How can I fire my house keeper?
February 4, 2008 11:39 AM   Subscribe

So I've had this house keeper for a couple of years now. She's always done "good enough" work. I've had some complaints, but nothing serious. So last weekend, on a whim, I used another service and what a difference! They did a fantastic job all around. So how do I get rid of my current house keeper?
posted by jeff_w_welch to Human Relations (25 answers total)
Just tell her you won't need her services anymore. Simple and straight forward. This isn't some sort of complicated relationship. She cleans your house; you don't want her to do it anymore. Just tell her.
posted by Arbac at 11:42 AM on February 4, 2008 [2 favorites]

Chances are she won't take it nearly as hard as you think she will.
posted by milarepa at 11:45 AM on February 4, 2008

++Arbac, with the addition that you don't owe her any sort of explanation. You are not breaking up with her, you are firing her.
posted by trinity8-director at 11:45 AM on February 4, 2008

In case there is any bitterness, don't tell her before the last time she cleans for you. Also, if you gave her a key, get it back before you tell her she isn't needed anymore.
posted by silkygreenbelly at 11:59 AM on February 4, 2008

If you really want to not hurt her feelings (and she won't find out after the fact) tell her you can't justify paying someone to do it any more, and are going to clean the house yourself from now, and thank her for her help in the past.

That's going about as far as I think you'd need to. It's a contract job that is not being renewed, that's all.
posted by Brockles at 12:04 PM on February 4, 2008

Huh? You fire her is how. "We no longer need you. Kxthxbye."
posted by xmutex at 12:09 PM on February 4, 2008

There was a woman who was cleaning my house who had been doing it from when my landlady also lived here. She sort of "came with the place" when my landlady left the place in my care. I had half decided I'd be cleaning the place myself. Like you, I wasn't sure how to deal with this since I did like the woman. Basically while I didn't plan this it worked out like this. I was taking a good chunk of month off. I told her to not come next month and I'd let her know when we'd start up again. At some point before what would have been our "regular" time I just called her and said I was happy enough with how things were that I didn't think I needed her back, thanks for everything etc. It worked out fine. I live in the country and she'd mostly clean while I was around/working at home, so the key issues were really not a problem.
posted by jessamyn at 12:15 PM on February 4, 2008 [1 favorite]

If she is like most other house cleaners that I am familiar with, yours is one of several houses she cleans. So if you should fire her from this particular job, it is not the same as stripping her of all income all at once, if that is a concern to you. Ease of hiring and firing is one of the reasons it can be preferable to have independent contractor type relationships vs. employer-employee relationships.

I would just present her with her last payment in person or via mail, and say/write something like, "Thank you for all of your hard work, at this point I don't need your house cleaning services any more," along the lines of what Arbac suggested.
posted by that possible maker of pork sausages at 12:23 PM on February 4, 2008

In case there is any bitterness, don't tell her before the last time she cleans for you.

This seems like a bad idea. It may take her a certain amount of time to find a new regular gig to replace the income she's getting from you. If you give her a month's notice, there's less chance of her having a significant gap. If you feel awkward about having her come a few more times knowing that she's been let go, and if you can afford it (which I'm guessing you can, but I don't know what she charges!) you could just give her what you'd pay her for four cleanings as a severance.

The posters are right that you don't "owe" her this, or anything. Informal employment relationships like this one do not come with guaranteed severance packages. But that doesn't mean it's wrong for you to offer one.
posted by escabeche at 12:39 PM on February 4, 2008

I fired my housecleaner a week ago today for the same reason as you. I gave mine a check which equaled a week's worth of pay for every year she's worked for me, and thanked her for her services. I didn't offer an explanation, although that's largely due to the steep language barrier between her and me. If I had, I would have been straight with her and told her the quality of her work had slipped to unacceptable levels; while it seems harsh to be truthful, as she is self-employed I'd rather she have information she can act upon if she so chooses. Unlike past housecleaners who've worked for me, I didn't offer her a letter of recommendation for prospective employers as I didn't think her work was commendable. A severance package is not required, but it is a nice thing to do for anyone who has been mucking out your bathroom even if her work is just barely adequate.

Personally, I wouldn't fire a non-bonded housekeeper before I had gotten my keys back or let her clean the house after. If something goes wrong, it's too difficult/time-consuming/frustrating to seek recourse. The two times I didn't follow my own advice ended badly.
posted by jamaro at 1:23 PM on February 4, 2008 [1 favorite]

Do tell her soon in case she depends upon the income. You may want to just say that another service came in with a lower bid for good work (or the same bid for more thorough work, if that's the case), and that your finances require you to go with them. I'd just like to note that the new guys may have done a super job their first time especially to impress you, and that they may settle down into the same sort of routine that your current person does once they start taking you for granted. It's not a certainty, obviously, but something to think about.
posted by onlyconnect at 1:25 PM on February 4, 2008

Just tell her you won't need her services anymore. Simple and straight forward. This isn't some sort of complicated relationship. She cleans your house; you don't want her to do it anymore. Just tell her.
. . .
++Arbac, with the addition that you don't owe her any sort of explanation. You are not breaking up with her, you are firing her.

Huh? You fire her is how. "We no longer need you. Kxthxbye."

I think that's a pretty callous attitude. I have an aquaintance who who cleans apartments to supplement her rather meager income, and I know how upsetting such an unexplained termination would be.

It's not as if she is being fired for cause as her work is rated as satisfactory. There are better ways of handling this as jessamyn and escabeche have shown. This is (in the housekeeping world) a relatively long term employee who should be treated to some respect. (Yes. Respect.)
posted by Neiltupper at 1:37 PM on February 4, 2008 [2 favorites]

The little white lie of "can no longer afford" might be best. It hurts her feelings less and keeps your options open in case this new service turns out to not be right. Our new service did a bang up job for a few months, then not so hot. Plus they scrubbed so hard in some areas that they actually did damage. Add to that that the guy who ran the service seemed a total skeeve, sort of like a pimp. The women who cleaned did all the work, yet I am pretty sure he kept most of the money. Hopefully your mileage varies from mine.
posted by caddis at 1:54 PM on February 4, 2008

This is (in the housekeeping world) a relatively long term employee who should be treated to some respect. (Yes. Respect.)

Why does 'respect' equate to "tell a lie so the cleaning lady won't have hurt feelers"? I don't understand that. Truly.
posted by trinity8-director at 3:27 PM on February 4, 2008

Well of course the new cleaners are going to do a wonderful job, they're trying to sell you on their services and gain you as a client. Once they've settled into a routine there's a strong possibility their regular cleanings won't be any better than what you've got now. So is there a way to fix this without changing cleaners once a year? How much do you communicate with your current cleaner? Do you point out things you think need more attention and call her on it if she continually ignores them? If you position yourself as a fussy client you'll either get a cleaner house or she'll drop you, and either way you get what you want.
posted by bizwank at 3:41 PM on February 4, 2008 [1 favorite]

I'm with the 'cut her loose' crowd. If she's cutting corners and distilling tasks, she needs to go. You have no obligation to spare her feelings and be considerate to her, since she hasn't been wholly considerate of the fact that you're paying her for what has been bad quality work.
posted by HerOdyssey at 4:12 PM on February 4, 2008

I think bizwank has it. You get what you inspect, not expect. (God, I hate that saying, but it applies here.) Next time she comes, ask her (or leave a note) in a friendly way, hey, I'd like you to try to get X and Y a little more thoroughly this time. Not really fair to just switch without warning if she thinks she's doing exactly what you expected. If she can't/won't, well, then you agree that she's not for you and she can't really be pissed about that.

Also, think about whether or not you're getting what you're paying for. Are you really paying her enough to spend all day on your house with a toothbrush? I'm not saying your expectations are too high (because I don't know,) but think about it. Of course the new service did a bang-up job on their "audition," as others have pointed out, but if you're not paying for it, they're not going to keep doing it.
posted by ctmf at 6:33 PM on February 4, 2008

You have no obligation considerate to her,

Yes, you do. She is a human being. Therefore, you have an obligation to treat her with consideration.

Give her two weeks severance pay and tell her that you appreciated her diligence and you will be sorry to see her go, but you simply cannot keep paying for her services. Offer to serve as a reference, and tell anyone who calls that she did a good job and was reliable--which she was.
posted by sondrialiac at 6:42 PM on February 4, 2008 [1 favorite]

You have no obligation to spare her feelings and be considerate to her

Thank you Dick Cheney. C'mon, a person who cleans your house is not just a merchant from whom you buy coffee in the morning. You form a bond, if you have even a scintilla of a human heart, and to say that you owe them noting is extremely heartless. If they are screwing you then fine, cut the cord without too much guilt, but if they are just less than perfect a bit more tact might be in order. Put yourself in their shoes first and then act. You can be the cold and calculating capitalist employer and still treat your employees with dignity. That would mean that if she is not doing a good job, first asking her to improve. What employer cuts loose an employee, a long term one, without first seeking improvement? If that fails, then move on. In any event, letting her go is like firing an employee. It's a difficult thing for the employee, and to the extent that you can lessen the hurt that seems a human thing to do to me. You can argue among yourselves whether it is more human to sugar coat things or point out poor performance in hopes of future improvement, but regardless, some duty is owed.
posted by caddis at 8:27 PM on February 4, 2008

In my experience, housecleaning people often do their best job the first time they come. Sort of human nature, trying to build a relationship, impress a new client. Just something to factor in -- the new people may not always be perfect.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 9:37 PM on February 4, 2008 [1 favorite]

I have a follow up question about this......

we have a housekeeper who comes twice a week and right now we ARE her ONLY source of income. Before she worked for us, she had to go out of town for an emergency for a couple months and by the time she came back she lost her clients.

Here's the thing, when I hired her I was desperate b/c of the chaos going on in my life at the time. She said she would charge $100 for our house, which I thought was steep, but I figured we'd see how good a job she'd do. And if not, then that would give us time to find someone else for when we moved into our new house in a few months.

So first, are my expectations reasonable? She's here for just over 2 hours, by herself, uses my cleaning supplies. She does an okay job, nothing spectacular, but again, it's just a couple hours. Isn't $100 awfully high? We live in an area with a relatively low cost of living, and I haven't had a housekeeper before to compare. The house we're moving to is much larger and I can't imagine what she would say it'd cost to clean that one.

But at the same time she keeps saying how she can't afford to lose me as a client, and I'm like "AAHHH!" I don't like to be the bad guy, and don't know how to approach this. Please, thoughts?
posted by texas_blissful at 2:51 PM on February 26, 2008

We pay $80 for three hours and we live in a relatively high cost of living area. We also supply the equipment and cleaning solutions. I would ask your friends and co-workers what they pay in your area.

If you want to ease out of this relationship you might start by cutting down to once a week.
posted by caddis at 3:04 PM on February 26, 2008

I've paid as low as $60 to as high as $80 for one person to clean for 3 hours using their own supplies, with the exception of the vacuum cleaner as I prefer they use mine (trying to avoid importing someone else's dust). I've paid as much as $90/visit for a crew of 2-3 people to clean for a little over two hours. My area has high cost of living (Silicon Valley), house is 4 bdrm, 2 bath, single level. I do tend to pay slightly more to cleaners who are scheduled to visit less often than once/weekly as I figure they are cleaning up 2 weeks' accumulation of cruft vs 1 week.

While I don't know the going rate for your area based on what I've paid, $100 sounds steep to me. I would expect a high standard of cleaning for that much once a week. You might be your cleaner's sole client because her rates are higher than her competitors for the level of quality that she provides. In your shoes, I would research the local going rate (ask neighbors, friends, answer a few classified ads) to have a better handle on what to do next. If you like your cleaner, you could ask her to lower her rate a little and/or bring in her own supplies. If you'd like to sever the relationship, it seems that your upcoming move is the perfect opportunity to gracefully let her go.
posted by jamaro at 3:31 PM on February 26, 2008

err, typo, 3 bathrooms. Sorry. I'm typo queen for the day.

Also, I would give your current cleaner the opportunity to improve her work. If she's able to communicate to you that she really needs this job, you should be able to communicate to her what your requirements/standards are.

Upon review, that sounds sort of threatening, which I didn't intend. I just meant that it sounds like there's not a language barrier between you and your cleaner; an issue I've wrangled with in the past.
posted by jamaro at 3:36 PM on February 26, 2008

Ack, I typed twice a week.....I meant twice a MONTH - Sorry! So in that sense, yeah I can see paying her more for bimonthly rather than biweekly, but still, 2 hrs 10 min to clean a 2,700 sq ft the rate of almost $50/hr. Crazy! We live in West Texas to boot. The house we're moving to is 4,000 sq ft though not all of the rooms will be in use. Any ideas for a reasonable rate for something like that?
posted by texas_blissful at 11:23 AM on February 28, 2008

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