Sexual Harassment and House Cleaners Edition
- Don’t ignore the signs. Sexual harassment needs to be stopped early. Don’t let it drag on. Report it to your supervisor and if necessary the authorities.
- Have a company policy that outlines what to do if you are sexually harassed while house cleaning.
- Learn martial arts so you can protect yourself.
- Carry mace with you to house cleaning jobs. Keep it in your apron. It’s better to be safe than sorry.
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Ask a House Cleaner – Sexual Harassment and House Cleaners in Uncomfortable Situations
I was dusting a living room. And when I looked up the homeowner was standing in front of me, buck naked and playing with herself. I’d never found myself in that type of a situation before. And honestly had never even thought about what to do if something like that happened.
I was clear about one thing: my reaction in the next two to five seconds would be important to the outcome of this story.
Before I tell you how the story ends – let’s consider a couple of things.
- If someone who is usually clothed is suddenly naked, that’s huge information.
- If this person has never made unwanted advances towards you, and now they are – that’s huge information.
- Something triggered the new behavior. This could be an addiction to drugs, alcohol, sex, medication, or a medical condition such as Alzheimer’s etc.
- If you ignore this behavior, because it’s uncomfortable and you continue as if nothing is happening, in a sense, you are approving it.
What To Do?
Look for clues to determine if this person is hitting on you. If they are, you need to make some quick fast decisions about sexual harassment and leaving. Should you stay, a bunch of different things can happen. One of them is that you reject the advances and hurt the feelings of the aggressor and they could become hostile. If you attempt to push away or touch the aggressor, you could be smacked with a civil suit claiming battery or abuse. If they are hitting on you, leave.
Maybe the aggressor is on medication that is causing the unusual behavior.
It’s also possible that the aggressor is experiencing cognitive issues and is slipping (as in Alzheimer’s.) If that is the case, they may need further help from a family member or doctor. It’s a good idea to have access to a number for a family member in case of emergency.
Here’s How the Story Ends
I followed my gut instinct. This was an unusual situation for me, but I didn’t feel I was in any harm or danger. I also sensed that I needed to remove myself from the situation immediately. I said these exact words: “Oops, I’m interrupting. I’m going to go clean the dining room and give you some privacy.” And I went in the other room without another glance.
This was a diplomatic way of saying “I’m not interested in anything except cleaning your house.” And she understood the message. If she would have made another move in my direction, I would have left the house. And most likely would have ended the contract.
The homeowner stayed in the living room for a few minutes, then she went upstairs. She showered and left to run errands and was never home again when I went to clean. Was it awkward? Yes. And who knows what that was all about? She was about my age, and I didn’t suspect a medical condition or addiction – probably just personal choice. And I wasn’t there to judge. But I wanted to make it clear I was only there to clean house. Nothing more.
Harassment comes in many forms and can happen to anyone at any time. If you are in a client’s home and you are being harassed with unwanted advances – you need to leave the room or the house. As the boss, you have the right to walk away from any situation that makes you uncomfortable. You need to encourage your employees to do the same. It’s better to be safe than sorry.
Social Media & Sexual Harassment
Smartphones put a camera in everybody’s hand. Great for capturing those once in a lifetime shots that used to be just memories. But it opened a door for drunken sexual harassment photos and videos that plague my twitter feed. Sometimes it’s my Facebook feed and other social media business sites. I can’t control what others post, but I can monitor those sites for repeat offenders. Delete. Unfriend. Unfollow. Block.
Most of us have social media business pages. Your pages are a reflection of your business, your values, and your offerings. Unwanted suggestive media dilute the message you send to your clients and prospects.
Part of your social media strategy should include setting sexual harassment boundaries. Decide what types of pictures, videos, words, phrases, and comments are not allowed on your timelines, or online business groups you moderate.
Cleaning your social media accounts is a lot like cleaning house. It requires a thorough once through and then constant maintenance.
Time-Saving Hack of the Week = Have a Company Policy on Sexual Harassment
Once you hire employees your house cleaning business changes. It’s not just you anymore. You are responsible to and for your employees. Your employees are an extension of you and your brand. So it’s important to have policies in place that protect your company from the bad behavior of employees. You need to create these policies early. Communicate these rules and consequences to your new hires verbally and in writing. Your new hires need to sign off that they understand and agree to the rules. Copies of these agreements go in your employee files.
What About Same-Sex Harassment?
Anyone can be a victim of sexual harassment. Sexual harassment is not limited by gender. The perpetrator can be a man or a woman, and their victim does not have to be of the opposite sex.
Offenders can be anyone in the workplace. This can be the homeowner or the owner or manager of your cleaning company. If you are the owner, it could be your employee. It could also be a coworker or other house cleaner on your team. Harassment is harassment regardless of the culprit. And the victim doesn’t need to be the person harassed. The victim could be another employee affected by the conduct. As the employer, you are legally responsible for harassment that takes place in your company.
Protect your company by having strict rules in place – and enforce your policies. It will save you time and money from possible civil suits later on.
What’s going on with Angela? – It’s All About Me!
Like it or not, I am a reflection of my business. When people see me they make decisions, conscious or unconscious, about my core values and how I operate my business.
Sure, I’ve had bad hair days like everybody, and I have PMS from time to time. I have grumpy days and days where I prefer sweats over a uniform and no makeup. There are days I feel like crying and days I want to punch somebody. I’m human. But I do have to live with myself twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, three hundred and sixty-five days a year, every year for the rest of my life. I need to become the person I want to be around 100% of the time.
I Am My Companies Biggest Asset
And because I am the boss, I am responsible to my clients, and my employees, my family and myself.
More important than crunching numbers or customer service, is that I take care of myself. I am my companies biggest asset. It is my responsibility to drag myself out of bed each morning and into running shoes. I am responsible for my mental well being. If my attitude is not in a healthy place, I am the one who needs to meditate or read or listen to a motivational podcast to reset my thinking.
I am responsible for the food I consume. I’ve noticed over the years of cleaning houses and living on the go – that fast food is convenient. But for the most part, it is uninspiring and unhealthy. If I’m not going to grab a burger, fries and a shake for lunch, I need to have other food available to keep up my energy. That is a conscious choice that requires effort on my part. Nobody pays the price or benefits from that choice except me.
Over the years I’ve learned that I can outsource lots of things like landscaping, administrative tasks, or car washing. But I can’t outsource my daily exercise, the amount of sleep I get each night, my emotional well being, or my nutrition. Those things I have to do myself. I have to do them for myself. If I don’t take care of myself first, I can’t take care of anyone else. This includes my family, my employees, and my clients.
As the new year begins, I am setting a new years resolution to celebrate the life I’ve been given and honor it in a way that serves the people I love.