Should I Go Higher?

A question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about an unsanitary working condition:

I told my supervisor about poop on the walls at work he said he would take care of it I come back three days later and it’s still there? I’m a temp. Should I got to a higher up bout it since he won’t do anything bout it?
Signed–Bypass Boss

Dear –Bypass Boss:

My short answer is No. Don’t go above your supervisor. If you were supervisor, would you like one of your subordinates to bypass you? Asking about going higher signals you know there that’s not a good way to clean up this matter.

Obviously you dislike seeing what you think is poop on the walls. Obviously, whatever is there it should be clean if possible and probably the wall will need to be painted. Is there a reason you can’t speak with your supervisor again? Are you sure, as you said, “he won’t do anything bout it”? Since you are a temp, you might talk with someone who is permanent to ask his/her advice.

This unpleasant matter can be a learning experience for you–one that teaches you how to speak about a problem that annoys you, a problem that wasn’t resolved by a boss when being told about it. Bosses don’t always respond as quickly as they should just as the bossed, like you perhaps, don’t always respond as quickly they should. Is it too difficult to say to your supervisor, “Sam, did you see that the poop is still on the walls? Have you told the cleaning crew it must be cleaned off?” or you might say, “Do you want me to contact cleaning about this?” or “What is the way we can get this cleaned and prevent whatever caused it from happening again?” Or “How soon can be get the walls clean; I know you don’t like it either?”

So why do I suggest this is a learning experience? Why, because we learn by experiencing how to communicate with those with whom we work–about how to complain about unpleasant matters–even about unsanitary conditions. You will learn that it is more effective to ask than to complain, that it is more effective to come with a possible solution than to complain, and that it rarely is effective and might be self-defeating to bypass the boss.

Also by speaking with your supervisor you might learn he/she encounters other workplace problems. We have responded to many disturbing workplace condition problems. I’m including only two examples cleaning problems to which we’ve responded:

–I work for the forest preserve district. Our rear yard is used for storage of old car trucks rocks etc. I think we need to clean this yard, ASAP. What approach should I take to make it happen?

Signed, Surrounded By Trash

–I’m writing this on behalf of my mother who works at a very well known store in the maintenance department. She’s going on three years working there. Earlier this week the maintenance crew was told that they can no longer close the restrooms when they go in to clean them. My mother feels extremely uncomfortable cleaning the men’s restroom when male customers are in there doing their business.Signed, Mother In Maintenance

You will not always be a temp. As your career progresses, you too might become a supervisor and will encounter complaints about unpleasant working conditions. In light of how you cope with this problem you are now frustrated about, I predict you will know what to do. Finally, I suggest you shouldn’t assume a supervisor does care and won’t do anything.

Please let us know if any of these thoughts make sense to you and what you elect to do. Working together with hands, head, and heart takes and makes big WEGOS. In short it takes employees like you to making where you work a good working conditions. –William Gorden