What Role Does Ethics Play in Your Cleaning Company?

In the past few years, news headlines have screamed of high profile scandals involving big names and companies like Martha Stewart, Enron, and Tyco. Because of these high profile scandals, businesses and individuals are becoming more and more aware of the importance of ethics in the workplace and in everyday life. What role do ethics play in your cleaning business?

You will often (and perhaps always) be cleaning your clients’ buildings at night when no one from the business is around. In addition, you might have access to areas that have confidential or nonpublic types of information. Because of this, it is critical that your customers can trust your cleaning company and believe that you and your employees will act ethically.

Business ethics set standards and establish a value system for how your business will operate. It is important to remember that ethics are much more than just not “breaking the law”. They are standards of “right” and “wrong” that dictate what people should and should not do. Acts such as intentionally abusing company equipment and employee theft are clear-cut breaches of ethics. However, there are many gray areas that are not so easy to classify as right or wrong behavior.

Here are some examples of issues your cleaning company and employees might run into:

1. There is a box of old phones, calculators and small electronics labeled as trash. Your employee should pick it up and throw it away. Since the box is labeled as “trash” is it really stealing if an employee takes something out of the box for his or her own use? After all, the business you’re cleaning no longer wants these items.

2. One of your cleaning employees is working alone in a building. The employee is vacuuming behind a copy machine. Tucked way back and covered with dust is a $5.00 bill. This bill has obviously been there for quite some time. What happens if the employee picks up the $5.00 bill and sticks it in his pocket? After all, no one is around to notice and it is only $5.00.

3. One of your employees is cleaning in a computer room and unplugs a computer so she can plug in her vacuum, causing a major computer problem for the client. Such an error might cause an employee to hide her mistake and play dumb. But as her employer, you need to encourage honesty, no matter how serious the offense.

4. You just received a check from a client and see that they not only paid their current invoice, but also paid the previous invoice again. They’ve got lots of money and you work so hard for yours, is it really so bad to just cash the check? They’ll never miss it.

You and your employees will know what is and what is not legal. Having a written ethics policy to cover those gray areas will guide employees in those not illegal, yet tempting situations that they may find themselves in. An ethics policy can be just a few paragraphs in your employee manual. And making sure that your employees know from the first day on the job where you stand on ethical issues can prevent problems from occurring.

What types of situations should your policy cover? This will vary by company; however, you may want to include some of the following:

* Conflicts of interest (for example, working for two cleaning companies and divulging client info to the competitor)

* What to do with property (money, jewelry, etc) that is found on the floor, on restroom counters, etc.

* Not reading information on desks or going through files or desk drawers

* Properly disposing of chemicals

* Not removing anything that is in the trash

* Never allowing friends or family into the building when they are working

* Always treating building tenants, employees and visitors with respect

* Treating other cleaning company employees with respect

Research shows that if a business has a strong sense of integrity there is a positive influence on its bottom line. And in the cleaning field, it is extremely important that your customers know you set high ethical standards for yourself and your employees. Remember, “what goes around, comes around”. Treating customers and employees with respect will pay off in less employee turnover and loyal customers. This is the key not only to your cleaning business’ survival, but its growth and your financial well-being.

Copyright (c) 2007 The Janitorial Store

by Steve Hanson

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