A guide to striking a balance between leniency and protecting your cleaning business.

It’s in your best interests to treat your employees well. Kindness and generosity can go a long way toward improving employee retention, morale, and performance.

But it’s important to remember that you are, first and foremost, a business, not a charity. When you hire someone, you are entering into a contract: You provide compensation in exchange for time and work. There’s no rule saying you can’t go above and beyond the confines of that contract. But if you err on the side of too much leniency, you can get yourself into trouble.

The unfortunate truth is that some people won’t hesitate to take advantage of an overly generous employer. Suddenly, you may find yourself with an employee who skips work all the time or demands undeserved raises. This is a tough situation to be in. You don’t want to appear callous, but you also can’t continue with a poor employee.

So how do you strike that balance? How do you keep yourself in the mindset of running a business, not a charity?

Here are a few tips from the Launch27 community:

Reward your best workers.

Far too many businesses make the mistake of ignoring their best workers—and then wondering why they don’t stick around. Find a way to show appreciation for your most efficient employees or teams—and be generous. Send handwritten notes at the very least, but consider a gift, as well. Here are a few suggestions from other Launch27 users:

  • A gift card to a local spa or massage therapist.
  • A gift card to a favorite restaurant or coffee shop.
  • A really nice thermos, like a Yeti or a Stanley.

You might give out these gifts to your top three teams every quarter or follow some other schedule. But make sure people know that good work will be rewarded! It will motivate your star workers to do their best.

Give raises to good employees.

A giftcard is a great gesture, but what really motivates people is better pay. Reasonable, merit-based raises can tell you a lot about who’s working for you. Make sure your employees know that good work can qualify them for a raise. You’ll find out very quickly who is motivated to strive for that bump—and who doesn’t care.

If you’re not sure how to measure good work, call your customers and ask for feedback. Are they satisfied with the cleaning quality? How are their interactions with your workers? They’ll tell you most of what you need to know.

Let go of underperformers.

Don’t let bad employees overstay their welcome. If someone skips work all the time or has a terrible attitude, it can reflect very poorly on your business. Some people can improve dramatically with the right training, but others are simply not a good fit. You might consider a performance improvement plan (PIP) for some workers if you think they really are trainable. But if someone is dragging you down, let them go.

You might consider a two- or three-strike policy to keep bad behavior to a minimum. Make sure your workers understand that you’ll only forgive a very limited number of infractions. This should be enough to motivate the good ones to do their best.

Remember, your staff is your business. They represent you and your brand, and their choices can make a huge impact on the success of your business. If they’re incentivized to do well, the whole business does well. Make sure they know it.