The cleaning staff will forever be the scapegoat for things gone wrong, especially when something turns up missing. Like it or not, this is the situation we find ourselves in. Every facility we clean is full of people: employees, guests, contractors, and more. But when something goes missing, the customer usually assumes it didn’t happen under their watch. Rather, it must have happened at night when the cleaning crew was there. And let’s face it, this is probably the assumption we would make as well.
So you get that dreaded phone call. “Jordan, this is Jim from ABC manufacturing. We had an iPad go missing from the HR office and your cleaners were the only people here last night. It must have been them. I don’t see how it could possibly be anyone else. We need to talk.”
How do we handle this situation? We feel pinned against the wall and may even feel a twinge of guilt, even though no proof has been levied against us – only circumstantial evidence at best. Well, let me offer 3 simple steps to help you walk through every theft accusation.
Step 1 – Don’t assume guilt
Your cleaner may have taken the item in question, but they may not. You don’t know. So don’t EVER assume that your company (and your employee) is guilty just because you’ve been accused. We want to stand by our team, support them, and give them the benefit of the doubt. This does not mean we deny being involved; rather, we just listen and understand what the customer is saying. So for instance, after being accused, you may respond like this: “Mr. Customer, I’m very sorry this has happened. It sounds very frustrating. What can I do to help you get this resolved?” By being sympathetic and helpful, you aren’t assuming guilt nor are you being combative.
Step 2 – Commit to doing the right thing
Next, you want to commit to doing what is right to get the situation resolved. This will involve a few things:
- Ask the customer how you can help resolve the issue.
- Commit to doing an internal investigation.
- Cooperate with the customer’s own investigation.
Your goal here is to be a seeker of truth and justice. I know that sounds pie in the sky, but it should be true. Business leaders should be men and women of integrity, committed to doing what is right.
Step 3 – Follow up and follow through
Finally, you want to follow up with the customer on your findings and follow through with any reparations (if needed). If you find out that you are guilty, confess and commit to paying back what needs to be paid back. However, if you are not convinced that your team is guilty, be honest with the customer about your findings. Paying something you don’t owe to relieve the tension is the coward’s way out. If they are convinced of your guilt, but you aren’t, perhaps be willing to move the employee in question to a new site as a means of compromise. Never admit to guilt that isn’t yours to own.
Our commitment to our people and our customers will often put us in tough spots. Balancing the needs of these two parties can create tension in our organization, but compromise can be the remedy. So keep these three principles in mind as you navigate the next tough situation at your company. (1) Do everything with integrity. (2) Be a loyal advocate to your employees. (3) Serve your customer with excellence.