Recognition for the Cleaning Lady at the Office
Nobody, except the personnel officer, is obligated to know her name. Usually, she comes into your work space before you arrive or after you leave. If she is there during work hours, her “Wet Floor” sign gets more recognition than she does. With a little effort, you can help change that.
The Cleaning Lady
She falls into the category of janitors and building cleaners as described by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics1 which provides the following information:
- The median hourly pay in 2012 was $10.73 (annual $22,320).
- Janitors and building cleaners are required to keep the building clean, orderly and in good condition.
- “The work can be physically demanding and sometimes dirty and unpleasant.”
Here we will briefly discuss five characteristics which make her important and offer six suggestions for celebrating her. Feel free to apply the ideas for recognition to a male worker.
(1) Her Human Worth
The personal worth of the cleaning lady is based on the fact that she is a human being. Like everyone else, she was born for a purpose, and with innate ability to succeed at it. She has the capacity to love and be loved, and she thrives on appreciation.
She is currently your cleaning lady, but you have no idea what assignments either of you will have in the future. Treating her with the respect she deserves tells her that you are respectful; and encourages her to give you the respect—and the service—you deserve. Other workers can learn from you that the Golden Rule applies in their interaction with her.
The first step in recognition of the cleaning lady is asking her name, so that you can say it when you address her or refer to her.
(2) Her Story
At a certain office, most workers gave no recognition to the cleaning lady; that is, until the day she told her story. While cleaning during the daytime, she had been taking classes in the evening to become a dental assistant. She graduated, found placement and had a starting date for her new job. Suddenly, she became more than a cleaning lady and was worth befriending.
Many other cleaning ladies have similar stories. Some worked at better-paying jobs, got laid off and found financial refuge in cleaning because it offered training on the job. Some have plans to move on.
Your cleaning lady has a story about how and why she is currently on that job. Show a little interest in her; she might inspire you with her story.
Some are part time cleaners and part time students
(3) Her Knowldege
Some people are naïve enough to evaluate the cleaning lady’s intelligence by what she does with a broom and a mop. It does not occur to them that she might understand their work jargon, so they talk openly in her presence. You would be surprised to hear how much the cleaning lady knows about business at the office.
In addition to the conversations, she has access to documents left carelessly lying around. She also knows some of the after office-hours activities which happen after most people leave.
Smart workers respect the cleaning lady for the knowledge she keeps secret.
(4) Her Contribution
What would be your reaction if sweeping, mopping, emptying the trash were to be added to your job description? How often would you want to clean the bathroom? And would you like the responsibility of keeping the refrigerator clean?
Not only does the cleaning lady enhance the appearance of your office, her cleaning helps to control the spread of germs. If your office is in a hospital or hotel, the cleaning lady becomes even more significant.
To help promote health awareness, as well as the importance of the cleaner’s job, the International Sanitary Supply Association (ISSA)2 has created an entertaining, educational mobile game for the cleaning industry. The game Angry Janitors3 features three stages--The School, The Office and The Hospital--each with ten levels. King Dirt, King Germ and their filthy associates invade the three facilities making people sick. Players gain points by helping the janitors Sweepy, Squirt and Speedster eliminate dirt and germs.
(5) Her Reflection of You
Very often, the way the cleaning lady relates to you is a direct reflection of your interaction with her. If she walks past you in the hallway without even looking at you, try to remember what you do when you walk past her.
Usually she is not hired by your company, but by an outside contracting company. For her, it is like coming onto your property, which makes you the more powerful of you two. She waits for you to set the pace for your relationship, if there is going to be one.
She reflects your attitude—friendly and courteous, or aloof and self-absorbed. She is the mirror for your behavior toward people who are not your peers. For the most part, you decide what you see in her. With a little effort, you can help make her life and work more meaningful, and in the process, add to your own joy.
Six Ideas on Recognition for the Cleaning Lady
Situations with cleaning ladies vary. Some of them work full time and are always visible; some work on weekends and are never seen. Some buildings are small and have the same cleaner all the time; some are huge and the cleaning ladies are rotated around the offices. However, if you really want to, you will find a way to reach your cleaning lady. Choose the suggestion which is applicable for you.
(i) Commend her.
Take a minute to let her know how pleased you are with her work.
(ii) Leave her a note.
Leave the envelope where she will find it. Thank or inspsire her with a quote.
(iii) Remember her special day.
Have employees sign a card for her birthday or job anniversary.
(iv) Save her some coupons.
For example, a discount coupon for a massage would be great.
(v) Put her in the picture.
Include her in a photograph with the employees. Give her a personal copy.
(vi) Plan a lunch in her honor.
Invite her to lunch on her special day or just because she's special!
Cheers to the Cleaning Lady!
We recognize her significance and we cherish her. Life at the office is more pleasant because of her.
1. Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, Janitors and Building Cleaners (visited February 26, 2014).
2. IEHA News, ISSA Introduces Mobile Game for Cleaning Industry (visited February 26, 2014).
3. Zane, Katy: Apps Gone Free, Quirky App Of The Day: Angry Janitors Keep The Germs Away, November 24th, 2013.
© 2014 Dora Isaac Weithers
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