Scenario posted out 5/11/16 – contributed by a local business owner.
A small business has a recurring problem that is not getting better. There are about 4 staff members that could check the toilets every day through their daily use, but nobody takes responsibility for regularly checking them, and dirty toilets are discovered repeatedly. (Those staff members don’t have to actually do the cleaning, they just have to report if there is a problem.)
The Manager recalls delegating the job to a particular staff member a while ago, but somehow, now, nobody thinks it is their responsibility, even the originally delegated staff member.
What should the Manager do to ensure the toilets are kept clean?
Please consider this problem and respond with appropriate recommendations.
Good businesses always have clean, tidy toilets.
First of all, the manager needs to discuss with those staff members how important it is to keep the toilets cleaned and tidied to maintain the quality of the business.
The manager should create a toilet checklist. Check points could include: toilet floor cleaned, around hand basin is clean, the mirror is not dirty, hand soap is filled, toilet paper is adequate and there is a place to write notes to the cleaner. Every item to be checked should be filled with the checker’s initials and times. The check should be implemented in the morning, after lunch time, around 3 pm and before the checkers go home. The manager should allocate checking days or times to those staff members. So those toilets will be checked every day by somebody. Or they can create a ‘toilet team’ for the checklist.
Of course, a checker must take action to solve minor problems like filling the toilet roll holder, picking up used paper towel that missed the bin, writing notes to the cleaner or reporting to the manager if necessary.
The cleaner must read the notes on the checklist and tick them off when they start cleaning the toilets.
By doing the checklist:
- Those staff members or members of the team will start to care about toilet cleanliness even on days not allocated to checking.
- The cleaner will know that somebody is checking his/her work.
- The manager can assess the checking staff members and the cleaner’s work, and
- The manager will have better information about problems such as toilet supplies being stolen.
Keeping the toilets clean, or monitoring the process, presents a common problem for most businesses, being a menial type job that gets pushed down the order of things to do during busy days. This presents part of the solution, in that the importance needs to be raised, and new habits formed and locked in for the staff concerned.
In situations of higher use such as a McDonalds, then procedures and intensive follow up can ensure any issues are attended to. For example, McDonalds have a dedicated team of trained customer care staff who check and clean the toilets every 30 minutes throughout the day and every 15 minutes during busy periods.
The management team also complete checks every 30 minutes. The toilets are cleaned daily and additionally when necessary during opening hours. (McDonalds.co.uk)
For a situation of lower use, a way to deal with the issue is to discuss it with the relevant staff and reinforce the importance of cleanliness, raising any issues with management regarding general cleanliness during the day. To improve the common issue of overflowing bins I would suggest providing better bins that could accommodate more waste paper and have a flap or mechanism that will compact the paper so it is less obtrusive, and less regular checking is required. A larger bin with a compacting feature would require only emptying once per day based on normal patterns of use and could be done by the cleaners at the end of the day.
It seems like both manager and staff members are the same. None are taking their job responsibilities seriously. Maybe the biggest problem is with the manager not recording this as part of a person’s job but he/she isn’t following up either.
Solution? Accountability! Formally delegate to a specific person with a sign off at the toilet that can be checked regularly, just like the ones we see on the back of doors in public toilets in shopping centres. This can be checked at the manager’s leisure and that one person can be held responsible for reporting problems.
In my experience, when there’s an unpleasant aspect of a job, the best thing to do is to make it clearly part of the next job you advertise or the next promotion. I would write it into whatever agreement you have with a particular employee. Perhaps you could add some features and dress the task up as ‘Presentation Officer’ or similar. In addition, make it very clear that the person doesn’t have to do anything icky. I recall one occasion where the person wouldn’t do any kind of ‘low class’ activity as a result of their original culture, so take that into account when choosing.
In addition, I’ve noticed that some (perhaps unambitious) people think if they do something once it will become their job. Business owners and keen staff don’t think like that, but not everyone fits in that category.
There was an important job to be done and Everybody was sure that Somebody would do it. Anybody could have done it, but Nobody did it. Somebody got angry about that, because it was Everybody’s job. Everybody thought Anybody could do it, but Nobody realized that Everybody wouldn’t do it.
Although there are a number of ways to approach this it is would be worthwhile addressing the difference between assigning work and delegating work. The assignment of work means to directly request a task or duty to be performed by an employee (or group of employees) as part of their general responsibilities whilst delegating is about giving authority to perform a task normally performed by others (or by you). The question here is whether the workers have been assigned the duty or has there actually been authority delegated.
The language here would suggest the latter although there remains some contention. There are a number of approaches that could be considered although my strong feeling is that given the nature of the task, it would be better to assign the task to the group as a whole. A set of standards and instructions should be developed and neatly positioned in clear sight of the team. A roster should be established, equally proportioning responsibility and most importantly, a small training session and/or demonstration of your expectations should be provided.
The somewhat ‘smelly’ nature of this task may result in a few upturned noses but the explicit instructions and equitable distribution, along with a little bit of guidance should flush away this little problem.
Disclaimer : We haven’t visited these workplaces or conducted detailed investigations, and we publish a range of opinions, so we don’t accept liability. We reserve the right to appropriately edit any submissions.