how to say “no, I won’t clean the bathroom”

A reader writes:

I work at a small nonprofit organization. My manager is always looking for ways to save money. Some make sense (think shopping around for the best price on office supplies). Others, not so much.

We don’t have a janitor on staff, nor do we hire a service. We used to have someone (sort of like a rotating intern position) who would clean the office and the bathroom. That person would usually do it for a few months, then get pulled into other projects instead of cleaning. Needless to say, the bathroom got gross.

It’s always been a problem, and with COVID-19 it’s even more of a concern. Our common spaces should be cleaned and sanitized often. I work mostly from home for now, but I am in the office a few times a week and I would like to feel safe that our spaces are being cleaned. When I mentioned my concern to my manager, she said she’ll start cleaning the bathroom. And if anyone else wanted to be added to the cleaning rotation, we should let her know.

How can I tell her that no, I don’t want to clean our common bathroom? Am I out of line for thinking that is gross and weird to clean up after your coworkers in the bathroom? This was not in my original job description. I know we often wear many hats at a nonprofit, but this is ridiculous, right?

Yeah, they need to hire someone to clean the bathroom. Always, but especially right now with Covid.

It’s not reasonable to expect people who were hired for other work to also take on cleaning toilets as a side duty.

Sometimes when this comes up, people argue that cleaning bathrooms is demeaning. I don’t think cleaning is inherently demeaning work … and I think it demeans janitors and others to look down on it like that. But cleaning up after colleagues in the bathroom can be gross work, and it’s something people should explicitly sign on for — and it’s not usually something they expect to be doing when they accept an office job.

Frankly, that rotating intern system wasn’t a good solution either, unless the person was clearly told before taking the job that cleaning the bathroom would be part of the work.

You office needs to hire cleaners who have signed up to be cleaners.

And yes, nonprofits on limited budgets have to be frugal, etc. etc. etc. But this is an expense of running an office, just like renting office space is.

As for what to do … It sounds like your manager isn’t ordering anyone to clean the bathroom. She said people should let her know if they want to be added to the cleaning rotation. You don’t want to be added, so just don’t take her up on that. If she ever asks you directly, it’s reasonable to say, “I’m happy to help keep other common areas neat if it makes financial sense to have me pitch in, but I’m not comfortable cleaning up after coworkers in the bathroom.” If she decides to require it of everyone, ideally you and your coworkers would push back as a group, but if that doesn’t work then you’d need to decide how much of a stand you’re willing to take on it. But it’s reasonable to attempt at least the initial pushback.

In fact, even if your boss doesn’t push anyone else to volunteer, it might be worth pushing back on her doing it herself. Normally I’d say that if she wants to clean the bathrooms on her own, so be it (although it’s likely a terrible use of her time and the organization’s funds to pay an executive to clean bathrooms) — but right now with Covid, bathrooms probably need to be cleaned to a higher standard and more regularly than whatever she’s doing sporadically, so it might be worth pushing to hire actual cleaners regardless.

{ 245 comments… read them below }

  1. Foreign Octopus*

    I don’t mind pitching in when the situation calls for it but cleaning the bathroom is something that would make me hesitate too, and I’ve worked cleaning jobs before where that was my entire job description. Alison’s right: there’s nothing demeaning about being a cleaner or janitor and nor should they be, it’s a good, honest job; however, it’s a job where they expect to clean things. Whatever job you’re working is not one you expected to clean, and I don’t see that this can be described as “acceptable, extended duties”.

    Your boss wants to save money but that money would be better spent on hiring a dedicated cleaner in order to keep the space clean but also make sure that none of the staff lose morale from having to do a job they never expected to do.

    1. CommanderBanana*

      Also, it’s been my experience that this ALWAYS seems to fall along gendered lines. Having worked in many small nonprofits where things that other orgs would probably hire out were performed by staff, it always seemed that things like bathroom and kitchen cleaning and other more “domestically” coded things like acknowledging staff birthdays or planning holiday parties always seemed to fall to the female staff.

      1. Snailing*

        The gender split for sure, as well as no standards for cleaning, so inevitably there are those few people who are “better” at cleaning the bathroom (read: they actually clean it instead of just wiping down the toilet seat) who get pressured to do it more or who end up needing to deep clean because it’s not being done evenly every week. UGH I don’t miss those days….

      2. Donecleaningup*

        Oh yes. We were an “everyone pitch in” [read: the three 30 something women cleaned everything] office. During covid my male boss was the only one in the office every day and cleaned nothing. Now we have a cleaning service.

        1. Middle Aged Lady*

          My horrid small non-profit had the idea that we should keep the kitchen clean: not just pick up after ourselves as in a normal office, but deep clean. I wouldn’t have minded except that they also had a strict dress code. Expecting someone to clean in dress shoes, pantyhose and a skirt that had to be dry-cleaned was ridiculous. Everything about that place was terrible. This was just part of it.

    2. Amaranth*

      Additionally, if you want to disinfect properly, and protect whoever is cleaning, there should be a financial outlay for protective gear, cleaning gear, etc. There is also time away from regular duties to clean, and if its a public restroom, there can be some offputting optics to clients who see the person they are meeting with coming out with a cleaning bucket. It makes the organization look cheap and…well, at least most people aren’t shaking hands right now.

      1. GreenDoor*

        I would add that, at my workplace, the building service workers have to watch training videos on how to use commercial grade cleaning products and the heavier duty cleaning equipment. Some of that stuff is actually more dangerous that the products and tools we’d use at home. So I would think, for compliance reasons, a responsible organization would only want people doing that work who have had proper training. Maybe this doens’t pertain to OP’s small non-profit, but I’ll put it out there…

        1. Nic*

          Yeah, this I feel, is the heart of the matter. All jobs need training. Cleaning is a job that often uses chemicals which can be dangerous if used wrongly, and (more often than we want to admit) involves knowing how best to remove potentially infectious bodily fluids from surfaces. That means it’s an essential safety-critical job which needs proper training – especially during a pandemic – not just someone thrusting a mop at a random office-worker and saying “can you give the bathroom a spritz?”

          I feel like, at this time, people in the office should be getting the hang of using disinfectant wipes on the surfaces they know they’ve touched, but it takes a proper cleaning staff to give the office and bathrooms a functional deep-clean.

          1. Quill*

            Yes, also there’s different training for different types of cleaning.

            For example, though aseptic disinfection would probably do the job in an office bathroom as it does in the lab biohood, the lab biohood does not have an open bowl of water filled with human fecal bacteria.

          2. AlmostGone*

            I agree. When I was a retail manager, I balked at cleaning up a large mess of loose human feces because I had no training in that sort of clean up.

            PLUS we had no gloves or masks because they were brought in by the outside cleaning crew. My boss told me to put plastic bags on my hands and hold my breath. I declined that opportunity to excel. He asked me if I was willing to take a hit on my annual eval. To which I responded, “Cleaning up piles of human feces is worth the hit on my annual eval because I won’t be here for it.” There are some lines not worth crossing. Especially since there is always another retail management job around the corner.

        2. Ashloo*

          This exactly. As a college student, I worked in a general maintenance position in the dorms so lots of cleaning was expected. But students didn’t clean bathrooms or clean up vomit because that work required additional training and was performed by the full-time unioned staff. This office should hire a professional so the work is preformed correctly and safely.

      1. Lady Heather*

        Yes! I’d have a lot less problems with “cleaning customer bathrooms” or “cleaning customer bathrooms that coworkers also use” or even “cleaning customer bathrooms and while you’re at it, also clean staff bathroom”. It’s the “cleaning up after coworkers” thing specifically that squicks me out.

        A few years ago (I think Alison brought the nieces in to answer that one, actually) there was a letter about a boss who asked their employee to unclog the toilet the boss had just visited.. and I kept thinking “it’s one thing to unclog an anonymous log, but I don’t want to unclog one that’s been identified”.

    3. Pennyworth*

      It’s also a health issue, especially in the age of Covid: for staff generally if the bathroom is not cleaned to an appropriate standard and for the staff member doing the cleaning without proper training or equipment.

    4. Chinook*

      And is she really saving money. What does she make an hour and how long does it take to do a proper cleaning every week? Could that money be spent better by freeing her up and hiring someone to do it? Probably.

  2. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

    Also,a professional will be able to clean a bathroom according to a system, not just Jim from accounting saying, “ehh that looks good enough”. I’ve had colleagues spray Febreeze and say they’ve cleaned. Not good during Covid. Because when employees do it, it will require accountability and someone to check it.. and honestly I wouldn’t want my annual review to include my toilet cleaning proficiency.

    1. Captain Raymond Holt*

      I agree! Cleaning is a job and a skill. I respect people who do this kind of work a great deal. They know what they’re doing and have the right tools, skills, experience, etc to clean well. Bathrooms should be a job for professionals.

      1. Observer*


        Cleaning is NOT demeaning. What IS demeaning is acting like it’s just a nothing job that takes no work and no skill, and something that it’s ok to do any which way, without regard to actual effectiveness.

        1. Mel_05*

          Yes! I so appreciate our cleaning crew. They’re phenomenal and do a much better job than I ever would.

          1. SheLooksFamiliar*

            A former boss made a point of introducing himself to all of our cleaning crew, and always got holiday gifts for them – usually a cash bonus. He appreciated them and their work, and never spoke down to them. That’s how you do it.

            1. Media Monkey*

              a company i worked for hired our cleaning team directly (as company employees) as he found out that the agency they worked for that we had contracted to clean our offices were messing them about. totally disfunctional company but they treated them really well.

        2. Snarkus Aurelius*

          And this is why I always buy a ginormous Harry & David “tree” of treats for the cleaning crew.

        3. Anon for Today*

          I agree…it’s also super demeaning to be a slob in those bathrooms because “it’s someone else’s job to clean up.”

      2. AnonInTheCity*

        Yes! I don’t clean my OWN bathroom. I pay someone who is good at cleaning bathrooms to do it.

        1. AnonforThis*

          This! I barely clean my personal home. I am a party of one. My knowledge of cleaning practices is not robust. There’s no good excuse for my ineptitude, but it is what it is. I certainly don’t have the skills to clean behind multiple people, and if I tried, I can guarantee it wouldn’t meet typical standards for an office environment.

      3. UKDancer*

        Definitely, I hugely respect the lady who comes and cleans for me. She does a job I don’t want to do and does it much better than I ever could.

        Also if it’s an office bathroom you need it cleaning to a consistent standard, not whatever someone things is good enough. That’s why you pay a professional.

        There are a lot of agencies who will come in x times per week to clean a bathroom and kitchen for you and not charge a huge amount so even for a non-profit it’s not a vast expense.

      4. Washi*

        Yes! Making something truly clean (vs just look or smell clean) is a skill. I was actually reading an interesting article about how during the pandemic, there are lots of cleaning companies springing up that don’t actually do a good job cleaning because they don’t know how to use chemicals like bleach properly or follow actual disinfecting procedures.

        1. Texan In Exile*

          A friend who is now an IT director worked his way through college as a janitor. He said he got more training as a janitor – reading and using the safety sheets (what are those called? MSDS?) and the proper PPE and procedures for dealing with biological waste – than he ever did when he started at the company we both worked at.

          1. Noodles*

            Yep, I worked my way through school as a night janitor at an elementary school. At the beginning of my training, and anytime a chemical we used changed, there was training on the updated MSDS(material safety data sheet). Some of those chemicals we used would eat flesh if undiluted. Commercial cleaning chemicals are not the same as putting comet in your toilet at home and scrubbing a little bit. Leave those jobs to someone who’s been trained for them.

      5. Clisby*

        Years ago (and I mean back in the 90s’) a colleague at work was talking about how lucky his mother had been to find a great house cleaner who charged $10 an hour. Another guy said that seemed really high for unskilled work. I said, “Fergus, unskilled work is what you get if you hire me to clean your house. Somebody who knows how to clean a house is not unskilled.”

        1. YankeeGal*

          I don’t understand how people can justify paying low wages for a human’s time. I think people should be getting paid more for dirty jobs, not less.

    2. Eternally Tired*

      This is my concern as well. Folks who are janitors and hired as cleaning staff KNOW what the standard is for cleanliness and have the tools available to them to achieve what’s necessary, because it’s their job. Just like I know how to do specific tasks for my job, they know how to do specific tasks for theirs. They are the experts. And I would much prefer an expert (especially in the time of Covid, when standards are even higher) do it than some dude who thinks wiping out the sink with a paper towel and spraying Febreeze is actual cleaning.

    3. AuroraLight37*

      Exactly. Having a professional do it under regular circumstances is importantly because they can do it efficiently and correctly. Now it’s essential to have someone who knows how to disinfect the right way.

      1. I'm just here for the cats*

        They should have professionals come in. Not only because it’s a waste of everyone’s time but because everyone has different levels of clean. I’ve known people whose toilets were actually black that it was ok. And with covid you dont want things just clean, you want them disinfected. There is a difference! Commercials are deceiving. You can’t just spray a surface and wipe it right away and think its ok. Most products need to sit for at least 5 minutes. People don’t know.
        I’m lucky that my company (university) added extra janitors and they have been doing really well with Covid cleaning. They don’t do private office spaces except for garbage, but they do provide the cleaning materials. I questioned the directions that were given for the cleaner though because it said spray on towel and wipe surface. I do what I do at home. Spray the surface (desk, conference table, chairs, etc) and let it sit for a few minutes and come back and wipe. I don’t trust that some admin that typed up the directions knows how to properly clean.

    4. Paperwhite*

      +1 I was just about to say this. A professional cleaner will, well, clean professionally, which is what’s needed.

    5. Thankful for AAM*

      Thank you! If I get asked to clean the bathroom at my workplace, I will probably spray something and say it was clean! I have had jobs that included cleaning the bathrooms (in a shelter) but I knew that going in and I am older and more aware of the problems with untrained staff cleaning a space used by so many and in a pandemic.

      1. TCO*

        Even when I worked in a shelter, the cleaning was left to a professional custodian. Other shelter staff might need to help out if something happened during the overnight shift that needed immediate cleaning, but it was never their daily responsibility (and the amount that was expected was included in the job description).

        1. Ambrianne*

          From 2017 until September of this year, I ran two homeless shelters. Staff and guests cleaned everything and cleaned it well. New guests generally didn’t know how to clean properly which was a skill they were going to need when they found a place to live. We never had a case of COVID that originated in the shelter that we knew of.

    6. Carlie*

      Yep. Right now is the perfect time to push on it, because they do not want to be the office that had a covid outbreak because they refused to have the bathrooms professionally cleaned.

    7. CatLadyInTraining*

      Exactly! Not everyone would do the same kind of job. Some people would do just a quick Lysol wipe clean and say it’s good. Some people might do a good job. And some people have never cleaned a bathroom in their life…
      And who will provide the cleaning supplies?

    8. not that kind of Doctor*

      Yeah, this. You need a professional, especially now. Cleaning isn’t something that just anyone can or will do well; professional cleaners have training & experience that are important anytime, but absolutely critical in a pandemic. This is not an area to cut costs if you value the health of your team.

      Personally, I’m a terrible cleaner; I can manage well enough in my own home, but I don’t want someone like me cleaning bathrooms or kitchens at work.

    9. knead me seymour*

      Agreed–I think what’s really demeaning is assuming that anyone can take on janitorial responsibilities off the side of their desk and do an adequate job. It’s kind of like assuming that anyone who cooks meals at home is also qualified to cater all company events as a side task. I’d like to think that Covid is raising awareness of how much everyone relies on the expertise of skilled professionals in jobs that are often taken for granted.

      1. Researcher*


        I have the deepest gratitude for these truly essential workers. Our housekeeping staff are heroes.

  3. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

    Roses are red.
    Violets are blue.
    And with that task
    You know what you can do.

    Seriously, just say “no.” Don’t explain, don’t specify, don’t filibuster; just say “no” followed by “hire a service or professional.”

    If the business’s margins are too tight to do so, it had a good run anyway.

    1. Nope*

      Yeah. This is like driving across town to save two cents a gallon on gas. It makes zero financial sense to shop around on common purchases, even; you’re putting in time you’re paid for to do that. Is it really the best use of anyone’s time to determine whether Office Max has a better price on printer paper than Staples does this month? I can see shopping around on one-off items, but if this is the level of financial scrimping that your org is doing, a) I hope you never have business clients in your office as it will be a mess in obvious ways to someone who expects cleaning services are in play; and b) you’re severely underpaid, plus c) when an org acts like they are in such financial trouble they can’t afford cleaning, assume they are. Don’t wait yo come in one day and find out that electricity is an unjustifiable expense.

      1. WellRed*

        Yes, this reminded me of the roommate who prided himself on calling all the oil companies to see who had it cheapest. Saved us a whole $1 on 100 gallons.

      2. Ashely*

        With the internet is actually can make sense to shop around for routine stuff like paper. Different places will have sales and you can save $20 on a case sometimes. Given you can do a quick search to three or four sites in 10 minutes while you are on hold to me is a great use of time.

        1. DireRaven*

          But also, one needs to know the point at which savings are negated. 10 minutes by an admin to compare prices on a case of paper at a couple stores – OK. Two consecutive hours by a manager to do the same thing – not OK – and she is probably neglecting duties more directly related to her job.

        1. Nope*

          Weird. I’ve worked for several non-profits, including one where the salaries were less than half of median for our area, and we never shopped around for regular purchases. It wasn’t worth the time it took, since phone answering has not been a heavy-duty role for the admins at either of those jobs.

  4. Snailing*

    I’m curious on Alison’s advice on this for a business where cleaning other areas is explicitly part of the job.

    I used to work at a small retail business (think local food & goods store) where we had a bathroom cleaning rotation. Cleaning the retail areas and the kitchen was very clearly part of the job, which makes sense to me, but we always got push back on the bathroom cleaning, which I also understood (but unfortunately couldn’t change the boss’s mind on). There was no option to opt out either. :(

    One of my greatest “small joys” of switching to an office job is no longer cleaning the bathroom and just needing to tidy up after myself in the kitchen area!

    1. Hey Karma, Over Here*

      I think part of Alison’s response is that the task was never explicitly part of any employee’s job description. Cleaning was not listed as a general task, like “responsible for keeping common areas tidy as needed.” So this is new. And for me, not what I signed up for. (Like above, I didn’t put on a dress suit and panty hose to clean a bathroom.)
      Also, this is a non profit. Where is the budgeting? There is not enough in the budget to hire cleaners? OK, but the cleaning costs are still being paid. To the Executive Director, in her salary.
      I would not be happy to find and organization that was supported by donations was so badly budgeted or that the executives think this is a good way to budget money.
      It shows panic, lack of foresight and inability to see the forest for the trees.
      “we will buy the cheapest pens.”
      “they only last a day.”
      “no problem. we have 2000!”

      1. Kippers*

        What if your job description say “other duties as assigned”? I thought that meant that your job is whatever the boss says is your job, even if you were never told about it in the job interview. I work as a stocker and when too many janitors quit, we have to pitch in. It sucks because we have to sign in and get paid as janitors – over $2 less per hour.

    2. anon73*

      Outside of straightening the store and vacuuming the carpet, I’ve never had to clean anything at any job. Cleaning things like bathrooms and kitchens (high traffic areas) should be done by an outside cleaning service, especially now.

    3. Former Retail Lifer*

      I always had to rotate cleaning the bathroom when I worked in retail, even as a manager.

      1. justabot*

        Yea, many jobs like retail stores, restaurants, bars, tasting rooms, etc don’t have a cleaning service come in every night and it’s the employees doing the nightly cleaning – and bathrooms. It’s hard to push back, especially now, when these small companies are REALLY hurting and struggling to stay afloat, especially since people aren’t leaving their houses. A lot of companies are legitimately having to cut costs right now. Hourly employees who need extra money may be willing to sign up for a cleaning shift or a flat rate cleaning fee.

        1. Rainy*

          A business in town was trying to find busywork for their staff during lockdown, which is good, I guess, except they’re located in an historically significant building, and they painted some stuff. Now the city has to restore the things they ruined and the business is getting slapped with a fine.

      2. Texan In Exile*

        I had to clean the bathrooms when I was a lifeguard. I was paid minimum wage. I was only 19 and didn’t know enough to know that I should have pushed back.

        (This included the summer that boys thought it was funny to poop on the bathroom floor.)

        1. HBJ*

          That’s so interesting. I was a lifeguard, and I only had to do walk-throughs to make sure things were neat. I didn’t have to clean toilets or the shower or anything like that. I also was paid double the minimum wage. Lifeguard jobs where I lived were highly desired because they paid so much more than other jobs available to high school students (retail and such) because they were considered a safety-sensitive position and required certifications.

          1. PuzzledPuzzler*

            I had to clean the bathrooms at one of my lifeguarding jobs (I did it from age 14-17) but I got paid $10 an hour and this was circa 2001. It was actually a pretty nice job overall.

      3. Third or Nothing!*

        Part of my duties as a waitress in my family’s restaurant included cleaning the bathroom. It was supposed to be shared among all the waitstaff but it usually ended up being me since I cared the most.

      4. Anon for Today*

        I work part time at a grocery store (small specialty store) and we have to clean the bathrooms. People are mostly OK, but every once in a while someone’s bowels explode. Most of the regular team won’t do those, but usually a manager will step in and hose down the walls.

        People are disgusting.

      5. JM60*

        I too had to clean bathrooms when working for minimum wage in retail, which makes me somewhat less sympathetic to people in the OP’s position. I do understand the issue that the OP didn’t sign up for cleaning bathrooms when they accepted the job, but I don’t think that this is as outrageous as others here do.

        (Note: I was never told I’d have to clean bathrooms when I accepted my retail job, but I guess it’s one of the things many that’s just assumed you’d do for that type of job.)

        1. Smirkette*

          I do think a difference here aside from it being baked into the job description is that with retail and food, they provide proper cleaning gear. I can see a small non-profit that won’t even budget for actual cleaners not providing adequate supplies.

    4. Meganly*

      When I worked at a Dunkin Donuts, I had to clean the bathroom most shifts. It always squicked me out that I was going from cleaning a bathroom to serving food. While I vigorously washed my hands and arms for 30 seconds afterwards, I am skeptical of how many of my coworkers did the same…

  5. Casper Lives*

    I’ve worked somewhere this frugal. Though they had the money, the partners wanted to keep it all. The sole paralegal was ordered to clean the bathroom. She wasn’t thorough and I don’t blame her. I had an in-joke where I would track how long a cockroach exoskeleton stayed on the floor.

    All that to say that your boss won’t change. You’ve got to decide whether you’ll stay with her frugal ways, which will continue to come up, or job search ASAP.

    1. pleaset cheap rolls*

      Some places – particularly nonprofit organizations can change.

      My org put on a variety of lunches, and to save money the same people who were speaking about content also served the food. It was hard and actually sent a bad message – that our smart program people also spent time on tasks that distracted them and that trained food service people could probably do better.

      We complained to the CEO, and the practice changed. We’d bring in someone to help serve at these events.

      It’s possible to change – especially in an organization where people can push back and explain why. I’m not say it’ll always work, but it’s possible.

  6. JBI*

    “Yeah, I’m not doing that.”
    If they push and try to say other people are doing it: “Well, they shouldn’t be doing it either.”

  7. WellRed*

    I’m not cleaning up a bathroom. I’ll tidy up pretty much anything else, including fridge and microwave. Also, what sort of work experience is provided to interns if they are being used as cleaning help?

    1. Liane*

      If these are educational internships, I doubt they’d pass the tests, since Janitorial Services is something businesses, even NFPs, generally pay for and interns aren’t supposed to take the place of paid staff. Although properly cleaning bathroom fixtures IS an important Adulting Skill, IMO.

  8. a username*

    I worked as a custodian at a nursing home through college as one of my part time jobs. I had access to professional supplies and kind of a mental separation from the rest of the staff – I mean, we were friendly and chatted in the break room, but I went into that job understanding “I clean up after these people.”

    At my current office desk job, a similar question was raised when it was announced that we were the first department to return and the custodians would continue to only clean limited bathrooms until everyone returned, not including the ones closest to us. I did not volunteer for or support the idea – we didn’t have professional supplies and I didn’t have that same mental separation from my colleagues here. I also didn’t use those bathrooms until the professionals resumed cleaning them.

    It’s absolutely different, and I don’t feel like it demeans my time as a custodian to acknowledge that as a desk worker and refuse to do it. If anything, it points out that it’s specialty work that only they can do.

    1. Mockingjay*

      Came to say the same about the professional supplies and the training. As a janitor, I used commercial cleaning supplies that had to be handled properly (dilutions at a prescribed ratio, gloves, vacuums with frequently replaced filters, etc.). We were instructed on how to thoroughly clean different surfaces, especially high traffic areas needing stringent disinfection.

    2. Shirley Keeldar*

      The point about the mental separation is a really good one.I mean, I’m not one of those people who thinks nobody should poop at work (until I read AAM I had no idea that was a thing), but I don’t like to know the details about my coworkers.

      I mean, no one wants work conversations that go like this: “Hi, Bob!” (UNSPOKEN: whose literal excrement I have just literally scrubbed off porcelain) “The QRZ reports are late again, can you get them to me ASAP, please?” (UNSPOKEN: you are an inconsiderate a–hole both metaphorically and in real life) “Kay, thanks so much!

      1. I'm just here for the cats*

        Yeah if you have to clean the bathroom it’s going to bring some weird dynamic into your work relationships. I mean we see enough stuff about people not liking what their co-workers lunch is or not throwing a paper plate away. It’s going to be worse with bathroom usage. Especially if someone cleans it and then sees their coworker go to use the bathroom. they would be like “great, Bob is going to make a mess when I JUST CLEANED THAT!

  9. BasicWitch*

    What’s demeaning to janitors is not paying them a decent wage to do something no one in the office wants to do.

    If your work does end up hiring someone, I hope they are treated well (and that includes paying them properly).

    1. Mystery Bookworm*

      What’s demeaning to janitors is not paying them a decent wage to do something no one in the office wants to do.

      Here, here!

      We think of it as a demeaning job in part because we undervalue it. It’s an important task and deserves a dedicated and reasonably compensated employee.

      1. Texan In Exile*

        Yes. I don’t know where my dad was politically, but I do remember him telling me once that being a janitor is honest work and a janitor should earn enough to support a family.

      2. Lady Heather*
        It’s not behind a paywall.

        A lovely treatise on:
        – what happened when New York City’s garbagemen striked for a week (the apocalypse, but worse), vs when Irish bankers striked for half a year (no one noticed)
        – the difference between work skills that are valuable and work skills that are rare, or the difference between important and difficult work – juggling chainsaws while standing on one toe is a difficult work and it’s a rare skill to be able to do it and furthermore lacks value and importance – emptying trash cans is easier work that most people can do and is extremely important and valuable.
        – the difference between creating and moving value/wealth – farm workers add value and create wealth (because food is important), finance workers move said wealth around (wealth in their client’s bank account, please, not in the competitors!).

        It’s a very interesting way to look at the meaning and value of work.

    2. Ally McBeal*

      Yes, this employer seems like the type to cut corners wherever possible, which could very easily lead to wage theft. I’d also be concerned that they would hire an independent contractor out of concern for cost, which unlike going through a service means less protections for the cleaning staff AND the business (no reporting or reimbursement process if something is missing or broken, for example).

  10. Observer*

    If your manager is the ED / CEO or whatever the top executive, and she’s doing this, you need to push back or go to the Board. If she is not the top, then go over her head and push back.

    Aside from the fact that this is not what you signed on for etc. This is simply a safety issue. Even in non-pandemic times, bathrooms need to be reasonably cleaned, and “not gross” is not a good enough standard. Properly cleaning a bathroom that is used by multiple people is not as easy as it looks – ESPECIALLY if you don’t have the right equipment and supplies. In pandemic times, or even in a bad flu season, it is just ridiculous to expect that people being pulled of their main, completely unrelated jobs, are going to do an adequate job.

    1. PersephoneUnderground*

      That’s also some very expensive bathroom cleaning at her rate… Cheaper to hire someone who will actually do a good job.

    2. I Coulda Been a Lawyer*

      I had a part time seasonal retail desk job and discovered that each office had their own method of assigning the work. My manager was an elderly retired Marine who enjoyed cleaning that ugly bathroom to within an inch of its life daily – usually even on his day off. I gladly vacuumed and shoveled snow lol. Switched offices and they had a former employee who came in for one hour every other night to thoroughly scrub the bathrooms. She liked seeing everyone and getting all the discounts, and she came in on her way home from a full time cleaning job, so she knew how to use the professional supplies. I quit last year so not sure how they have handled Covid.

  11. AnotherAlison*

    I’m not too keen on cleaning up the bathroom at home. In fact, I have cleaners. The big kid and spouse won’t keep house to my standards, and I’m not open to doing it all myself anymore, so cleaners it is.

    At home, I feel like I know more than I want to know about my spouse’s digestive system based on cleaning the bathroom we share, and I really, really would not want to have those same thoughts about colleagues or for them to know that about me.

    1. Hey Karma, Over Here*

      a user name above uses great phrasing about this, “mentally separate from my coworkers.”

    2. JeezLouise*

      Sorry, but if you’re leaving an explosive mess in the bathroom, you’re a jerk. That’s really gross. It’s not that hard to grab the toilet brush and tidy up after yourself if you’ve made a visible mess. It’s basic courtesy.

      1. AnotherAlison*

        Yeah well, apparently visible to some is not visible to all. Sometimes I point things out and say, “You need to clean that up,” and he’s all, “What? I didn’t do that.” I don’t think it’s an act, just lack of concern about it, so he doesn’t check for damage before leaving the room. (So sorry for tmi.)

      2. Liz case*

        Not all offices have toilet brushes easily available. Ours didn’t.
        In fact until I spent some time in Germany, I’d never seen a toilet brush in an office bathroom. I guess other Canadian visitors were also not used to it, as there was a rather blunt email from a German collegue about the expectations to use the brush.

  12. AVP*

    Omigosh, no, absolutely not.

    At one point I was working on tv commercials and we unexpectedly realized we would see a real person’s bathroom in our shot (it was for toothpaste, i think, so it makes sense) and it was a rush and our intern just got down on the ground and started cleaning the toilet. It was a real life-saver….but she also got a comparatively large monetary bonus because as my boss said, “anyone who volunteers to clean the bathroom better get paid real money for it!” It’s that kind of task, and needs to be handled by professionals.

  13. Nanani*

    Why do I suspect that “you can clean the bathroom” comes with a side of “and bring your own cleaning supplies/gloves/tools to do it with”?

    Seriously, just no.

  14. parsley*

    I used to work for a small travel company where the boss not only tried to save costs like this, but constantly threatened to make employees pay out of their own pockets for mistakes they made at work. I’d planned to quit once I’d been there a year, but instead I got made redundant, and I’ve never been so happy to be let go from a job.

  15. TheLayeredOne*

    Nope nope nope. I’ve been a non-profit intern, I’ve been a non-profit employee, and I’ve supervised non-profit interns. It is absolutely NOT OK to have an intern cleaning your bathroom. If you want a clean bathroom, pay for the service. Assigning this duty to (I’m guessing unpaid) interns is appalling management and would get you a lot of bad press if it became publicly known.

  16. Emotional Spock*

    I was a bagboy for a large supermarket Chain in the 80s and had to clean the public restrooms a couple of times a week. It was gross and a few folks quit rather than doing it. Fast forward a couple of years and I was an office boy/ intern for a small 10 person office. Yep. I did the bathrooms plus vacuuming and trash. When I went back to university the bosses asked employees to rotate the job. They pushed back successfully. Turns out it was only about $100/ week to hire someone to come by twice a week and clean.

  17. Stephkay*

    Can someone spread this word to all the public libraries/people who set the budget for public libraries, out there that expect library staff to clean the public bathrooms? Many do have custodial service, but it’s only part time or only comes after the library is closed, so anything that needs to be cleaned or plunged at other times is the job of the library staff. I think most every public librarian has some story about having to clean up after a “poop incident” in a public bathroom. I’m eternally grateful that I’m in a union library system now so there was no expectation that I clean up after the “rotting flesh wound incident” at my branch a few years back. I still do end up disposing of the heroin needles we find, though.

    1. ThatsMrSJW*

      It breaks my heart that this is so common. Waaay back when I worked in a public library, we routinely had to pick up crack pipes and clean poo off the walls of the restroom. That’s a terrible job for anyone, but at least official custodial staff should have the proper gear and training to do it safely!

      1. Mel_05*

        Now I understand the abundance of signage at my local library – all begging people not to do certain things in the restroom.

    2. AuroraLight37*

      We had a biohazard a while back where they had to come in hazmat suits to clean it up (all I know is that drug paraphernalia and possible bodily fluids were found in a study room.) It scared the heck out of me, and I’m so glad we didn’t have to go in and handle it. Union yes!

    3. Lord Peter Wimsey*

      Just chiming in that I too had to deal with a “rotting flesh wound incident” in my past life as a librarian–and I still refer to it as the “rotting flesh wound incident”!–along with various bodily fluid incidents.

    4. Paperwhite*

      Who should we write to? (serious question, what titles should we look for for people to write to about this?)

      1. Stephkay*

        It really depends on how your local public library is set up. It might be local elected officials. It might be a library board. But, if your local community ever votes on the library budget issues, definitely always vote yes to give them money.

    5. Thankful for AAM*

      I am so very grateful that my system, although not unionized, only allows trained staff to clean bio-hazards like the bathroom, the bathroom after drugs or medical emergencies, etc.

    6. Amelia Shepherd*

      uh yes. as a public librarian, I second all of this. there was an incident about a year ago where someone puked in the sink. it was towards the end of the day, so we just blocked off the bathroom and asked our custodial staff, who were coming in that night, to clean it up. but they really only do surface cleaning, and although they did it that night, had it happened earlier in the day, we would have been expected to clean it up. which is not okay with me, but we wouldn’t have a choice. and everyone I worked with that day, quite a few of us have weak stomachs, so cleaning it up would not have been easy for any of us.

    7. DustyJ*

      And if one pushes back, one is shown where the contract states “other duties as required,” sigh.

  18. Formerly Ella Vader*

    “Actual cleaners” have determined the appropriate products and protocols for cleaning during COVID-19. Paying cleaners is also paying for the expertise, and right now it is worth it.

    I had a business trip hotel stay recently. I noticed two interesting things. One was that housekeeping did not enter any guest rooms until they had been empty of guests for 2-3 hours, for their own health. The other was that the hotel website page about COVID precautions said that the Housekeeping department had conducted a training for all other hotel employees about what the cleaning protocols were. Other departments were then expected to conduct routine sanitizing of their own stations and touchpoints in addition to Housekeeping’s job, but they were trained first

    1. Observer*

      “Actual cleaners” have determined the appropriate products and protocols for cleaning during COVID-19. Paying cleaners is also paying for the expertise, and right now it is worth it.

      OP, I think that this is perfect verbiage for pushing back on your boss. You are entitled to have access to a properly cleaned bathroom.

  19. Malika*

    Is there a way of having a meeting about this and coming up with a compromise?

    In Non-Covid times I worked at a small, financially strapped, agency that had a cleaner come in once a week. It got the main stuff done and cleaned and we cleaned up after ourselves, bathroom wise. We only worked with six people, so it was doable.

    In Covid times you need a better solution. Could you get a local cleaner to come in multiple times a week for an hour? In my country, the cleaners via a bona-fide agency are paid a proper wage yet cost less an hour than anyone working at the office. Stuff actually gets cleaned, and you can all do what you are hired to do.

    1. UKDancer*

      This would seem to me to be the best solution. If it’s one bathroom or two bathrooms that need cleaning it’s not going to be a very long or expensive job. The agency I use to clean my flat, takes on a lot of small office jobs where they supply one person for one hour a few times per week to do the toilet and the kitchen. It’s a reliable income stream for the agency and an easy solution for the companies.

    2. That Girl from Quinn's House*

      In non-COVID times, I worked for a nonprofit that had a deal with a career services group that provided employment for special needs adults. We had four housekeepers and a job coach who supervised them as they went about their tasks to make sure they remained safe while performing their duties. We also had a contract with that group for weekly landscaping services, raking leaves and such.

      If anything that was deemed inappropriate for their level of training came up, their coach would do it or refer it to our maintenance director (and if maintenance was not in, a lucky manager in another department! woo!) but it was pretty rare for this to happen.

      The place was sparkling clean and we got to give back to the community and support another nonprofit org. It was a pretty solid win win.

    1. mitzii*

      Yes, I was wondering if there were OSHA rules. You would think an unclean bathroom would be a huge health risk, not to mention a risk to the person cleaning if they don’t know what they are doing.

  20. Secret Squirrel*

    Wow. We work at a college. Faculty and staff are assigned rotating duties like mowing the lawn, cleaning the restrooms or kitchens, fogging, pressure washing, and painting/staining the campuses. We’ve also been back at work 40 hours a week for several months, but we have no in-person learning.

    1. Daffy Duck*

      Wait…. a college doesn’t have grounds/maintenance staff? I’m assuming this is a private institution, but that is crazy. Even the small, local church in town hires someone to clean the bathrooms and vacuum. Mowing lawns, painting, and pressure washing should all be contracted unless the owner is doing it himself. As a faculty member, I am being paid to teach or do research, not paint the building. How small is this place?

      1. Daffy Duck*

        I want to mention, there is nothing wrong with earning a living in maintenance or janitorial businesses. These are specialties where employees have been trained and know what they are doing. I also know that they may charge more per hour than many staff/office jobs ($30/hr is standard where I live for those contracts, an office worker may be making $15-25 but they also are full time with benefits).

      2. Secret Squirrel*

        Our grounds and maintenace tasks are usually performed by persons in the penal system. They’re not allowed on our campuses right now. But I was just amazed at this letter, I didn’t realize this was weird. These cleaning tasks fall under other duties as assigned.

        1. Barbara Eyiuche*

          When I worked at a private school in South Korea, we were ordered to clean the building, including the bathrooms. I just refused. When I told my students about this, they were shocked – teachers definitely do not clean bathrooms in a school. They finally decided that my boss must have been joking. He wasn’t.
          On a related not, when my sister was a waitress she had to clean the bathrooms at the restaurant every shift. They had no special training. It just revolted me – she’d be cleaning out the urinals or scrubbing excrement off the walls, then come back out and be serving food. While she wore gloves while cleaning, she was still in her waitress uniform.

          1. Kippers*

            So gross. I’ve seen so many food service workers absentmindedly wiping their hands on their shirts or pants. Other people say I’m being too germophobic when I point it out, but you never know what other tasks that person has been doing.

    2. Ally McBeal*

      I also work at a college. Your institution is NOT acting normally in this regard. My college is also in a city known for the strength of its unions, so if this happened at mine, the unions would be in open revolt and would probably be suing.

    3. Thankful for AAM*

      As others said, faculty and staff moving, cleaning, painting is NOT normal. I say that in case you needed the acknowledgement and to point out that working in a place like that your norms get twisted.

    4. kittymommy*

      I mean how small is your school? I’ve attended a dew different schools and even the small community college I first went to this would absolutely be ineffective. As someone mentioned earlier, the per hour cost for these tasks that your school is paying staff (especially faculty) is likely not the cost-saver the believe it is.

    5. TiffIf*

      Wow. Your college doesn’t have a physical facilities department in charge of those types of things? When I was in college I worked for the physical facilities department as a part time janitor-we had multiple shifts of workers (usually part time student workers with a full time supervisor/building caretaker) per building and that was just doing the interior cleaning. anything exterior or kitchen related was a completely separate job. Anything more than regular cleaning would have been somebody else too (ex repainting or recarpeting) I have cleaned toilets, swept/mopped floors, vacuumed and dusted offices and hallways, cleaned doors and walls. I was trained and provided the tools to do the job.
      There was an entire separate grounds crew that did lawns/planting and vegetation upkeep.

      (I mean I was at a large private university that had around 30,000 students and had 10,000 jobs on campus filled by students–over my time there I worked as IT, janitor, late night security lockup and librarian-all part time jobs.)

      That you college doesn’t have this type of stuff handled by people who are specifically hired and trained to do it either internally or externally contracted is really weird.

    6. Nesprin*

      What on earth? I’ve never heard of faculty being asked to do groundswork and I have so many questions! How small is your college? How big is your operating budget?

    7. Urban Prof*

      While I work at a large urban university, I have colleagues all over the US with whom I am in regular contact. While many are at large universities like mine, others teach at tiny liberal arts colleges or at rural community colleges, and not a one of them have even been asked to do these sorts of tasks. This is extremely odd.

  21. Tisiphone*

    I’m with everyone who says to hire janitorial staff. By hiring the experts, you get people who can do it efficiently and safely with the proper equipment for cleaning and sanitizing.

    People who clean the bathroom because it got gross are just going to do a quick spot-clean and call it good.

  22. ThatsMrSJW*

    I feel for ya, OP. I’ve worked in nonprofits for two decades and have had this situation come up a few times. It’s really demoralizing, in addition to be really unsanitary and unsafe. And the reality is, employees or volunteers who were brought on to do non-custodial work are not going to do a good job of cleaning. As Alison said, custodial service is a basic operating expense like utilities or office equipment repair. I’d try making a case via that lens. It might even be an opportunity to reach out to some donors and ask them to donate funds specifically designated for facility safety and maintenance.

    1. Delta Delta*

      Also, the sending schools sponsoring these interns could and should yank those interns immediately and not send any back. if these interns are doing this for credit, they are literally paying a college or university for the right to clean toilets at a private business. No. That is very unlikely what the internship program is for. (unless it’s for course credit in ‘business and nonprofit mismanagement’ and then it’s spot on)

  23. Jennifer*

    Exactly. There is nothing wrong or demeaning about being a janitor. There’s also nothing wrong with wanting to do the job you were hired to do and nothing more.

    Plus people who are hired to clean have special PPE and other equipment that make it safer for them to do so.

    That said, I don’t think that it’s wrong to expect people to clean up after themselves as much as possible in the bathroom. That will cut down on the general grossness.

  24. Sleepy*

    My former boss was a bit like this (though not with bathrooms, thankfully). She would say stuff like, “We’ll have a basement cleaning day on Friday, let me know if anyone wants to join.” I always stayed silent and she never pushed it. I think she wanted to feel like people were cleaning because they were willing / wanted to, and she wasn’t comfortable giving an order. I wonder if your boss might be similar.

    The bigger issue for me ended up being the fact that I had a boss who was spending her time vacuuming when she was behind on other tasks, which was delicate to approach. I tried addressing it once by talking about how her time was valuable and only she could do certain tasks, but I didn’t have much luck.

  25. Keymaster of Gozer*

    ‘I simply don’t have the ability to clean the bogs’.

    Which is true, I don’t. The boss doesn’t need to know it’s because bending over hurts my back like crazy.

  26. Budgie Buddy*

    Whyyy did the boss ask that “anyone who wanted to be added to the rotation” should contact her. No one hears “we need people to clean the bathroom because we’re too cheap to hire professionals” and thinks “Oooh I was thinking I had a bit of extra free time, sign me up to scrub some toilets!”

    My company also has a way of “asking for volunteers” for things that absolutely need to be done and it feels so passive aggressive.

  27. Observer*

    I’m not a big fan of jumping to “this is legal / not legal”. However, in this case, it might be a good idea because if your boss pushes back on “waste” or “appropriate use of funds” you can point out that properly sanitary bathrooms are a LEGAL REQUIREMENT.

    Links to OSHA to follow.

    1. Arctic*

      OSHA isn’t particularly helpful here. It requires that bathrooms be available and “sanitary” but not that professionals are hired for that job. Or the exact definition of sanitary.

      The boss has volunteered to clean them. That may satisfy OSHA. This doesn’t negate any of the other points (obviously someone should be hired) just that the LW doesn’t have much relief from OSHA.

      1. Ally McBeal*

        Also, would OSHA even apply to a small nonprofit? I know OP doesn’t specify the number of employees, this is more hypothetical since you’re right that OSHA probably wouldn’t offer much relief in this scenario.

    2. PersephoneUnderground*

      I think donors could be annoyed if the most expensive person on staff is spending her time on cleaning duties. Hiring professionals is likely a better use of funds I’d her time spent on this is given a calculated dollar value (even if salaried, it’s still time she’s not spending on other things that it she can do). So, similar argument, but more about the funds thing than osha.

  28. Aurora Leigh*

    One thing I’ve seen work well in small offices is to offer extra hours/pay for cleaning duty. So if someone wants to make a little extra money by cleaning after hours they can.

    1. Mel_05*

      My old office did this for a while. It…wasn’t great.

      The person who did it became fanatical about monitoring how people used the restrooms. Definitely resented it, even though she was being paid. We ended up hiring a cleaning service.

    2. justabot*

      Yes, my (very small) company did this at one point. They offered an after hours “sanitation” job that paid a flat rate of something like $150 for some cleaning. Some employees were very happy to get extra hours/money and also KNEW what they were signing up for and did it voluntary which makes a huge difference.

      Also, the company did have a professional cleaning service to come in once a week, like on Sundays. At least the bathrooms would get a thorough cleaning once a week and during the week, employees took turns doing a lighter cleaning at the end of each day. Even the owner would take her turn which I think helped cut down on resentment.

    3. wendelenn*

      This reminds me of when Mr. Shue on Glee did janitorial work at the school in the evenings to support the baby he (thought he) was going to have.

    4. Not Australian*

      I did this briefly, a long time ago; I used to do my regular job throughout the week and then go in on Saturday morning to clean the offices – but on the understanding that it was strictly temporary and because I needed the extra money, and because the previous cleaner had left suddenly for health reasons. Since I’d previously done cleaning work elsewhere it was a no brainer, and they got their money’s worth out of me for a couple of months until they were able to recruit someone else. In this case it worked out for everyone, but being expected to do it as part of my regular duties would have been something else entirely.

    5. Oska*

      But as Alison points out, these days you want people with the skills to limit infection risk. You want the right equipment, the right cleaning agents, correct use of said cleaning agents, and routines to contain possible pathogens (when to change gloves, when to change cloths/mops, the order in which things are cleaned etc.).

  29. Pink Dahlia*

    When I was a server, I couldn’t just jump on the line if we were short a cook because I didn’t have ServSafe certification. Doesn’t a job involving human waste and noxious chemicals have a similar certification or training system, particularly during a pandemic?

    1. Bostonian*

      Ooooh I totally forgot about the noxious chemicals component. All you need is 1 person to mix bleach and ammonia…

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        I’ve found myself explaining to a person with a master’s degree that you can’t mix bleach and ammonia.

    2. Attack Cat*

      Is ServSafe certification when you take a breif ~2hr class on allergens and sanitation? (Genuine question, no one ever tells me anything these days) My state requires a food manager to be on staff and contactable during business hours, but I’m not them so I don’t know how that works. I had a few training sessions through my employer, but they were after I started, and accounted for by the instructor uploading a picture of the 2 multiple choice tests I took. It very much gave the vibe of, “formal training isn’t required, but we get fined if you screw up too badly”. And I imagine the university dining services would be more careful about this sort of thing compared to your average fast food place. Maybe Kansas is just bad in this regard? Our lack of additional labor protections, like no legally required breaks, leaves a lot to be desired.

  30. Combinatorialist*

    In addition to all the other problems brought up, the clothes I wear for cleaning bathrooms are just not the clothes I wear for working at a desk. Or the shoes.

  31. Non-Profit Lackey*

    We are currently taking turns fogging/cleaning high touch areas (including bathrooms) during our open hours because of COVID while also paying a professional cleaning staff to come in every day after hours. I am okay with this because we have been provided the proper equipment and PPE, plus the fact that it’s being professionally cleaned everyday means this is just an extra precaution during unpresented times, not a new requirement forever.

    This is NOTHING compared to what I did and instructed others to at my last job, even before COVID. That place was shitshow for multiple reasons, but it’s good to learn yet another reason why I should be glad I was let go.

  32. AnonyNurse*

    The demeaning part is assuming that random office workers know how to properly clean a shared bathroom and can do so competently. Professional cleaners have skills! And equipment. And ideally, proper personal protective equipment.

    1. PersephoneUnderground*

      Yeah, and when it’s randomly added to a woman’s duties (not in this letter, but in other cases) she can’t help but wonder if it’s a gendered assumption that she has cleaning skills or should be the one cleaning, which would be demeaning.

  33. BadWolf*

    It’s all fun and games until someone mixes ammonia and bleach in an effort to “extra clean” the bathroom.

    1. SK*

      Yes, this! When it was part of my job to clean as a fast food worker paid slightly above minimum wage, I had to do WHMIS training on how to do it safely.

    2. Liane*

      Or doesn’t read the labels, so has no clue that Bathroom Cleaner A contains bleach and Bowl Cleaner B is mostly acid (another dangerous combo), and assumes not only that 2 cleaners are better/faster than 1 but that “safe when used according to directions” means “not dangerous.”

  34. Jaybeetee*

    Yeah, as someone who has cleaned bathrooms, etc, as part of previous jobs, there are certain issues with having regular staff do the cleaning. First off, as others have said, not everyone is good at cleaning, or fast at cleaning. Even people who can passably scrub their own toilets at home may not be great at cleaning a larger, higher-traffic bathroom in an effective or efficient way.

    Secondly, even apart from Covid/PPE/disinfecting concerns, cleaning bathrooms means occasionally literally handling biohazardous material. See the comment above about “poop incidents”. Also “puke incidents” and “period incidents.” Bathrooms that are staff-only and not open to the public are *less* likely to have those things happen – but they can and do happen. Actual professional cleaning staff are trained how to safely clean/handle such incidents. Regular staff, without proper equipment, should never have to deal with their colleagues’ bodily fluids.

    Cleaning staff really isn’t a huge expense in the scheme of things. Your boss can contract out to a company that sends their own people over. Even as someone who *has* done this work before, I’d push back.

  35. Minnie Mouse*

    There is no way I would clean the one bathroom at my workplace. One of the guys has digestive issues and seems to get off on leaving excrement sprayed around the bowl for everyone else to see until our cleaning lady comes again which only every two weeks. I did not sign on to scrub a grown man’s poop display.

    1. Rusty Shackelford*

      I assume this is inside the bowl. Is there a brush for him to use? If not, there’s really nothing he can do, is there?

  36. I Need a User Name*

    As a remote worker during this pandemic, I’ve thought of myself as my office cleaning crew. That is the only situation I can think of for having to clean your own office bathroom.

  37. Former Retail Lifer*

    I’m not arguing that the office staff should clean it, but the budget to do so may not be there. I manage an apartment complex and we have an agreement for our residents to use a third party’s fitness center. Pre-covid, the public bathrooms and fitness center were professionally cleaned twice a week. Mid-covid, the public bathrooms are closed and the fitness center is STILL only cleaned twice a week. There’s just no money available to add cleaners, and neither we nor the third party business have the staff to have someone do it. I imagine it’s the same struggle for a non-profit.

    1. Rusty Shackelford*

      If you can’t afford something as basic as having your bathrooms cleaned, maybe you can’t afford to be open. I mean, would anyone say “we expect employees to bring generators because we can’t afford to pay the electric bill?”

      1. Former Retail Lifer*

        We’re a small apartment complex with a small budget. We run on a staff of two with few frills so there isn’t anything we can cut. The fitness center we have access to is managed by an HOA, also with a small budget. The only way to get more money into the budget is by raising rent (for us) and raising HOA fees (for them). My tenants are all in a lease, so I can’t do that until their current lease ends, and even so I only have a couple of leases that expire every month. It wouldn’t pay for our portion of daily cleaning. The HOA can only raise their fees if their people all vote for it. The absolute cheapest cleaners are $200 per trip with a premium for weekend work. There’s always room for unexpected expenses, but not over $5600 per month for the forseeable future.

      2. doreen*

        A lot of places that aren’t required to have public restrooms have closed them to the public during the pandemic. They’re typically the sort of places that don’t have a cleaning service ( small, mostly takeout restaurants and convenience stores ) and I assume restricting them to staff only cuts way down on the amount of cleaning needed.

    2. WindmillArms*

      But the OP’s office *is* paying someone to clean–OP’s manager. Plus, OP’s manager is probably more expensive AND worse at the job than an actual professional cleaner.

  38. FrivYeti*

    I actually find this one interesting! When I was going to school for arts management, one of our professors shared the line, “No one is too proud to push a mop.” The expectation was that if you’re working in an arts non-profit, unless it’s very large, you’re going to be on the cleaning rotation. And that’s generally been my experience, unless we were lucky enough to rent somewhere that had a cleaner for the whole building. Most of the places that I’ve worked, all of the office staff have also been the cleaning staff, on rotation. I’d never thought of it as an undue burden until now.

    1. Observer*

      I’m totally not impressed. The problem here is not about being “too proud.” It’s about making sure that spaces are being adequately cleaned.

      The floor of an office used by a reasonable adult? Sure, anyone who can “push a mop” can clean that adequately. A shared bathroom? Not at all. And rest of the bathroom, even more so.

    2. Ashely*

      I agree. I remember an organization where we all pitched in for cleaning once a week with rotating duties. The ED took the bathroom along with the rest of us. As far as not knowing how the clean, they were more then happy to teach you. There were one more senior employee who always made themselves scarce on cleaning afternoons and it was a bit of joke among the rest of us and we didn’t really care. Honestly when they explained how much it cost the nonprofit to have a cleaning service and knowing there were only a handful of us that used the space it never crossed my mind as a big deal because the culture was it isn’t a big deal. Most of us fell into salary to stipend category so it wasn’t paying an hourly employee $30 an hour to clean a bathroom situation. Sure some of us cleaned better then others but doing it together actual made for some decent team building in its own odd way. Granted none of this involved COVID pandemic issues but

    3. Non-Profit Lackey*

      At a slightly less toxic job, I’ve mopped a bathroom before a show with the ED and everyone else. That was okay. Once, the director basically took everyone to task during a staff meeting because she had been receiving complaints from board members all weekend about how dirty the bathrooms were and how we didn’t support her by doing a good enough job cleaning. That was…iffy. I was sympathetic then and thought people who complained where being “too proud” but less so now.

      Sometimes you have to go above and beyond at arts non-profits but it should still never be taken for granted and it too often is.

    4. Oxford Comma*

      In my experience it has nothing to do with pride. It has to do with money and an employer not valuing their staff. In the era of Covid this is telling me that this employer doesn’t value the OP’s safety.

  39. TCO*

    I’ve worked in many small nonprofits, and we always had a dedicated cleaning staff. Light kitchen cleaning (like tossing old stuff in the fridge and wiping down countertops) is sometimes on a shared rotation among all staff. But bathrooms are just on a different level and I’ve never been expected to clean one. OP should not feel bad about not signing up to help. This is a leadership issue and the leadership team should be expected to find a more reasonable solution.

  40. AceInPlainSight*

    In high school, I worked for tiny nonprofit that had its ‘girls’ (high school and college students; we were all young women) rotate cleaning the bathroom weekly. The manager was so cheap, she made sure we knew we weren’t worth the minimum wage she paid us. It was… not a good place to work.

  41. SK*

    There’s also the added weirdness of this being a small organization. If you had like 100+ employees, there’s plausible deniability for any messes. When the bathroom gets gross, you can only sort of narrow it down to who’s responsible. But if there’s only like three people regularly using a particular bathroom on your floor and it’s really nasty, I’d have difficulties looking at those coworkers the same way. You see letters to that effect on here all the time, usually about shared kitchens. Cleaners at least have some kind of emotional distance and don’t have to listen to someone’s serious suggestions on the teapots project, knowing meanwhile that they are incapable of going to the bathroom and not strewing toilet paper all over the ground.

  42. JeezLouise*

    I worked my way through college as a housekeeper for a few different services and different jobs including cleaning hotel rooms, offices and medical facilities. Contrary to what many commentators are saying here, cleaning staff quite frequently don’t have special skills, training or equipment beyond that of any other functional adult. It’s a thankless job that pays very poorly in most cases so that combination doesn’t exactly attract the best and the brightest. Countless exposés have been published revealing how appallingly filthy bathrooms or hotel rooms often are. When it comes to cleaning my workspace or living space, I don’t trust cleaning staff. They have no skin in the game, no real incentive to do the job well. Especially where Covid is concerned. It may look or smell clean, but still not be sanitary. If it isn’t a public restroom, then the office staff is probably better off doing it themselves. I guarantee you care more about it being truly clean than any minimum wage worker. If you want to come at me saying the your cleaning staff is amazing, then sure, they probably are, but for every good one there are two more who do mediocre work and another that cuts corners.

    1. Observer*

      Either you are underestimating your work, or you and your coworkers were cutting a LOT of corners.

      Yes, cleaning crews generally don’t have a lot of formal training. But I can always tell the difference between a cleaner who what they are doing and actually does their job and one that doesn’t.

      You don’t need academic skills, and you don’t need to be “the best and brightest” (however you define that) to do an excellent job of getting stuff properly cleaned. A reasonable work ethic DOES make a difference, though. And guess what? Some people who are poorly paid still do have a decent work ethic!

  43. 40 Years in the Nonprofit Trenches*

    Um. I don’t think folks have ever worked for the organizations I have. Like the ones where government funding is tied dollar-for-dollar to program-specific line items and not one thin dime more — none of which are going to be “cleaning service” (or, say, “business manager salary” or “liability insurance” or “utility bill”). Or where foundation program support has “overhead” (all the above and so much more) capped at 10-15% of project expense. [Please don’t take this occasion to tell me about folding common costs into program expenses. 40 years in the field, believe that I know my business and have done every kind of creative budgeting imaginable.] Where a major donor is someone who once gave you $250. Where you are sweating each.and.every.payroll.

    In those kinds of organizations — and they are legion, and doing amazing work — there is simply no money to be had for cleaning services; there wasn’t before 2020, and there sure isn’t now, because the whole nonprofit financial model is based on starving infrastructure [see everything Vu Le has ever written]. In places like that, it is, whether you like it or not, and nobody likes it, it’s everybody’s job to keep the workspace habitable and sanitary. Having interns do it is NOT OK. It’s the ED’s job and the development manager’s job and the program assistant’s job; you all have made a grownup choice to work at a bootstrap nonprofit and not the Gates Foundation, and there is no room for #notmyjob in those places.

    You may not like my answer, and you may say these kinds of organizations shouldn’t exist if they can’t provide basic amenities, and you may say cleaning service is just like rent [in which case that $200-500/mo extra expense is going to come out of… where? staff health insurance?], but I am telling you this is the real deal. Your manager sounds like she’s doing the self-sacrificial thing and adding it to her own job, which is a super-common thing and a super-bad idea. It’s a rotation, everybody’s on the rotation, some people will do it well and others poorly and you find ways to address that as a team who all want the office to be a good place to work.

    At this point in the pandemic, there are best practice resources for small nonprofits and small businesses to keep their common spaces safer in general, and your organization can and should be availing yourselves of that knowledge so that cleaning can be done without unnecessary risk to the person who’s doing the work that week.

    1. Three Flowers*

      Seconded. I worked for a small nonprofit (office of 6 FT and 1 PT employees in a converted apartment), and there were exactly zero dollars for hiring a cleaner. We had a rotation wherein each week each person had a chore (trash, vacuum, remove the dead from the fridge, bathroom, etc) and that was just normal life. It helped morale that our ED was in there scrubbing toilets and identifying moldy yogurt the same as the rest of us. Would we have liked to have a cleaner? Sure, but we viewed it as no big deal. (Possibly relevant, though, that the foundation ran a summer camp and everyone pitching in for chores was a pedagogical principle we wanted to live ourselves. It also made a difference that we were all pretty clean people in a non-pandemic time and we could get away with cleaning the bathroom once a week.)

      Covid is another question entirely. An organization needs to fork over for a professional cleaning service that comes frequently, armed with bleach, bleach, and more bleach. I’m sort of curious what OSHA claims could arise from not outsourcing cleaning if an employee who cleaned the bathroom or did all the dishes people left in the sink got sick.

    2. Observer*

      I don’t buy it. I’ve worked in this space all of my working life. And I have yet to see an organization that can’t find the money for cleaning that is reasonably functional, treats staff appropriately, and doesn’t burn through staff at a ridiculous rate. Most of these places also have sites that present other safety concerns and they all present the same excuse.

      This is the kind of thing that gives non-profits a bad name.

      1. Three Flowers*

        Disagree. We had good retention (though not high pay), high safety standards, and positive employee outlook. We just cleaned our own office. It wasn’t a big deal, though clearly it’s not for everybody.

        1. Observer*

          I’ll have to take your word for it. But I can tell you that you REALLY are the first organization where I’ve seen this. (The fact that the ED thinks everyone is thrilled doesn’t necessarily mean that that’s the case…)

          Cleaning bathrooms used by multiple people is not the same as “clean my office”

          1. Three Flowers*

            Absolutely–and in a lot of situations, it would not have been remotely OK (we were lucky in that we did not have an office pooper, for example). I understand people who aren’t OK with it at all. But that sub-field is a tiny, weird world where conferences often have only hostel-style housing, most people are young and/or granola, etc. Cleaning our bathroom is far from the most unconventional part of the job. :)

  44. Knitting Cat Lady*

    Isn’t that a false economy? The amount of money ‘saved’ by not hiring a cleaning service can’t be enough to cover the time employees spend cleaning.

    An experienced cleaner who has the proper tools can knock out a bathroom a lot faster than Bob from accounting who never scrubbed a toilet bowl before…

  45. Helen J*

    I mentioned in the open thread last Friday that since we have returned to work, we have a female staff member that is missing the toilet bowl and urinating in the floor*. I guess they are “hovering” instead of sitting down, but we have toilet seat covers. I use them every time I go.

    We have a well-paid housekeeping staff that will come and clean it, but sometimes they grumble if they have to come multiple times a day because there is extra steps with COVID. The Housekeeping Supervisor brought a canister of disinfecting wipes and said we could use those instead of having to call housekeeping every time. I said no, absolutely not, I’m not wiping up an adults urine. We have the wipes and gloves, but I would require a face shield, hair cover-basically a hazmat suit before I would clean up the staff bathrooms. The housekeepers have face shields and neck to ankle plastic aprons to wear when cleaning the bathrooms and they have uniforms that can be washed in hot water and dried on high heat. I don’t mind wiping out the microwave if my food spills or wiping down the table after I eat, but cleaning up another adults urine is a hard no.

    *I reported it to my boss and asked he address it somehow- such as we have toilet bowl covers and check after you go to make sure you don’t leave drips, etc. He suggested I make a “nice” sign to address it but every “nice” sign I ever created was edited because it was not “nice” enough. We shouldn’t have to grovel to adults to make sure they don’t pee in the floor!

    1. TrailingSpouse*

      If y’all know who it is, then her manager should address it with her directly. “Jane, we keep seeing urine on the floor when you have used the bathroom. Please start checking and clean up after yourself. Housekeeping is complaining.”

      Signs in the bathroom about gross things gross me out.

      1. Helen J*

        One of the directors said “we” should monitor the bathroom and see if we could find out who it is. “We” really meant me, so I told her that I didn’t have time to monitor the comings and goings in the bathroom but we could do a email to the female employees mentioning it was a problem. So far no email or signs. I think word-of-mouth may be done some good in this case because I haven’t seen any “splashes” this week.

      2. DireRaven*

        and the person(s) they are targeting never think they are the reason for the sign in the first place.

    2. CommanderBanana*

      Also? If you are so terrified of toilet seats that a cover is not enough and you must hover and spray everywhere, go home and use your own damn bathroom.

      1. Helen J*

        Right! Our housekeepers are fantastic and we have many compliments from guests on how clean our bathrooms are. They have so much more to do now with COVID the absolute least employees could do is not make more work for them.

    3. Rusty Shackelford*

      People who pee on the floor aren’t doing it because there’s no sign telling them not to.

    4. Anon for this*

      If the spray is only on the floor and not on the seat itself, she may be sitting down but be accidentally peeing underneath the seat rather than into the bowl. I do that sometimes – my medical condition means I’m limited in how far I can sit on the toilet seat, and toilets – whether due to rounding or angling of the seat surface, or the height of the bowl, I can’t tell you but it’s very toilet-specific – line up my anatomy with the split between the seat and the bowl, rather than the bowl.

      Which gives me a pass for making a mess – not for leaving a mess, which is why I always look and clean up after myself if needed. That’s not always easy with limited space and equipment-supplies, as well as my disability, though I have made do so far.

      I’m not sure why I’m posting this. I think I want to say ‘it’s possible that the problem is more complicated than a preference for hovering, and whether or not that is the case, your coworker needs to find a solution that is not quitely sneaking away from the mess.’

  46. Jessica will remember in November*

    While this isn’t something I actually ask in job interviews, one of the secret criteria by which I assess any job is “what happens if someone vomits in our workplace? who will clean it up? is that person me?” I try to avoid any job where the answer could possibly be yes.

  47. TrailingSpouse*

    When my dad first started up his small business with two partners, they rotated as President on a monthly basis. The job of the President was to clean the bathrooms. They hired a cleaner after a couple of years when they started making money. They didn’t have a President any more after that.

  48. Allison*

    I feel like at some point in the last 10 or so years, a common TV/movie trope was a desperate (but scrappy) job seeker saying “I’ll do anything, I’ll even scrub toilets if you need me to, please just give me a chance!” So we associate a willingness to scrub toilets with a willingness to work hard and pay your dues. Of course, as we’ve covered in this thread, cleaning bathrooms is a health hazard, and should only be done either by paid cleaners, or by someone who was hired with the explicitly-communicated expectation that cleaning bathrooms would be part of their job. You can’t just lump it in with “other duties as needed” bit in the job description.

    As 40 Years in the Nonprofit Trenches mentioned, however, maybe there really is no money for a dedicated service, but in that case there needs to be an organized rotation (not just one person volunteering and not just the lowest-paid or newest person, everyone gets a turn) and clear expectations as to what needs to be done in cleaning. It does sound similar to the kitchen cleaning rotation in my first job, but in that scenario, it was whole teams taking turns, not just one person.

  49. CoveredInBees*

    Can you imagine the petty note posting that would happen if someone thought someone else’s cleaning wasn’t up to standard? Or if one of the people cleaning thought people should be less messy? While I agree with the latter, some people tend to get really gross in bathrooms not their own, this is not going to go well.

  50. Hyperlophus*

    Yeah, your work should be really hiring a professional cleaner with knowledge of hazards and sanitizing practices rather than relying on employees innate cleaning knowledge. And even more so during a pandemic.
    When I worked for a preschool gymnastics program, doing a cursory cleaning of the gym toilets was part of my daily job description (as well as the rest of the gym). But we had set training (on chemicals and equipment) and set expectations for the task, and our company still brought in an actual cleaning company twice a week to do a full proper clean and sanitization.

  51. Case of the Mondays*

    No time to read the comments but my office’s policy during COVID is we each have to clean the single stall toilet each time we use it. Bleach wipe the seat. Separate bleach wipe the faucet handles. There is a brush and spray for inside the bowl if anyone has left anything visible in there. I’ve only visited the office 3 times or so but there were big signs and prominent products and my office manager reminded me when I walked in.

    1. Chief toilet cleaner*

      This. I also require a spray of Ozium or Lysol in the air, and lid down when flushing. Cleaning services are expensive and won’t be of much use preventing COVID since it is the plume from flushing that disperses virus. I own a small business and after paying WAY TOO MUCH for crappy cleaning services I just clean the restroom myself. It takes 5 minutes a day if you keep up with it.

  52. CatLadyInTraining*

    The problem with that is you’re going to have some people who do a one over with a Lysol wipe, or a spray of Lysol/Febreeze and call it good. Then you’re going to have the person who goes all out, and does a deep clean. Then you have the people who’ve never or rarely cleaned a bathroom and they aren’t going to do a good job either. This company needs to find a cleaning service/janitor. A cleaning service will do a good job and they’ll clean and sanitize properly and up to the accepted health standards. I don’t think being a janitor is a demeaning job, they work hard and clean up messes that can be quite gross.
    This is going to lead to a lot of problems. If they really can’t afford to hire a janitor/cleaning service, then maybe they could solicit donations or get the board to give them more money. During these Covid times cleaning and sanitation is more important then ever, I’d be happy to give money to a charity to help them keep their offices safe and clean, especially these days.

  53. The Rural Juror*

    When I was young and still in school, my mother worked at the county courthouse in one of the offices for a county clerk. Their cleaning person retired, but before they hired someone new the head clerk asked the staff if they would want to do rotating shifts. It was a county government job and honestly didn’t pay great, so they could do a monthly rotating shift to earn extra money. Several people in the office wanted to do it.

    My mom signed up for 2 months – July and November. Then, every weekend during those months, my brother, my mom, and I would go to the courthouse and do the cleaning duties. We had divvied up the tasks and would usually complete them in a bout an hour-hour and a half. The money we earned in July went to our new school clothes for the year, and the money we earned in November went to Christmas presents.

    This system worked well because A) you didn’t have to sign up if you didn’t want to, B) you were paid extra, and C) the people using the facilities were extra clean in their day-to-day activities knowing their coworkers were going to be cleaning up after them! They were all very considerate anyway, so it’s not like that was much effort.

    But to Alison’s point, the only people who were doing the cleaning were the ones who had explicitly signed up to do it. Not employees who were having to shoulder the responsibility even though they didn’t want to.

    1. CommanderBanana*

      Ha, this reminds me of the time my brother and I spent weekends helping my dad shred documents at his work (nothing nefarious – drawing down a military base). We got paid in Burger King.

  54. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

    To be honest I would be more concerned by your manager being willing to clean the bathroom and others can join her or not, as it may be — because what does that say about the amount of work coming in, if she knows she will have time for that. It’s just a thought…

  55. Patpatpat*

    This brought memories of a job I had way before COVID. They had admin and sales staff to clean bathrooms and/or the common kitchen at the end of our shifts according to a rotating schedule (IMO that’s an expensive cleaning staff), when I asked why hadn’t they hired a janitor or a cleaning company they explained that the owners didn’t trust cleaners which I find quite demeaning.
    Once I left, I started to verify in any new job I may apply that they have cleaning staff or that I would not clean bathrooms.

  56. Skippy*

    I’ve worked in arts nonprofits for 20 years, and while I’ve certainly done my share of setting up chairs for events or throwing away old food in the staff refrigerator, every organization I’ve worked for regardless of size has managed to find money in the budget to hire a cleaner of some kind. It’s one of the costs associated with maintaining an office space, like heat or trash removal or snow shoveling.

    You’re right to push back on this, OP. Nonprofits are notorious for creating an environment where asking for something basic in order to do your job means you’re not sufficiently committed to the cause.

  57. SMH*

    A relative worked at a retail store that had a clogged toliet. They sold gloves for protection when dying hair so the manager wanted someone to put on a few pairs of gloves and unclog the toliet. My relative was leaving the job in a matter of days and told her to call a plumber. Not sure if manager did or unclogged it herself but you want to draw a line on these type of requests.

    1. Kisses*

      I’ve worked in stores just like that. I’ve had the manager tell people to unclog a toilet using gloves and hands. Same manager told a woman to scrap bubblegum off the floor using her nails because she didn’t have a scraper or goo gone. I told her do not. I told my supervisor and I guess it got put out to field, but I’ll never forget that.
      Oh, and the daycare I quit after one day. I had to clean the bathroom before I left, nothing to wipe with. I was given one rag which I used the best I could to wipe down a children’s bathroom. I tried to throw it away. I was told to put it back in the kitchen for the counters. I left it in the trash and walked right out. Horrid. And reported.

  58. not a cleaner.*

    Penny-wise, pound foolish.

    Janitors and professional cleaning staff are trained to handle chemicals, bodily waste and possibly virus decontamination. Bob from accounting might end up sloshing around chemicals, not cleaning it properly, get COVID, spread Covid, get chemicals in his eye, burn his skin, etc.

    Or similar to what happened at my friend’s office when they decided staff should clean… decide to mix vinegar and bleach together because they are both awesome cleaning implements and that will clean twice as well. After a hazmat unit showed up to clear out the mustard gas, the org decided to hire professional cleaners again.

  59. Napster*

    I did once clean the bathroom at work because it was so revolting, and my boss asked if I’d like to set up a cleaning rotation. I firmly replied, “I don’t intend to clean it again.” I was there over four years before they hired a service. On the bright side, I was already used to hovering and using paper towels to turn on/off faucets and lights and open the door, long before COVID hit.

  60. A Director who is not above cleaning the bathroom*

    Personally, I don’t sympathize all that much with the person asking this question. I’m a Director at my place of work (not a nonprofit, but I have worked in that sector before), but I’ve been cleaning bathrooms, vacuuming floors, and washing windows for the past seven months (in addition to my regular duties). My entire management team has actually stepped up to keep up our workplace clean. And yes, we have cleaners. But, just like the person who asked this question, we have a limited budget and would rather utilize the cleaners elsewhere. Do I like cleaning? Not really. But I know it’s something my team needs right now—plus, I’m trained to do it and can train others.

    I do believe that this particular nonprofit could benefit from having a cleaning service. Even if the cleaners aren’t there every single day. However, I do think it’s important for team members to step up and help during difficult times. If hiring cleaners is truly out of the question, I’d suggest creating a cleaning chart, delegating the cleaning duties evenly (so no one feels particularly demoralized), and training every team member on the expectations and safety protocols (if the staff isn’t properly trained, sharing the duties will be useless). Follow-up would also be very important—the boss should make sure everyone is doing their part (if someone doesn’t clean it, they should be reprimanded). If a quick clean is done every single day, then the bathroom will not be a wreck every time someone goes to clean it.

  61. YouwantmetodoWHAT?! *

    Having done decades of retail, I actually would put this on my applications, under the ‘is there anything you can’t/won’t do’. I used to clean houses and I am NOT going to clean a public bathroom.
    I worked at one place for about 5 years, and one of the first things to go when we got taken over by Big Giant Fabric Store was janitorial. The management didn’t even talk to us about it, just put up a cleaning sheet with everyone’s names. We were supposed to cross off our name when we did it.
    I ignored it.
    After awhile I got a talking to. I said that I was hired to do sales and help customers and not to clean toilets. When I was told that I had to, I said no, I did not as it was on my application that I would not be cleaning bathrooms and that had been initialed by the manager that hired me.
    Disbelief was expressed! And “I’ll be checking that!”
    It was never brought up to me again and my name was taken off the list.

  62. Kisses*

    I feel naive, but never realized offices have cleaning people almost exclusively. I’ve worked retail, food service, and daycare, and in all 3 fields was expected to keep the bathroom clean as side work.
    It sounds nice to just focus

  63. LALinda*

    I started a job as the manager of a nice dinner house with a small staff. My first night, one of the wait-staff headed to the restrooms gloved-up and with a bucket of supplies. When asked, he told me the owner “didn’t trust” the separate maintenance person doing the kitchen clean-up and front end sweeping/vacuuming to do a good enough job, so it fell to the wait staff. Many times there were still a few customers relaxing over end-of-meal beverages as the cleaning was done. Can you imagine running into your server swabbing out the toilet knowing they might be bringing you dessert or a re-fill after? I pushed back hard with my new boss but he wouldn’t change his mind. That and few other quirky situations caused me to leave after three weeks.

  64. MissDisplaced*

    Yikes! I hate cleaning my own bathroom let alone the work bathroom. Cleaning up after yourself, yes, but not on rotation.

  65. SayNoToThis*

    Check the local health department’s website for current regulations about operating a business and protecting workers- your organization is most likely out of compliance if regular disinfection of all shared spaces, included bathrooms, is not being implemented. Non-profits are not exempt from those rules. The CDC website also has recommendations for workplace safety during the pandemic.

  66. Dragon_dreamer*

    Ugh. I had a very sexist boss at my first Bent Fastener who told me that if I wanted ANY tech hours, I had to clean the bathrooms weekly. None of my male coworkers were made to. I was also made to close the store with him most nights.

    This stopped after his girlfriend called his cellphone and asked him if she could speak to me. He called me into the office and handed me the phone with a smirk on his face. She ripped into 26 year old autistic me savagely, threatened my life if I ever hit on her man, and basically called me multiple nasty names. I burst into tears, and THAT’S when he lost his smirk, his eyes got wide, and he took the phone back. Apparently she thought that since I always answered the phone when he worked (coworkers couldn’t be bothered) that he must be having an affair with me! He didn’t think I’d react by having a meltdown. (Maybe he was hoping to fire me for insubordination if I yelled at him?)

    He was removed from the store a few weeks later in handcuffs. Apparently his paperwork was a little too creative. They found him asleep in the office with his feet on the desk. (I had multiple managers in 5 years led out in handcuffs at that store…)

  67. Elbie*

    I could not even get our staff who used the refrigerator often to take out their own old food. I could not even imagine trying to get them to clean the bathroom!

  68. LadyHope*

    I think a lot of times people overestimate how expensive a cleaner can be. I work for a nonprofit too and we have a cleaning service come in weekly. 2 hours to clean 4 bathrooms, a kitchen, sweep and mop, sanitize all the common surfaces (doorknobs, railings, light switches), take out trash, and we pay $25/hour. $50 a week is worth it to is to keep people safe and healthy.

  69. nonegiven*

    >How can I tell her that no, I don’t want to clean our common bathroom?

    Like this:

    “Oh, hell, no.”

  70. pcake*

    A relative of mine started a sanitizing business during the pandemic that cleans offices, bathrooms and so on, and the cleaners use specialized equipment that kills viruses. While Lysol and other products do kill viruses, wiping a counter or toilet or desk or elevator with it can miss spots, which is one of the reasons why they use the equipment. The chances are close to zero that your office has any of the stuff as it’s not cheap and requires some knowledge as to how to use it.

  71. RagingADHD*

    My nonprofit client has their cleaning service donated. Just like they get in-kind donations and discounts from the printers, the graphic design firm, and an office-furniture company.

    Sounds like the exec director needs to be out there cultivating relationships with supporters, instead of scrubbing the toilet.

  72. Rua*

    As a board member during Covid, I would absolutely be concerned if this was happening in one of my non-profits. Ad-hoc cleaning from (1) staff who are paid to do other things and (2) staff who do not have health & safety certifications is possibly a violation of one or several policies. The OP should approach the CEO and lay out concerns by pointing out that having qualified cleaning staff is imperative during Covid and is in line with policies like health and safety and returning to work safely etc. The board of directors would agree I’m sure!

    1. Ace in the Hole*

      I think that’s excessive.

      To the best of my knowledge, there are no regulatory requirements for cleaning staff to have any kind of certification to do general janitorial work, unless there is a reasonable risk of encountering specific regulated materials (e.g. blood, hazardous waste). All staff should be trained on workplace covid safety, but as long as that training includes information on how to appropriately sanitize surfaces -which it should anyways – it’s plenty to enable staff to do general cleaning. We’re not talking about cleaning up chemical spills, blood, or any other regulated materials.

  73. Verde*

    The nonprofit scarcity model has GOT to change! This is the stuff that nonprofit leaders need to be pushing for, not against. Yes, we need to be careful and use people’s money efficiently and wisely, but we also need to stop treating nonprofit staff like this. Nonprofits typically pay less, have fewer benefits, and ask staff to do more than their jobs *all the time* “for the cause” than other organizations. Because passion, amiright?

    Paying someone to clean the office/restrooms is not saving money, it’s burning your staff out even faster and the cost will be higher turnover than you already have. Nonprofits are already behind in the talent competition game, so maybe we help sustain them by making the jobs not quite so low-paying and all-encompassing.

    And if you donate to nonprofits, stop making restricted gifts and stop looking at “overhead” as a judgment as to how a place is doing. Look at budget versus outcome and quit micro-managing your donations. The more time we spend trying to justify a 1% increase in the admin budget, the less time we can actually do the work we’re there to do.

    Signed, a nonprofit director who has literally mopped up the spillage from a burst sewer pipe because the owners of our donated office space didn’t maintain the building because it was donated because god forbid we should pay money for decent office space

  74. Ace in the Hole*

    This is one where I disagree with Allison.

    I think it’s reasonable to ask employees in non-janitorial roles to do a certain amount of cleaning. However, to work out well it needs to be a small amount, equitably distributed, and with clear standards. For example we have a rotation between the 10 or so staff members sharing the bathroom and kitchen to make sure they’re cleaned daily. Since it’s done every day it never takes more than 10 minutes, it’s not messy, and you only clean once a pay period. Similarly, the first person in and last person to leave each day are responsible for sweeping and sanitizing the common areas (spraying/wiping down doorhandles, counters, etc). Again, the process is only about 10 minutes, not filthy or labor intensive, and nobody has to do it every day. We’re also responsible for cleaning our own desk area and taking out our own trash. I think asking everyone to spend 20 minutes spread throughout the week to do basic cleaning is very reasonable even if it’s not an official part of their job description.

    The problem I see is that since there is no assigned, ENFORCED rotation, a few people are going to shoulder the burden for everyone. That means cleaning only happens when it gets too gross for the most mess-sensitive person to stand, and then that person will end up doing a really gross long difficult cleaning job that’s not part of their job description.

  75. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

    If she wasn’t retired I would’ve sworn this was my old boss. She was SO CHEAP in everything she did, it was ridiculous. Worse, we were the fundraising team! And our events would have dollar store decorations (nothing wrong with the dollar store, they just don’t belong at events with a $100+ ticket). She was also cheap about who she hired, which meant we ended up hiring people who were affordable (read: young and inexperienced) not those who could do the job.

    I wonder what else this boss is cheaping out on.

  76. PurpleStar*

    I have been in non-profit for over 20 years. At one point, post Hurricane Katrina, in temporary office space, we all pitched in and cleaned. We did teams of two for a week, enough that the female teams only cleaned every fourth week. The males, well they basically never got a break. It is like cleaning at home, if you do it regularly it never gets gross. If someone spilled something during the day, they cleaned up after themselves – none of us left anything nasty for other to clean…so our office cleaning involved vacuuming, sweeping, trash taking out and kitchenette and bathroom cleaning. This was not the only time that I worked somewhere that staff cleaned up. Really no big deal as long as the responsibilities don’t fall on just a few of the staff.

    I have found that in the offices that I have worked in, including my current one, where there are janitorial services and right now a maintenance man who, because of Covid, sanitizes everything (he is terrific), that a large percentage of my coworkers do not pick up after themselves. They leave dishes in the sink, don’t pick up paper towels when they miss the trash bin, don’t wipe up spills on the counter. There is no personal buy-in in keeping the common areas clean when they know someone else is going to do it.

    So a rotation schedule, wherein, everyone has to help clean does help increase the buy-in. Knowing that if you mess it up, you will have to clean up encourages everyone to pick up after themselves.

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