It’s almost 8:00 AM and your maid service cleaning teams are gathering in the make-ready area, organizing their equipment and supplies and loading their vehicles in preparation for the day’s busy schedule. You’re at your desk looking over each team’s workload and getting ready to distribute the paperwork and clients’ house keys to your team leaders. Then it begins……………….
….. All of a sudden you hear a huge commotion out in the parking lot. People are yelling at each other and the language is punctuated with vulgarities beneath the dignity of even the crudest truck driver. On looking out the door you realize it is two of your employees who are engaging in this war of words at the top of their lungs. It’s one of your team leaders and one of her team members, who has long been an instigator of dissent among your workers. …
Just as you’re about to intervene in what looks to be an all-out catfight, the phone rings and you grab it. It’s one of your employees calling in “sick” again…the fifth time in the last three weeks. You can tell by the sound of her voice that she’s suffering the effects of over indulgence from the night before…again. Not exactly an unpreventable illness. Anxious to break up the continuing melee outside, you hang up and head for the door.
The phone rings again and you pick it up. It’s one of your clients this time. She is extremely unhappy. Her team was there yesterday and she has a laundry list of complaints. While she’s ranting and raving, line 2 rings. Two employees are standing right beside the desk where another telephone rests, but neither one picks it up. You attempt to excuse yourself from the already heated client but, by the time she stops raving long enough to acknowledge your request, line 2 has stopped ringing.
As you look up from your desk you’re confronted with the team leader who had been involved in the disturbance outside with one of her team members. She promptly and in no uncertain terms tells you that she’s had it! She can’t deal with this employee anymore and she’s walking off the job TODAY. Before you can respond, the offending team member stomps up to your desk, gets into the face of her team leader, and the shouting match starts all over again.
Just at that moment, your new hire walks through the door for her first day’s orientation.
With all this, you glance down at your phone and notice line 1 is flashing. You’ve left your highly irate client on hold.
. . . . . and it’s not even 8:15 AM yet!
If you’ve been in business for awhile, you know that this scenario is not far-fetched. Similar scenes take place at cleaning companies and other types of businesses on a daily basis. Over the years I have personally witnessed crisis situations at companies around the country, both cleaning companies and others.
It’s not a pretty sight. And when you’re dealing with individuals, whether employees or clients, it’s up to YOU – the owner/manager to avoid turning crisis conditions into complete chaos and disaster. These situations can be further exacerbated by letting your own emotions explode into a fit of rage.
The best way to deal with crisis situations is to avoid them in the first place. A simplistic notion? Not at all. While you can’t prevent all crises, you can take steps to minimize the incidence of crisis.
AN OUNCE OF PREVENTION . . .
Proper Pre-employment Screening:
Very often the employee selection process is “if she has a pulse and is breathing, hire her.” In our House Cleaning Biz 101© course we teach an extensive pre-employment screening process that involves five steps:
1. Telephone screen
2. Application screen
3. Personal interview screen
4. Employment and personal reference checks
5. Criminal history and driving record checks
During this process a number of behavioral questions should be asked that will reveal the potential fit between the candidate and the job. The process, when done thoroughly and correctly, can help you identify such things as:
· How the person is likely to interact with fellow coworkers
· How well the applicant responds to authority
· How the applicant might respond under pressure
· The person’s willingness and ability to follow instructions
· Whether the candidate generally has a sunny or dark disposition
· The individual’s ability to succeed at a job requiring routine, repetitive work such as that required of in the job of house cleaning
Other behavioral tendencies that can help serve as either a “green flag” or a “red flag” during the selection process.
For example, proper screening may have revealed that the team member having an altercation with her team leader would be a problem employee and you would not have hired her in the first place.
A thorough employment reference check would have likely revealed a poor attendance track record for the worker who called in sick five times in three weeks and you wouldn’t have brought her on staff.
Establish Ground Rules
There should be an orientation day for every new employee. Naturally, orientation day should include handing out training literature and letting the new hire watch training media such as videos, DVDs or CDs. However, a large portion of this time must be spent on going over company policies and procedures.
If you have a company Policies and Procedures handbook like the sample provided in this course, it’s important to go over it with your new employee to make sure she understands and acknowledges each item.
This is the time to emphasize the importance of attendance and your policies regarding sick days, time off, vacations, etc. Be sure to stress that tardiness affects other team members, clients, the company and the tardy employee. Habitual tardiness will result in termination of employment.
The same should hold true for unacceptable absences from work. Then, enforce your policies. Failing to do so sets a bad example for the entire staff. We have found that firing an otherwise outstanding employee for intolerable tardiness or poor attendance can send a strong message to the rest of your workers.
Equally important is discussing how you expect conflict with other coworkers to be handled. This is true for all employees, but particularly important for team leaders. A grouchy team leader or one with a short fuse in situations with her team members is a recipe for discontented workers and high turnover.
If you think about it, the various crises we outlined at the outset of this discussion would have been much easier to control if the owner had not had to simultaneously deal with each situation personally.
If the owner had an assistant, the assistant would have taken the call from the worker who called in “sick” and would have been able to tackle the situation between the team manager and her team member before it got more out of hand.
If the owner had delegated someone else to grab the phone when the irate client called, the owner would have been in a position to concentrate on settling the aforementioned dispute without interruption. And the client would not have been forgotten about and left on hold.
Use Common Sense
Can you imagine what would be going through the new hire’s mind as she walked into all this chaos? As if she wasn’t already apprehensive about starting her new job. Any enthusiasm she may have felt on coming to work this first day would surely crumble the instant she strolled through the front door. “What kind of people are these? What kind of place is this to work in?”
In this case, the owner is at fault for having the new hire come in during make-ready time in the morning. Even without a crisis going on, it’s virtually impossible to devote full time and attention to your new employee with all the activity taking place while teams are gathering and preparing to head out on their assignments. The scheduled start time for the new staff member’s orientation day should be set for a time when all the teams are sure to be gone.
WHEN YOU ARE FACED WITH CRISES
Many crises can be avoided. But in the real world, when you’re dealing with people, none of whom are perfect, there will be times you may feel as though the ten plagues of Egypt have descended upon you. It simply goes with the territory when you’re a business owner dealing with employees and customers.
Here’s one idea you should consider. Take some quiet time and think about various employee situations you’ve had and consider other possible crises you could conceivably encounter. Write them down. Then, think about the outcome you would hope to achieve by resolving the issue and write that down. Now think of alternate ways of achieving that objective and write them down. I doubt very much that “blowing your own top” would be high on the list as a way to resolve a dispute between coworkers (or in resolving any other bad situation either).
As you most likely did with your telephone and in-home presentations with potential clients, rehearse the various scenarios in your mind. Think of it in the same light as a lawyer preparing for trial. Everything they say and do is preplanned; even their fabricated outbursts of anger in an effort to impress a jury and intimidate a witness. Rest assured that Johnny Cochran’s famous “if it doesn’t fit, you must acquit” line in the OJ Simpson trial was not a spontaneous aphorism.
Above all, stay calm during a crisis.
The old adage “cool heads prevail” is very, very true. If you prepare ahead of time for potential situations, it will be far easier to do this. People will know by your expression and body language that you’re angry, but you don’t want to convince them that you’re a raving lunatic. There’s a difference between speaking sternly versus breaking into an Apache war cry!
A long, long time ago, someone told me, “If you want to earn $10K a year, you’re going to have $10K challenges. If you want to earn $100K a year, you’re going to have $100K challenges.” A lot of people out there think they’re worth a great deal more than they’re earning But they’re not prepared to accept and deal with the kind of responsibility and challenges they’ll have to encounter and overcome to prove they’re worth their desired income.
Napoleon Hill wrote, in a favorite book of mine, Think and Grow Rich, “With every adversity comes the seed of an equivalent or greater benefit.” It might not hurt to type that phrase out and keep it on your desk as a reminder when you’re faced with future crises.
Since founding WorkEnders, Inc. in 1991, Gary Goranson has been deeply involved in helping people worldwide build successful residential cleaning businesses. Today, more than 3,000 people in the United States, Canada and 57 other countries have adopted his House Cleaning Biz 101.com program since he began offering it online in 2003.