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Tuesday, October 13, 2015


We have been Team Cleaning in my building for about 1-1/2 years. I have one custodian who has not stopped complaining to the teachers and other staff about "TEAM TORTURE" as she calls it. Also, she complains non-stop about the backpack vacuums we use. She moans and groans and grumbles the entire time she is using it, and tells the teachers and staff how awful it is, how heavy, what a terrible job it does, and how she is living on pain pills because of how badly it hurts her back. How can I get her to climb on board with the rest of us and move forward and upward with our new system of cleaning. We are also Green and there is nonstop complaining to teachers and staff about the products not working and how she has to work so much harder. I need some advice on how to deal with her. All the management classes I have had donít seem to work on her. She is bringing the rest of the team down with her. She already has the new custodian on board with her, which is causing considerable issues.


Your problem custodian fits into what I call the 80 -15-5 rule. 80% of your staff will go along with what you tell or ask them to do, 15 % will need more attention, training, coaching or other approaches to get them onboard and 5% are never going to go along regardless of what you do, because it's not a you issue, it's a them issue. If you gave them a gold platter, they would complain that it was too heavy to take home. These people tend to complain loud and long about everything in an attempt to shift the blame from themselves to others (supervision and management).
What you can do depends to a large degree on whether there is a union involved and what your work rules are. If there is no union, quit messing with the problem and free her up to find a job where she will be happier. If there is a union involved, your approaches will be more limited. Here's what I'd try.
1. If you can, the easiest approach is to move the complainer out of the building to another location or isolate her in some way (different shift) where she can't infect and complain so much to others. Maybe she would like being the rest room specialist better.
2. Continue coaching and retraining. One of the keys to coaching and supervision when trying to reach someone during your interaction with them is to focus on how their cooperation will benefit them, rather than you.
3. See if the union steward can assist you or is willing to speak to the person.
4. Explain to the person that if there are complaints about work processes, products, or equipment, these issues should be brought to you so you can attempt to resolve them, since teachers and other staff aren't in a position to help solve the problem and only find her discussions and interruptions about work issues to be disruptive.
How is the quality of the work? If it's below par, focus on that and not the complaining. If the quality of the work doesn't improve, you can begin the discipline process.
I'd also think about how her work was before the changeover to team cleaning, if she did a great job before and the issue really is team cleaning, forget it for her and change some or all of her work area back to whatever she was doing before and see if that solves the problem. There is no law or cast-in-stone rule that says an entire building or every worker has to do things the same way, be it zone or team cleaning. Personally, I think it's better
when you have a system in place, but sometimes adjustments need to be made to fit the situation.
If her work was poor or marginal before the change over, she just doesn't like having a system in place that holds her more accountable. In this case her work is probably poor or marginal now, as well, so focus on the quality of the work, not the way the work is done.
Sometimes there is no easy answer to these situations. There always seems to be one or two on every crew, who are a challenge. I guess that's one of the reasons why we have supervisors and managers.

Bill Griffin, President
Cleaning Consultant Services, Inc.

Answer #2:
If you have performance standards in place (which are
measurable and attainable), then in all likelihood she will not meet them, and then you can take her through the district's disciplinary process. (Some folks complain no matter what you do, as you have experienced.) You might try counseling with her, pointing out how she could be more valuable as a team player
rather than as an antagonist. Her complaints about the backpack could be addressed by a occupational therapist, or you can do research which counters all of her spurious arguments. You could also suggest she seek alternative employment.

Perry Shimanoff

Answer #3:
You may be interested in a publicly funded study at the University of North Carolina, conducted by one of the world's leading authorities on public health and cleaning. In this study, Michael Berry, PhD compared an engineered process of team cleaning, (OS1) with traditional housekeeping. Dr. Berry found eleven ways that the (OS1) team cleaning process was superior to traditional custodial methods, and not one way in which it was inferior. Green cleaning was part of the UNC study procedures and products.
Additionally, a study published in a 2008 peer reviewed journal by Jeffery Campbell, PhD showed that this same team cleaning process contributed to extraordinary safety improvements at The Boeing Company, Sandia National Labs div. Lockheed Martin, University of Texas, and the University of New Mexico. Dr. Campbell documents that it was strict adherence to the team system and training protocols that
improved the results.
What you are doing in your schools may not be what is documented in
the studies, but it is a proven scientific fact that team cleaning as performed in these two studies is a vast improvement over other workloading methods.
I have attached both studies to help you determine if you are
performing at the same levels that have been researched.

John Walker, President
ManageMen, Inc.
Founder, Janitor University
Former ISSA Director of Education and Training