A reader writes: "We have a customer who insists on giving direction to our day staff including pulling them from their tasks. They or a tenant then complains when the prescribed work was not completed. Any suggestions would be appreciated.”

Unfortunately, this can be a complicated situation since it appears that you have allowed this practice for a while, which has turned it into an entitlement. When I followed up, the customer indicated that they had the “right” to redirect custodians since that was part of the agreement and upon close reading, they are correct in a very general way. This needs to be clarified since the ambiguity in wording is being interpreted by each party in a different way.

My strategy in the past is to advise the customer that if they provide direction to the front line staff, they on record as directing the staff member and can be liable for outcomes (including slip/falls), workers comp injuries, etc. in some cases. The key is to protect the worker from this type situation by having a clarifying discussion with the customer directly so that they know you are not simply avoiding work. Of course, we have all had situations where the customer had the clout to redirect workers with impunity. In that case, you need to determine whether it is appropriate to add an additional fee per event so that the worker is paid to perform the task and then complete their work without being penalized.

We need to be clear on stressing that the front line workers should be trained on how to respond to such directions and it is simply to 1) acknowledge the request/suggestion and 2) advise the customer that they will have their supervisor contact them as soon as possible. If they have been told NOT to perform a task, they probably will have to find something else to do until the supervisor contacts the customer. All of this should be documented in the Daily Exceptions Report and shared with appropriate stakeholders and discussed at next scheduled meeting with request for “clarification” on roles and duties.  It is crucial the onsite supervisor is engaged and available to minimize any confusion.

Your comments and questions are important. I hope to hear from you soon. Until then, keep it clean...

Mickey Crowe has been involved in the industry for over 35 years. He is a trainer, speaker and consultant. You can reach Mickey at 678-314-2171 or CTCG50@comcast.net.