re: Help with Housekeeper and communication
« Reply #5 on: March 30, 2014, 03:05:02 PM »
I also think she's got a big misunderstanding about your relationship.  You're not friends, she's your employee who is hired to perform a certain set of tasks for a certain amount of money.  While  you can certainly be friendly with an employee, you are not friends, and she is completely overstepping her boundaries into friend territory.  Reframe this as if you were her supervisor in a 'real'  job in your office, and she:

- made 'joking' remarks about how incompetent another supervisor was
- made 'jokes' about how incompetent you were at tasks that she usually handled
- hid her work in a drawer so it looked like her desk was clean and all tasks accomplished at the end of each day
- routinely came in and slipped out through a remote entrance and refused to sign in/out so you had no idea when or if she was at work each day

Any of these things would cause an employee to be written up, and the combination of them could lead to termination if they continued.  I think a lot of people feel embarrassed about paying someone to clean their home, as if we're somehow 'too good' to clean up after ourselves and have to hire a 'servant' to do it.  So in trying to be fair and polite and not look as though we're feeling 'above' the people we've hired, we try to make the relationship other than the strictly professional one that it is.  She is a professional cleaner and you have hired her to perform a professional service, no different from the professional electrician or mechanic or doctor or secretary you might hire to perform other tasks.  Treat her as one, keep the relationship on a friendly but somewhat formal basis, and require her to perform the tasks you're paying her for in the manner you expect them to be performed.

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shhh its me

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Re: Help with Housekeeper and communication
« Reply #6 on: March 30, 2014, 03:28:40 PM »
  The joke about Ann without some special context would bother me a lot (I'd be less bothered if Ann made self deprecating jokes about her own cleaning prowess, especially if Ann made jokes in front you her to you.  Note less bothered not totally not bothered)

Have you asked "please text when you leave?" and are you paying her by the hour or for the job?  She could text you 10-30 minutes later just as easily as put the wrong time on a note. 

The vacuuming thing I would actually give her a pass on.  Have you ever had your boss start doing your job when you were in the middle of doing your job? (you can do what you want but I think that can be very uncomfortable)  But why do you vacuum after she leaves, normally?

Chucking shoes in the closet.  Depends on what you're paying her for and what previous instructions were exactly.

I'd need examples of the rest of the PA on the notes.

Bales

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Re: Help with Housekeeper and communication
« Reply #7 on: March 30, 2014, 03:29:51 PM »
I have a housekeeper that comes in every three weeks, so I get where some of this is coming from.  We also communicate mostly via notes... but no notes are needed unless there's some instruction I need to give her or if she broke something (only happened once or twice, no big deal, and she asked me to deduct the cost from the next payment.) I don't know when she arrives or leaves, but I always know she was there and what was done since I can tell (and smell) the house was cleaned. 

There are always annoyances with people being in your house - for example, mine cannot put the shower back the way it was; my shampoo, etc., is always moved.  But I deal with it since I'm just happy my shower is clean.

I think there is a little blurred line and some of her annoying comments are her trying to be friendly/jokey. Some of this you can curb by being strictly professional.  For example, she doesn't need to know WHY you want the shoes left out (or who helped you) - just tell her, "Leave the shoes in front of the closet - I'm mid-project in working on them and don't want them touched."  No need to say your friend who she knows helped you... and then there's no need for her to comment on your friend, plans, or anything. 

I don't think she's trying to be judgmental, but as someone else said, we judge ourselves for having/needing help.  "You're scaring me" could mean that she's worried she's not doing a good job, or her trying to joke that that's what she's being paid for, so you shouldn't be vacuuming at all.

But only you know the tone and what you are comfortable with.  If you intend to keep her on since she's good at her job otherwise, I think you need to wait for another opportunity and confront it directly.  For example, if she says you are scaring her, ask her what she means by that. Then depending on her response go from there.  It is strange because this person is in your house when you are not there, so you don't want to pick a fight, but you can set boundaries and set the tone of the interactions.

newbiePA

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Re: Help with Housekeeper and communication
« Reply #8 on: March 30, 2014, 04:37:39 PM »
I have a cleaning person who comes 2x month.  The most important thing, even more than cleaning, is trust.  It sounds like you Don't have that.  I often leave notes for my housekeeper, but she rarely leaves notes back.  The fact that you want a text is either micromanaging, or a sign you Don't trust her.  I do feel for her with the vacuuming behind her.  I find that odd. When I was home on maternity leave, i just kept out of her way. We barely spoke, except when she came and left.  It may be time for you to find someone new.
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TootsNYC

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Re: Help with Housekeeper and communication
« Reply #9 on: March 30, 2014, 04:40:53 PM »
I'm so curious, OP. You said you vacuum every time after she leaves anyway--may I ask why?

EllenS

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Re: Help with Housekeeper and communication
« Reply #10 on: March 30, 2014, 04:49:36 PM »
One cleaning service my dad uses always leaves little notes when they've been. It is their version of checking in/out so he knows they were in fact there, and who came (they bring 2 people and not always the same ones).
I agree with pp's, I think it is perfectly appropriate - and probably high time - for you to tell your housekeeper directly what your expectations of her "work and best practices" are.
If she is not meeting expectations, after being clearly instructed, the best thing is to look for someone else. It's a job, not a friendship.

veronaz

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Re: Help with Housekeeper and communication
« Reply #11 on: March 30, 2014, 05:34:21 PM »
I find her notes and remarks to be borderline smart-alecky.

You two arenít long-time buddies.  Youíre her employer.

OP, youíre worried about not hurting her feelings and sounding negative, yet she has no such worries about the way she communicates with you.

Time to get someone else. 

Cherry91

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Re: Help with Housekeeper and communication
« Reply #12 on: March 30, 2014, 05:49:32 PM »
I'll be honest, the amount of strikes I can count in the OP's post would have me looking for a different housekeeper.

She cuts corners, she's PA, she makes disparaging comments about other clients, you suspect she's not working the hours you're paying her for... unless this housekeeper is really amazing at what she does right, I don't understand why you're putting up with her.

TootsNYC

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Re: Help with Housekeeper and communication
« Reply #13 on: March 30, 2014, 06:07:03 PM »
If you wanted wording for what to say about the notes, and the joke about "you're scaring me, that you might vacuum, you horrible housekeeper you!" sort of quips:

Say, "I'm not comfortable with that sort of joking." Write it on the note she leaves for you, and leave it for her. Or say it directly.

Make it be not "corrective" or chastising. Make it be informative. You are telling her something she needs to know.

So, if it's a note you're writing it on, write: "Just FYI--I don't like disparaging jokes."

(and yes, rein in your own tendency to treat her like a friend, or even "someone you know." Give her info the way you'd give it to a total stranger. Minimum. Maybe make yourself have a limit--5 words per note (not counting "please" and "thank you"), no more, so you have to think about what you say. The shoes, for example: "pls leave shoes where they are." Don't give reasons, etc. You don't need to to understand WHY you want her to leave the shoes in the pile they're in. Just tell her that she should.

And, have you ever told her: "I do not ever want you to shove stuff into closets. I'm not hiring you to tidy up; I want you to clean. So if I've got a pile somewhere, just move it aside so you can clean -under- it."  I did say that to my cleaning lady, along with the message that if it's too complicated to move it, she can just clean around it.


shhh its me

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Re: Help with Housekeeper and communication
« Reply #14 on: March 30, 2014, 06:18:54 PM »
If you wanted wording for what to say about the notes, and the joke about "you're scaring me, that you might vacuum, you horrible housekeeper you!" sort of quips:


The bolded could have just as easily been " You're scaring me , you keep this up you wont need me any more." So "Why?" or "I'm not sure I get the joke?" Because OP feels its a PA jab and even if the cleaner never makes another quip some damage has been done. Now if the quip was intended to be "haha you cant clean." I'd "quip" back " Well I'd not be laughing, if I normally liked to clean you'd be out of a job. I don't fine these type of jokes amusing to be honest."   Otherwise I agree.