Providing Constructive Feedback to Your Cleaning Staff

Giving corrective feedback is one of the most cost-effective ways to boost productivity and lower the risk of employee turnover. To feel motivated and engaged at work your employees need both positive recognition and corrective feedback. 

If it’s delivered in the right way, this type of feedback is actually preferred and has a bigger impact on your cleaners performance. In the janitorial industry, most of the work done is remote and it’s easy for your front line staff to feel that their efforts are being overlooked. When you set some time aside to regularly focus on understanding the challenges they face on site and help them through it, it shows that you care about their personal and professional development and it will increase loyalty and engagement with you and your company. 

Getting comfortable with giving feedback
So with all the benefits of giving corrective feedback, why don’t we do it more often? Negative feedback stresses most of us out. Whether you’re giving or receiving it, it’s natural to avoid conflict. One important thing to remember, ignoring the problems won’t make them go away. 

Giving feedback is an essential part of being a leader. It is something that as a business owner, manager, supervisor or even a cleaner looking for advancement, needs to mastered. The good news is that it’s a skill that can be learned. There is a better way to give negative or ‘corrective’ feedback that people appreciate.

How to constructively give feedback
Giving corrective feedback is stressful because you risk threatening social situations and being responsible for uncomfortable reactions. Here are some of the common pitfalls of giving corrective feedback and strategies you can use to get past them. 

Pitfall #1 - Doing all the talking
When you’re sitting down with someone to give them feedback, put yourself in their shoes. How would you like to receive feedback? Would you rather your boss have his/her say and be done with it? Or would you prefer to be given the opportunity to explain the circumstances and reconstruct what you were thinking at the time? 

The more you listen, the better your employees think you are at giving feedback and the more open they are to it. Your goal by addressing the issue is to find out what your employee is struggling with and see if you can help them with it.  

If you forget to listen first, you can be missing the opportunity to get a full picture of the issue. Sitting down to have this discussion is as much an opportunity for you to get feedback about things you might not know about. 

It may seem counter-intuitive but next time you need to give feedback, get your staff to do most of the talking. After you’ve asked them what happened, give them the opportunity to reflect on what they might do differently next time and then offer them support, advice or, if needed, additional resources they’ll need to be successful. 

Pitfall # 2 - Threatening their authority
Say that you have to give feedback to one of your lead managers or site supervisors about the way they handled a situation with a client. It’s normal for this type of a scenario that they might feel like you’re threatening their authority and can feel to them like you are speaking down or undermining them. 

To avoid sounding like you are patronizing them, encourage them to give feedback on themselves by asking questions like: “What was the main concern you were trying to address?” “What do you think caused the issue in the first place?” “What outcome were you hoping for? Why do you, or don’t you, think it worked out that way in the end?” “How would you recommend we address these situations in the future?”


Pitfall # 3 - Taking away their autonomy
When you have a cleaner who has been setting their own hours, but due to recent restructuring you need them to start sticking to a schedule. A cleaner who is used to having more control over the situation may feel like you are threatening their authority by trying to micro-manage them or take away their choices. Try explaining first your situation and why a change is needed, then offer up a couple options and ask them which one they would prefer. 


Pitfall #4 - Coming off as foe rather than a friend 
When you’re giving someone feedback they are trying to decide whether you are doing it as a friend, or as their foe. We found especially when people are working remotely, that encouraging friendships between managers and cleaners can reduce this threat. Relating personally to the task at hand makes giving feedback sound more like advice from a trusted friend. From a supervisor to a cleaner this might sound like, “ When I was in your shoes I struggled with that too. Next time you might wanna try this, I found it helped me.” 


Pitfall #5 - Making them feel vulnerable
Certainly gives people peace of mind because they know what to expect in the future. If people are not aware that they were doing anything wrong, giving feedback can surprise and unsettle them. Worst case scenario, it can make people feel very vulnerable and can even lead to fears of being demoted or losing their job.

To avoid this, focus less on what they might have done wrong, and more on what your ideal outcomes are. Establish clear expectations at the onset so that future occasions where the same discussion is needed can refer back to the conversation where you discussed the goal outcomes.

Pitfall #6 -  Not being fair
Even though there are a handful of issues you and your managers may run into on a regular basis each situation is slightly different which can make it tricky to be consistent. Your cleaners will evaluate whether your feedback is fair or not based on the actions of other cleaners and what feedback you gave to them. To be fair, give feedback only based on facts, and avoid making assumptions or generalizations.


Pitfall # 7 Giving too little or too much feedback
Experts have found that giving too much feedback can overwhelm the person and actually be harmful to their ability to change. Unless there is an urgent issue you need to address, sitting down with someone to give them corrective feedback is most effective on a monthly basis. The reason is because it allows both of you to focus on destructive patterns or habits you want to change, rather than focusing in on a particular event. Focusing on changing habits will have more impact on performance and helps you uncover other larger issues you might not have been aware of.  


Pitfall #8 Not following up
Corrective feedback is a powerful tool to engage and retain your staff but can fall short if you fail to follow-up. Like any good plan, if it’s all talk and no action, nothing will be achieved. By following up you show genuine interest in helping that person overcome their challenges. As a leader, it’s your job to make sure your team feels supported at all times. 

Make that first conversation count. At the end of it, ask them if it’s okay for you to follow-up. It may sound something like: “I will check back with you next week to see how things are going. Would that help keep you on track?”  

Encourage feedback at all levels
Being open to giving and receiving feedback signals to your cleaners that you care about their success and want to help. It opens up the communication lines so that your team can work through problems together, fostering trust and boosting engagement.  

Often employees leave for unresolved issues that employers didn’t even know about. Enabling more feedback can help resolve issues sooner and retain your staff. Sometimes the hardest part of the conversation is starting it so we hope these strategies will help make your corrective feedback conversations more constructive. 

Have you used these strategies in the past? Have others to recommend? Let us know.