5 Steps for Handling Difficult Conversations with Employees

5 steps for handling difficult conversations with employees. Black man distressed holding a phone.
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Need tips to have a tough face-to-face meeting with a staff member?  We know how uneasy talks like this can be.  So, we’ve outlined 5 steps for handling difficult conversations with employees below.  Even if you have to discuss body odor. 😒


Seems like no matter the occupation or the size of any company, business owners and managers will inevitably face the challenge of having to have a difficult conversation with an employee.  And, if this hasn’t happened to you while you’ve owned your professional cleaning company, just hold your duster my friend, its coming.


From customer complaints of missed cleaning tasks to a variety of team member accusations, there can be a myriad of reasons you must have an uneasy meeting with an employee.  And, no matter the complaint, you have to meet with the team member.


Regardless if your company is cleaning houses or offices, when the complaints come in, it is your job to rectify any and all issues.


Let’s say that there is an issue of a staff member going in to work late.  You have to address the employee because their tardiness is a poor representation of your professional cleaning service.  And, it also violates the rules outlined in the employee handbook.  (By the way, update your employee handbook often!)


Or, if a customer calls to complain about a missing item.

Drop everything and take the call.  Close the door to your office and get every freaking detail from your customer.  Stay calm.  And…. DEAL WITH IT HEAD ON because that’s a serious conversation.


But let’s take it down a notch or two before you bust out in a sweat by just the thought of employee theft.  Let’s say the complaint, albeit socially an “unmentionable thing”, is an employee with body odor.


You read that right.



(I gotta say, personally, I’m not sure which conversation I hated more, Theft or stank.  Theft or stank.  Theft or stank.)  Truthfully, in my 25 years in the professional cleaning business, it was my job, not my partner’s, to handle these affairs.  Neither, theft or stank, were my favorite discussion to have with an employee.


But, even conversations like bad body odor has to take place!


I mean seriously, as professional maid and janitorial services, we have to clean at our customer’s location.  And it is not acceptable to clean a location but leave a lingering body odor that would make your customer vomit once they entered. 🤢


Nope, no way!  Not even with all windows open.


In our industry, discussing body odor should not be considered taboo or one of those “unmentionables”.

It is a subject that in fact should be addressed in the company’s hand book.


I’m not trying to be flippant and declare that there should be an anti-stink law.  But ghezz, something needs to be mentioned.


Just something socially acceptable like, “personal hygiene is a must due to the fact that employees work in teams of 2 or 3, and that we provide “on-site” personal services so our customer’s experience must be considered in every fashion.”




Nevertheless, you’ve come here for tips and ideas to have an uneasy exchange with a staff member.  Here ya go.


Steps for handling difficult conversations with employees

First Before you decide to have the meeting, collect all evidence to make sure that a meeting is necessary. No employee wants to waste their time, and neither should you on frivolous things.

If you need a few hours to collect your thoughts, do that.  Double up on coffee, say a prayer, listen to relaxing music, or bust out with a couple of “Orange Justice” dance moves to get you motivated.  (You know that crazy dance your kid does at every waking moment!)  Lol.  Whatever, but get yourself together.


Second Plan a private meeting but determine if you need to have another person present as witness. Make sure that you have notes with exact dates, times, and incidents.


Third Don’t beat around the bush.  Remember, don’t waste your time nor theirs.  Get right to the point.

Start with why you called them into the office.  Then continue to build on that with specifics of incidents, dates, witnesses.  Remind them of the employee hand book about whatever they’re being accused of.  Even, if it is the “no-stink policy”.


Fourth Once you have presented all evidence and company policy. Ask if they have any explanations.  Let them talk.  It is only right.


Fifth Once both sides have had their say. Be sure to put a note in their employee’s file and reassure the employee of complete privacy.  Also, give them the freedom, to come back to you should they have any further concerns on the subject.


But, moving forward, the employee should know that this was a reprimand – a warning, and that they should begin to adhere to all company policies.  Also, their job is still secure.


Additionally, be prepared for the unexpected.  Things like, if the employee should quit.  Or, if the employee retaliates in some way like bad mouth you to other team members, report you to your local union, (if you’re a union shop). Anything like that.


Still, don’t be afraid to have necessary conversations with team.  Remember, you’re the boss and hard conversations are just apart of the job.


We don’t have a copy of company policy outline for maid and janitorial businesses, but we have many other resources available in our online shop exclusively for professional cleaning service providers.


Additionally, we don’t like for our new friends to “read n’ click”, so, take a look at the homework section and do it.


Homework:  As you continue to run your professional residential and/or office cleaning business, update your employee handbook regularly.  It should serve as the foundation of operations for all staff.  Use this manual to hold all employees accountable for their behavior.  And then, when you have a serious situation for a meeting, whip this sucker out and follow the above-mentioned steps.


I am making light of this post only to get you to laugh.  I know you searched for this information because you truly want to find a way to handle difficult conversations with your employees.  Bottom line: collect all evidence, set up a private meeting, keep it short and on topic, encourage feedback, and move on.  Then, bust out with your version of that crazy “Orange Justice” dance!  Just ‘cause you need to laugh!



“Sometimes the hardest thing and the right thing are the same.” Anonymous


Until next time,

Happy cleaning!





I grew my office cleaning side hustle into a ½ million-dollar corporation with the partnership of my husband and our amazing staff. In 2020, I retired my service-based business to shift my focus and passion from serving cleaning clientele to serving cleaning business owners.


Utilizing my 27+ years’ experience, I offer free and paid products exclusively for cleaning business owners and cleaning side hustlers at A Janitor’s Story® Website and my VIP Group Coaching Membership App.


I’ve served other cleaning pros by helping them to turn one time cleaning jobs into high paying recurring customers, create excellent client retention practices, develop hiring systems that really work, build marketing techniques that convert and so much more.


If this is a place you’d like to explore, I’d love to serve you too. Simply sign up to my free weekly email newsletter for tips and inspiration. I can’t wait to meet you inside.



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