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Authority and hypocrisy

I am feeling very uncomfortable.

My brother recently came back to the UK, and hung out at the house of course. He just sent me an email to say he thinks our cleaner's no good. As it's his house and he's paying half towards her employ, I am paying attention. His ideas of cleanliness are based on national caricatures; 6 years on the continent he is Belgian in attitude (it must be spotless) and English in application (it must be someone else's job)

It must be conceded, her work's gone downhill. She turns up late, whips around the house smartish and then goes home long before her hours are up. She turned up yesterday, one eye swollen and puffy, convinced we had arranged for her to work that day. We hadn't. She arrived today, and I gave her her money straight away. I told her that she could use our landline if she needed to make an appointment. Her doctor said she could be seen pretty much immediately, so why she couldn't have made the appoimtment before I don't understand but never mind; I let her go to the doctors, and she has come back with antibiotics for the inflammation. She has asked me if she could come back and do some of the housework next week, I have said she can do the upstairs, the study and the conservatory some other timetm. She will do the downstairs and the bathrom now, and then go home.

Why have I paid her so much this morning before she even started a job she is currently doing badly?

Because we are probably going to stop using her services and I feel guilty as hell.


( 9 comments — Leave a comment )
Mar. 6th, 2009 02:03 pm (UTC)
Talk to her about it. With the economy as it is she probably really needs the work, plus she may be going through personal problems or something. Perhaps if you are sympathetic but make it clear she needs to do the job properly she will improve? People tend to respond best to being valued, but of course complacency and things like depression (common enough to most of us these days alas) affect our ability to do things right over time, so maintaining a balance between being supportive/encouraging and making sure she knows she has gone below the needed standard is the key. Maybe you could praise her earlier work before she went downhill, then explain that this no longer happening, ask her why, listen, and encourage her to get back to the original standard?

At least that way you will have given her a fair chance, treated her with respect and won't feel as guilty if you do need to stop using her services...
Mar. 7th, 2009 10:46 am (UTC)
That's a lovely fair way of looking at it, though it feels a bit like talking down to her, and I really don't want to do it. But you are right, it may be the answer.

My brother is talking about offering her the option to do the garden rather than the house, and getting someone else to do the house. I begin to suspect this doubles the problem rather than halfs it.

Mar. 7th, 2009 11:46 am (UTC)
It's often hard avoiding 'talking down' - in the end I guess it mostly comes down to tone of voice and ones actual attitudes to someone. One of the problems is that there is always an implied status relationship between employer and employee anyway, especially with people who do domestic tasks.
It really bugs me sometimes.

I would think you are right about the garden idea potentially doubling the problem.
Mar. 7th, 2009 12:03 pm (UTC)
I think you're right. The trouble is that while I have no problem talking straight to a locksmith or a plumber when the service they render is not up to scratch, there is something embarrassing about talking to a cleaner in that way. With the above services, you just don't go back if they're rubbish. With a cleaner, it's personal, s/he comes in every week, and you can't vote with your feet - you vote with theirs. Separating guilt re rubbishy class war disrespect from a straightforward understanding that the work ain't up to scratch should not be this hard.

Re gardeners and more domestics, I love my bro but I sometimes wonder if he thinks we're renting Longleat!

Edited at 2009-03-07 12:03 pm (UTC)
Mar. 7th, 2009 12:38 pm (UTC)
It's often a pain having to deal with all the implied cultural aspects of that sort of thing. Drives me nuts.
Even if you don't believe in the status implications, they are still there and still affect us.
My mother always used to become good friends with her cleaner (she had two, one to help her when she was still looking after my Grandmother, and the other after the first cleaner retired and my Grandmother had died because she just didn't have the time still). The problem was that even though she built a bond of friendship, the status relationship was still there regardless, so they became rather odd friendships.
Mar. 6th, 2009 09:22 pm (UTC)
Guilt makes you do odd things. A French chap from HQ is going to be sacked shortly. We do long knives in the back at senior level in our company so I have no doubt he'll disappear overnight. I've known for 3 months. He visited with 2 colleagues for our budget presentation last month. The 2 colleagues, also French, both knew. I knew. The MD knew. There were 12 people in the room. As the 3 French chaps were leaving, I kissed the ignorant one. I never normally would have. I didn't kiss the others. It was the Judas kiss of guilt.

As an aside, how did you find your cleaner? We want one but I don't know where to start and I have palpitations about giving our house keys to a stranger. How much does she cost?
Mar. 7th, 2009 10:43 am (UTC)
Our arrangement is that we pay her a tenner an hour, but the minimum she expects from us is £40 for 4 hours per fortnight. It used to be per week but we honestly don't have enough work for that - even now, she doesn't do 4 hours work, it's more like 2 and a half, three at the most. It's a nuisance for me because we don't leave the keys, someone needs to be in, and inevitably because I work shifts, that person is me. Traps me in the house a bit...irritating when she is late to start.

We found her via an advert in Tescos, and now we are finding out about a different cleaner via our neighbour. Fiding a decent cleaner seems to be very pot luck!
Mar. 9th, 2009 10:30 am (UTC)
I very much think along the lines of hybridartifacts. Another way to look at it is treat it like an evaluation session with her. All of us go through them at work and its useful for both side generally to say why thet think things may not be working. She may have some ridiculous fixation about your cleaning products or something you would never consider in a million years.

It makes me feel valued when I get feedback even if its someone saying, "You could do better here". I can understand that you may feel past this point with her and you are more at the point of, "You really aren't fulfilling your contract with us". That also may be a good starting point of any discussion with her that you don't feel that her services are currently fulfilling what she is paid for.

I know my gut reaction is to be straight and honest but to give her a chance. We all have off periods at work where it seems too much and it is a fact of life that people in jobs that do not ask a lot of mental activity tend to get bored or stray more often than those of us who are more satisified and challenged.

I apologise if I have merely repeated the wise words of hybridartifacts.
Mar. 10th, 2009 10:30 am (UTC)
I don't see a needless repetition here, and I thank you for your thoughts, they are very helpful to me at a time when I face an embarrassing situation.

I appreciate my brother wants to find another way of paying her, preferably for something she actually does well; maybe an average gardner is less of a liability than an average cleaner, or something. But I remain unconvinced.

I always hated appraisals, they struck me as HR's attempts to justify never giving one a decent raise, and my negative attitude may be affecting me here. I don't want to do it! But I think you are right, feedback must help.

Please never be shy of telling me thoughts and opinions. I enjoy hearing them, and often they truly help!
( 9 comments — Leave a comment )



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