A few weeks ago, one of my best friends convinced me to go on a double blind date. Not that I wanted to or felt like it, but because she needed some propping to overcome her shyness. So here we were, the four of us, having a glass of wine and some nice appetisers in Il Sugo on Pratt Street. It didn’t take long for my “partner” and me to realise we were the third and fourth wheel in the quarter. But hey, I had put on a beautiful dress and make-up, so why not take advantage of a good night out?
That was before my counterpart decided to ask me what I do for a living. “I am a performance quality manager at a local tenancy cleaning company”, I responded matter-of-factly, not expecting this simple answer to cause a mini-sensation. The guy looked at me with some weird mix of surprise and misplaced empathy – as if I had just admitted to having a brain tumour. “You don’t look like someone working in the cleaning industry”, he blurted out, which I suppose was meant as a compliment. I had a couple of options – to let the comment slide or to go full-tilt and ruin my friend’s evening (she was having a blast with her blind date). The good girl that I am, I decided to let it go.
While the dinner was not a total catastrophe, and my counterpart was genuinely a nice guy, his comment rankled me. I guess the most annoying thing is that it’s not the first time I have heard something like that. I am not trying to say the cleaning industry comes with a stigma, but people have certain prejudices about the men and women who make sure their homes and offices are neat and comfortable.
“Cleaning Cannot Be Your First Career Choice!”
Many people – some of my friends and distant relatives included – cannot compute the notion of cleaning as a serious career choice. It is something you do when you have a rough patch professionally or when you are very young and need the money for college.
I think the origin of this particular prejudice is the fact that most people hate cleaning. They detest their home chores so much that the mere idea of someone not sharing this emotion sounds preposterous. I know many professionals in my industry who get a real kick out of cleaning – the challenge to do the job as well and quickly as possible, try new methods, tools, and materials, and improve and excel with every procedure. It is the same mindset that drives neurosurgeons, athletes or IT specialists to strive to be better at their job – why should cleaning be any different?
“Anybody Can Do The Cleaning. It Is A Job For Dummies.”
Oh, really? So why don’t you do it yourself? Because you are too lazy or because you are intellectually superior? It is arguably the most ridiculous prejudice about the cleaning industry and cannot be further from the truth.
Modern cleaning relies on equipment and understanding that requires experience, knowledge, and skill. If you think you can effectively clean a carpet in fifteen minutes, for example, you have no idea what you are talking about. Professional cleaners must constantly update and upgrade their skills to remain relevant in a uber-competitive industry.
Of course, I will not compare tenancy cleaning to biochemical research or astrophysics, but it does require dedication to the craft, just like any other job.
“But Cleaning Is So Dull! You Must Be Bored Out Of Your Mind!”
We have two problems here – one general and the other specific to the cleaning business. The general problem is this ridiculous notion that you should be in love with your job – it must be engaging, inspiring, creative, and unlock the best version of you. What a bunch of nonsense! How many people genuinely love what they do for a living? And how many consider their job as anything more than a monthly pay check? My job is not the centre of my existence – it is something I am good at, I get paid to do it well, respect my colleagues, and guarantee that our customers get the quality they expect. As for the people who try to convince me (or themselves) that working should be some sort of an existential quest for self-discovery – you are either delusional, hypocritical, or need to change your dealer.
The second problem is the fundamental lack of understanding of what any cleaning business is truly about. It is not about scrubbing, polishing, dusting or vacuuming the carpets – yes, you do it all the time. But any cleaning business is above and beyond about people – interacting with customers and cleaners, listening and reacting to their requirements, and sometimes even acting as a lightning rod if the circumstances require it. I would much rather do that than move numbers from one box to another in an endless spreadsheet. Oh, and I believe that in a single day, I meet more people than a software engineer does in a year.