I'm a Wuss, and I'm Getting Taken Advantage Of.

If I were a dog, you would say I had a “submissive temperment.” I’m categorically incapable of standing up for myself if it involves any sort of conflict or confrontation.

I have a housekeeper I’ll call “Jenny.” I hired Jenny two years ago after my other housekeepr quit because of health issues. (Oh, how I loved that housekeeper. She cleaned like a demon!) The reason I have a housekeeper is that I have some health issues myself that make doing the heavy stuff around the house extremely difficult. I only wanted Jenny to do the srcubbing, vaccuuming and mopping that I can’t do.

Jenny charges a flat rate of $40 for the job. At first, she was here for two hours at a time and did a passable job. I wasn’t entirely satisfied, but I don’t have it in me to criticize. It’s extremely hard for me to say soemthing as mild as, “Hey, could you please get those dust bunnies?” Over time, her work has greatly deteriorated. Today, she was here for only 45 minutes, didn’t clean the stairs, didn’t finish the vaccuuming upstairs and the mopping has become a quick swab with the mop.

My husband is a bit irritated with me for not having the balls to say anything about it. We’re paying her and getting very little in return. I know he’s right, but thinking about confronting her is enough to tie my stomach in knots.

I’m a wimp and I’m unhappy about it.

Get your husband to confront her. Or get him to finish the cleaning. Either way your problem will be solved.

It’s always better to give easy criticism early on rather than wait until the problem is exacerbated. Her work has deteriorated so far only because you’ve let it. She might be too far gone, now…the only recourse might be to hire a new housekeeper. It’ll save you a lot of trouble getting her to completely change her routine. After all, in her mind, she’s doing a great job (cause otherwise you would have said something!)

Or, just try it out. Next time, just politely say, “Hey, I’ve got a friend coming over later…could you please get those dust bunnies?”. Every time she comes, point out one small thing that you want done differently. After a while she’ll get the message. You might be surprised at how easy it becomes.

Find a way to get an agreement about how long she will work and what she will achieve in that time. Make it very explicit. Give her one chance to fulfill her end of the bargain; happily, without complaint and, failing that dump her instantly and start again.

If trying to strike a fair deal engenders any bad feelings on anyone’s part it just won’t work and I think you know she is going to screw you.

By the way if she is working a 40 hour week at your rates she’s on $110,000 a year.

If you don’t count travel time, gas and supplies. :wink: Plus the nominal coverage of insurances, - health, auto and liability. She might be eeking out 30 g’s per year.

Lissa, is there a way your husband could confront her? If not, would you be more comfortable perhaps writing her a note explaining your dissatisfaction and a list of things that need to be accomplished that day, being very specific in what you expect?

You could always just wait until the next time she’s there and pay her less, explaining that the time previously she didn’t do specific things you requested and left after not even an hour - maybe that might work.

I know where you’re coming from with the “submissive” thing - I’m the same way. It sucks at times, don’t it? :slight_smile:

And I have a lot of guilt over that last sentence. I feel that if I fired her now (as my husband suggests) it wouldn’t be fair because I gave her no indication of my displeasure. Quite the contrary, I guess-- I always say “Thank you” when she’s done, and last Christmas, I gave her a hundred bucks. (She hadn’t gone too much downhill at that point.)

Things started getting noticably bad around the beginning of spring. At first, I thought she might have just been having some stress or something that was making her have a few “off” days (which happens to everyone) but she just kept getting worse and worse. At first, she wiped the hardwood between all of the banisters, and now I don’t even think she bothers to clean the entire staircase.

She only has a handful of clients-- three or four.

Man, I’d hate to put that on him. He has to do this sort of crap all day at work, and I’d hate to make him have to be a manager at home, too.

I’m ultra-empathetic, and the first thing I thought of upon seeing that suggestion was, “Her feelings will get hurt. Things sound colder in writing than they do verbally and I might end up making her mad.” I know, it’s silly of me, but it’s how I think. I’m afraid of causing hard feelings.

That’s what my grandma did. When she heard I’d hired a new housekeeper, she told me to send her over if the lady wanted more clients. Grandma is even more strict with her house-cleaning than I am, and she had a litany of complaints after Jenny left: that she didn’t wipe the baseboards, that she left a bug in the windowsill, etc. At the time, Jenny was still doing an okay job for me, so I said that she might have just been tired or something.

The next time Jenny went over, it was the same thing. When she counted the money my grandma gave her, she said, “Oh, you’re $20 short, hon.” Grandma says she replied that she felt the job had been “short”, too. She didn’t ask Jenny to come back.

Yes. Yes it does.

Actually, I think letting your husband handle this is a bad idea. I see this as a pretty good opportunity to build some assertiveness and perhaps some self-confidence, while dealing with a subject that isn’t life-or-death important.

I second the idea of saying “I have guests coming over tonight, and the last couple of times I’ve noticed it was still pretty dusty in certain places. I really appreciate it.” What’s the worst that’s going to happen? She throws the dust rag on the ground, says “Why I never”, and stomps out. Problem solved. Or, she might realize she’s been slacking off lately (who knows, maybe she’s been having problems at home) and get her ass in gear. Either way, problem solved.

Your grandma sounds awesome, by the way.

A Housekeeper is Cheaper than a Divorce has a lot of good ideas about how to negotiate, how to set standards, and how to maintain them.

One of the agreements that my wife and I have is that we can use each other as a heavy if necessary. I could see you saying something like, “I’m sorry, my husband was really upset when he came home after the last time you cleaned because of all the dust bunnies. He wanted to fire you, but I talked him out of it. I tell you what, here’s a list of what he expects to be done each time you come, and if it gets taken care of, I’m sure there won’t be a problem.”

There’s a lot of people out there who probably think I’m a jerk because my wife has told them, “I’d love to buy it / be in your committee / go with you, but I husband won’t let me.”

Contrary to my post, me really do know how to use personal pronouns.

A few years ago, I had the luxury of hiring a cleaning lady (OK, two people working full-time and a kid under 2, maybe it wasn’t such a luxury after all :wink: ).

We went through several. They kept quitting. (I don’t think it was anything we did, honestly!) But having had three or so, we experienced just what you’re going through now – they start out gangbusters, then get more and more lax. Maybe it’s just a function of developing “dirt blindness.” Og knows I do that myself. That’s why I needed a cleaning lady!

I think you owe it to both of you to have a conversation with her. While I like the “I have guests coming over” idea, you run the risk of defining what you really expect as the standard as extra-special effort.

It sounds dorky, but rehearse what you’re going to say to her. Write the letter, but don’t give it to her – use it as the guide for the conversation.

I’m pretty wussy, but I’ve had my share of launching conversations on topics I dreaded. And I can honestly say that most conversations (including, “I want a divorce”) have gone better than I expected.

(And, apropos of nearly nothing, I finally decided that having a cleaning lady was causing me more stress than NOT having one, because I was the one who was getting up at 5 a.m. to pick up all the toys and clutter so the cleaning lady could actually clean.)

I’m fond of written lists. Write out what you expect to be done and leave the list for her. It seems like she was passable enough when she started, so she’s got to think your list is reasonable* because she’s already done that work, and she did it in the time allotted. You could maybe give her a bit of wiggle room by saying something like “if you don’t have time to do something on the list, please let me know so that I will put it on my schedule to do myself.” This runs the risk of having her hand the list back to you with half of it undone, but even so, it puts her in the position of having to say “I didn’t vacuum upstairs” so she knows she’s not getting one over on you.

This also helps keep things more “fair” so that if she isn’t able to get up to speed on the list after a few weeks, you have a record of expectations that weren’t met. It still sucks to dismiss someone, but at least it can be more of a factual conversation based on a list of clearly outlined duties.

*Or, she could see the list, and get offended and quit. Problem solved!

Maybe you could make a list each week of items you want completed. Ask her how many of those items she can do in the alotted time. Then before she leaves, go down the list and run a quick inspection to make sure her work was up to par.

I’m not good at face to face confrontation either. I’m pretty good on the phone, but I don’t like that tenseosity that overcomes me. I’d rather live with the dirt.

Or better yet, I could read the post prior to mine and see that the solution was already covered!

The first thing to do is stop saying things like “categorically incapable” of confrontation. I don’t particularly like confrontations myself, but I’m certainly capable of having them, and so are you. If you’re serious about being unhappy about it, the way to change it is by working on fixing it. I’m doing this myself - it’s like pulling teeth sometimes, working up the nerve to confront somebody, but it does get easier the more you do it. And remember, you have the RIGHT to ask for what you want, just like people have the right to tell you yes, no, or maybe. :smiley:

That’s actually sort of beneficial for me. I have a tendency to let clutter pile up unless I think someone will see it. I’m terrified the rest if the world will learn what a slob I really am, so before anyone comes over, I bust my ass.

I can sympathise, because I want people to like me. However it is a useful life skill to put a painful point across.

I used to have a wonderful cleaning lady, but she left to get an office job.
The next one sounded OK, but then money went missing. I couldn’t prove it, so I told her that things weren’t working out and paid her off.
Luckily the next lady is fine.

Lissa, could you enlist your grandmother to help in the confrontation?

Promise her iced tea and Krispy Kremes, or whatever it takes, but have her sitting there with you when the cleaning lady comes over.

Have your grandma open the confrontation, and then you move in shaky-kneed with a couple off the real list of problems that are going to end in you and the cleaning lady parting ways if they aren’t addressed. It’s a kindness to her to know.

Or let Grandma handle it all while you sit there nodding yes…