Saturday, November 10, 2018

Navigating Apple Pie and Invisible Service

The ability to remain invisible is crucial.  - Garrison Keillor


Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday.  I think it comes from pleasant childhood memories, where it was just all about the fun of family and friends being together and not too much else. There wasn't a lot of pressure like there was at Christmas - to have to think about what to buy for other people - or worse, the edict whereby you must tell others what to buy for you, so they don't waste their time getting the wrong stuff.

There was a full day of cooking and baking, and all the running around of finding this and that, of endless cleaning up over and again, of making sure brothers and cousins and aunts and such were all happy and cared for; basically, a great opportunity of finding something to do in whatever way those running the kitchen could find for you to be useful, to be appreciated... to be a part of it all from both within and behind the scenes. And that was the best part of it, really. Not the turkey, not the potatoes and rich deep gravy, and not even the home made apple pie to navigate through after too many slices of everything else. 

~~~


I was searching images trying to find the perfect Thanksgiving pic for the home page, which, for my interests, anyway, would not be the same old traditional photos of all those perfectly glazed turkeys spread among the white tablecloths and Puiforcat dinnerware and Tiffany glasses and whatnot, yet what is more the best part of the Thanksgiving experience  - that of service to others, from both within and behind the scenes.

And I suddenly remembered why not many of those images really exist - and it's because of our ability to remain invisible, crucial at all times, is what sets us apart from other service providers. The ability to allow the service to be focused on the service recipients and not the service providers.

I was reminded of this when I spotted a pic or our city's finest standing atop a roof while a superhero floated by last year, a great example of the enormous amount of work that goes on behind the scenes so that those service recipients - the public who so much enjoys our annual Thanksgiving Day parade - may simply enjoy the annual parade with no worrisome thoughts of distractions. This is not unlike that goal we provide within our own ranks, in our own work environments and even within our own family celebrations, and from our own finest.

~~~

One of my favorite writings on the topic of good service comes from Gourmet magazine of some years ago, a beautiful story by Garrison Keillor, "And God Created Waiters," about the longing for the opportunity of being a good service provider, the longing for placing the happiness of others ahead of the spotlight of oneself, and the longing for the feeling of satisfaction and accomplishment at having succeeded. To be useful, to be appreciated. To be a part of it all from both within and behind the scenes.

I welcome all readership to revisit the article here.

And I wish for each and every one of you the best of the best, in health, happiness, friendships, family... and in recognizing your gratitude both this season and throughout the year, for the opportunity of providing service to others.


Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Obsessive Cleaning Anxiety Attacks: Now Available Online

Despite what you may have been led to believe, healthy normal adult social lives are now legal again and they have been pre-approved to be admitted to by the better employers to work for -  which are the very estates where domestic workers are able to be, ironically, the most "professional" and successfully employed.


I believe that we're living in interesting times, as the expression goes.  

Within the lifetimes of many people reading this posting, they have gone from (1970s) staying at home and waiting for the phone to ring, just in case an important call came through which they were expecting, to (1983) carrying a clunky single-tone pager the size of a pack of Marlboros on their belts, which allowed them to leave the house and then run to the nearest public payphone to return a call, to (2004) Blackberrys, where people began dipping their collective toes into the water of full accessibility across voice calls and emails, to (2010) an array of smart phones showing up which now keep much of the world's population connected 24/7  to their business associates and friends through voice, voicemail, texts, emails, photos, and videos from today of their pets on skateboards at Venice Beach - whether or not they like it - or even agree to it!

Social networking is here to stay - and it isn't as bad as you think. 

But yes, as we're now in that transition period between no one having all this stuff - and everyone having all this stuff - we still will hear remnants of the last generation, which is, truth be known, a significant portion of the current world's population. 

The biggest lesson I leaned, incidentally, in change management classes at University of San Francisco was this: change of any type, above all, is just plain hard work and often not achievable, as our brains are slow to adapt to new environments of any type and people will consistently do irrational things to keep change from occurring, even if the change in question benefits themselves - and even if they know it.  

Ironically, somewhat popular in some HR cultures, though, is to tell candidates they must curtail their social media coverage, all in the name of keeping their career prospects above water and maintain a 24/7 at-work "professional" fake image. I'm not really sure how this started, other than I suppose it's comforting on some level to stop change and make others stop it as well in order to validate the perceived fear of people finding out who we really are, but as with most things which are fear-based, it just started as it did, and the fire just kept growing and glowing out of control.

They say sharing our lives on the Internet can lead to bad things. Too much information in the hands of the wrong people can hurt us. That sounds pretty bad, huh?  Well, I'm here to prove you wrong.  - Victor Balasa

And yet, like all fires, this too shall pass. This fear of this change will eventually subside and the authenticity of being ourselves will once again returns to peoples' everyday lives, which is now, in 2018, normal and healthy to express online.  

By 2020, I predict that we'll all look back at the frenzy over having our normal lives expressed online, and we'll realize these anxiety attacks were even sillier than burning the Beatles' albums back in 1966 (well, except for Rubber Soul -  I never liked that one very much anyway and didn't miss it being gone for a while).

~~~

Dramatic obsessive cleaning anxiety attacks are no longer
necessary in order to become a "professional" domestic worker.
A colleague in domestic service alerted me recently that he'd decided to, in order to supposedly remain employable, wipe "clean" all of his social media past which, frankly, only showed him at his most human form and in life's ordinary enjoyable moments with other humans, which he was concerned others would think of as "dirty."  

And so for him, "clean" meant that, normal behaviors which are the same as 99.950% of the world's population has regularly engaged in, he'd erase any evidence of this humanity, just in case, I suppose, the owners of the company he should find himself suddenly working for one day in the unknown future was ruled by the .050% excluded in the above overwhelming demographic estimate. 
  
His plan was to erase everything expect for his dreary grey-as-dust LinkedIn profile, and even then to work on it some more, to make sure it was even drearier than the image he thinks he will need to succeed, as in, a depressed and dour domestic from the movies kind of dreary; an image he thinks he'll need to keep up and put great stock into, to keep himself employed on estates which, he presumes, will want a depressed and dour and ready to suicide at any moment Majordomo, one in which he perplexedly kept referring to as "professional."  I don't think there's anything "professional" about this at all, however; I think he's only suffering from an obsessive cleaning anxiety attack and having it in a rather up-to-date and fashionable 2018 manner - online.

But erase his authentic past and present, he did. 

Just one or two clicks, that's all it took.

His authentic past and his authentic self... gone.

~~~


Adult normal social activity and affection is healthy -
 not "dirty" or shameful - and it doesn't need to be 
"cleaned" from your past, present, or future.
I can't speak for others. But I do know this: I would never hire or recommend anyone, for any domestic service staff position, that I could not verify as having had a normal, healthy, and fully functioning human experience background.  

Truthfully, it would just creep me out if the only information I could find online of my Nanny candidate was that of spending her spring break from college sitting alone at night at a public library wooden table under fluorescent lights and brushing up on trigonometry, instead of rolling around on the sand with her friend or exploring some such similar enjoyment of life, like the majority of normal people have done and continue to do since time began, whenever they've have some time to unwind and/or celebrate life's achievements or simply, well, just celebrate life and being alive, itself.

Because, that's what normal functioning human beings do, and it's simply comforting to be around normal people. 

Normal people go out and they have fun, just like you see in their FaceBook photos. And normal human beings grow up - and grow forward - having developed an emotional IQ which helps them to perform very well on service work teams.

Normal human beings celebrate life. Normal human beings enjoy their lives, they often have a drink on vacation and share photos of this with their normal human friends, and they become intimately and consentingly physical with each other, as well. 

And not just for the spring break younger crew, that's also what normal older adults do with their own desires from time to time. None of these normal, healthy and social activities are "dirty," none of such photos of celebrations of life are credibly able to be relied upon to determine if a worker is an alcoholic or will be distracted and out of control toward co-workers they may find to be sexually attractive, and none of them need to be "cleaned" from candidates' past, present, or future selves. 

What's only shameful and dirty is this: to lie your way through an application process or to be fake about your own normal and healthy social background. 

And so, if lying and deleting normal, healthy social human experiences and faking yourself on social media or interviews or resumes or anywhere else starts to become routine behavior for you, I can guarantee that one day you'll have bigger problems in life then not getting hired for a job.

~~~

Worth considering is this: When Facebook or other online photos of candidates celebrating very ordinary and normal adult events in their personal lives are  relied upon to decipher and then attempt to differentiate between good and poor workplace professional character traits, if such an analysis could be accomplished at all, would require, in Citizen Editor's humble opinion, the following skills at a minimum from those persons making such judgments:
  • Critical thinking skills - an ability to gather sufficient information from multiple sources and piece it together accurately and without relying on (and/or spreading) domestic industry gossip.
  • Rational and mature judgement, based on long-term experiences in Human Resource Management - a skill more uncommon than many people outside of the full-time HRM career field will often be aware of.
  • Higher-scale emotional and intellectual IQs - as measured by independent third parties in proctored settings, not simply online self-assessments or high opinions of oneself.
  • Academic (MS/PhD) education and (current) professional State-issued license credentials in psychology with a specialization in substance abuse counseling, along with, additionally, an ability to sidetrack ones own personal bias against social drinking or dating due to personally held conservative religious or other personal or traumatic social experience issues which are causing oneself to be resentful and dismissive of candidates' normal, healthy adult social lives as being "dirty."
  • Stable mental function which precludes any bias based upon the observers' own predisposition to suffering from obsessive cleaning anxiety attacks themselves, otherwise, they should withdraw their participation in determining if a domestic service candidate is appropriate for the position.
---

And so despite what you may have been led to believe, healthy normal adult social lives are now legal again and they have been pre-approved to be admitted to by the better employers to work for -  which are the very estates where domestic workers are able to be, ironically, the most "professional" and successfully employed.
News Flash:  Normal adult social lives are now legal again. 


So, think carefully before having an obsessive cleaning anxiety attack and fabricating an inauthentic, unusually dreary and suspiciously fake "clean" personal background.

Worth considering also is that astute background private investigators - the type who actually meet and speak with real live humans from your real live human background - as opposed to the popular online $29.95 background checks which many domestic agencies and estate owners misguidedly place their faith in - will typically not experience very much comfort if they discover you've chosen to hide your authentic self and pose as a non-human robotic entity, and will often react to such fakery by suggesting the family office put your resume through the cross-cut shredder faster than you can say: 

"Honestly, I've never even been to Cancun."


Thursday, November 1, 2018

The Only Easy Day Was Yesterday

The poorer billionaire, or the lessor known, sober actress... might be good for those workers cut from a different cloth. 


I think that a lot of getting through life is figuring out where we fit in.

It might be for our vocations in general, or it might be for the workplace itself, after we've figured out the vocation.

Or, maybe it will be something as simple as a coffee shop.  Some people, I've noticed, are really at home inside the pristine, corporate decor of a Starbucks... preferably one on the upper west side.  Others, though - and coffee lovers all of them - would never be caught dead there; some people would only fit in at the more earthy, somewhat dimly lit and dusty local coffee shops of the lower east side. 

Yet I think if you were to do a blind tasting of the coffee itself, I bet that no one inside either of those very different places could tell which coffee came from which cafe. It's just about the feeling. It's the "fit in" of those people around you.

~~~

Several years ago, I was fired from a newly created job. Not downsized, not "let go," and not the sad, ridiculous spin of all these households being mysteriously "restructured," as employment counselors always advise people to lie about during their next interview.

I was fired.

I'll never forget the day. The family office called me in, and there at the table with them was their attorney, just sitting quietly, as an observer. For those of you who don't know, whenever you're called into a meeting with your boss and you see their attorney sitting there quietly, as an observer, I got some news for you: they didn't call that meeting together to talk about how happy they are. Just a heads up.

And as these things go, they simply said, "We think you're great, but you just don't fit in here. We're firing you." It was all very quick. And that was that.

I don't remember too much about what led up to that day, other than a couple of days before, I'd sent the estate owner an e-mail outlining some improvements I thought were needed for his staff. And being the new estate manager, I thought that was reasonable. I thought he and his family would receive better service if there were some expectations and standards established, in plain sight and plain talk, for his rather large staff, along with some ways in which those expectations could then be measured, in order for staff to know if they were, in fact, succeeding with those standards.

And as the Urban Dictionary would say, that idea went over like a turd in a punchbowl.

~~~

I don't know too much about the Navy Seals. I think maybe no one does, and I think that's probably just fine with the Navy Seals. From what very few brief interviews I've seen, they are a fairly humble bunch, and they know what their purpose is.  

But from those same, brief interviews, there's a theme that keeps coming through: they fit in with each other. The Navy Seals enjoy the fact, from what I can tell, that they are working alongside other Navy Seals. In fact, it seems to be the most important thing to each of the Navy Seals, even more important than the missions themselves. They've found a place to fit in.

I've never heard a Navy Seal disrespecting someone who isn't a Navy Seal. In other words, they simply realize that they are cut from a different cloth, and it's not necessarily better than any of the others who fill the ranks of the other Navy jobs, it's just different. And yet it's not just different. It's... more.

The Navy Seals have a motto and I learned of it yesterday when I passed by a watch retailer in midtown and saw it written on a watch in the window:

The only easy day was yesterday.


Workplace Culture #1: The Only Easy Day Was Yesterday
I'd never heard that motto and I had to Google it, to see what it was all about. And then it all made sense. 

There's just a type of person that makes it as a Navy Seal, or, actually, makes it as anyone in any workplace which demands the same mindset of its members:  Every day, you will work harder and perform better than the day before. Yesterday, then, will always look easier than what you're doing today.  

People with that mindset - and just the same for people who don't share that type of outlook - know that it's important they surround themselves with others who are the same. Because everyone, like anyone, needs to fit in to the culture they belong in. Whatever that culture is.


~~~

One of my fondest memories during my domestic staffing days was helping a perky, bright eyed, middle-aged housekeeper - you know the type, one of those really feisty ones that walks in attentively, eager to understand the job - and even more eager to get out there and actually do the job. Just plain eager!

She had a pretty good job at the time - by domestic industry standards, I mean - except for one gnawing detail: her co-workers didn't like her. They resented the fact that she always wanted to do... more. Her co-workers hated, actually, the fact that when it was a light work day at the estate, she'd always want to go into a back storage room somewhere and clean things up, rearrange stuff so it looked nice (even if no one would ever see it except for the staff), and find some dust bunnies to attack with her swiffer cloths.  


Workplace Culture #2: The Only Easy Day Is Every Day
And as she relayed, her co-workers would often admonish her, "stop working so hard, you're making the rest of us look bad." 

She got this push-back not only from her co-worker housekeepers, but also from the household manager and the personal assistants, as well. 

It was a lonely place for her. They all fit in with each other - and they all had the blessings of the principals. It was a retirement village, and a very successful one at that. And no one there was going to let someone come in and mess that up for them.

But she didn't want to just spend the day sitting on the couch in the guest room and screwing off. She wanted to do something else. This eager worker wanted to do something... more

And this eager worker just didn't fit in there. 

~~~

Whether in employment or in any of life's endeavors, I think the most important factor is fitting into the culture. And I think that idea is lost among many people in our industry. Because what I see being promoted by domestic staff recruiters as important for success in domestic jobs - really isn't. 

Someone who is "UHNW" with tens of billions dollars, is not, necessarily, tens of times better to work for than someone with only one tiny little billion dollars. Yet, you would never know that, from reading the online job postings and hearing people talk about these jobs.  

And an actress ten times more visible than the others in the Hollywood tabloids, is not, necessarily, ten times better to work for than an actress who flies under the radar and simply does her job of acting very well. Yet, you would never know that, from reading the online job postings and hearing people talk about these jobs.

The family office and domestic staff operation of the "UHNW" client or the "high profile" client may actually be a bit of a retirement village, one with a revolving door because of the unfortunate high performers who step inside from time to time and get fired for not fitting in; for embarrassing or causing discomfort to those who are hunkered down into the tragic, impenetrable workplace culture of "don't work too hard, you're making the rest of us look bad."

The poorer billionaire, or the lessor known, sober actress, however, might be good for those workers cut from a different cloth. Those places might, in fact, turn out to be truly great workplaces for someone who, like that firecracker of a housekeeper I was so honored to know, walks in attentively every day, eager to do... more... that they thought was ever possible. 

A housekeeper who thinks like a Navy Seal.

A housekeeper who believes, "The only easy day was yesterday."



Monday, October 29, 2018

Why I Have A Black Man On The Home Page

Racism isn't born, folks, it's taught.  I have a two-year-old son.  You know what he hates?  Naps!  End of list.   - Denis Leary


Alcoholism, homophobia, age discriminationracism.  


These are the hard, real-life topics which take some real moxie to look at without blinking, those difficult issues which often create or break effective domestic staff service teams in the real world - the world in which they actually work

These are also the topics which you will never find discussed while standing in a meeting space and nervously making polite, awkward small talk, all the while juggling those little glasses of house white wines and paper plates filled with catered cheddar cheese cubes. 

Those truly interesting topics of discussion which challenge domestic workers to grow and become better service providers; those pointed discussions that help people to consider who and what they really are and have become, as whole and real, functioning human beings on the inside - not simply as their professional, soul-crushing facades on the outside - and how they find progression into self-actualization for their beings while working in these domestic service jobs, something that could be more interesting, ultimately, for everyone, than progression into the latest Household Manager pre-printed certificates or dolphin-safe organic toilet bowl cleaners.

~~~

Plainly, now, let's begin:  I don't quite understand why we're not seeing African American images on domestic industry agency websites, those sites which should be presenting blacks as respectfully as they present whites, and reflect the population of those domestic workers who actually fill their clients' staffing ranks and scrub their clients' toilets, and cook their clients' food and raise their clients' children, and bathe and comfort their clients' dying parents, and manage their clients' contractors and provide security for their clients' homes - all the while simultaneously being more representative of the local candidate populations all around us in towns both large and small.

~~~

I do know this: that racism (along with four or five other -isms) is alive and real in our world - the domestic industry world of 2018.

~~~


The most interesting dying wish I've known from a personal friend, from some time ago - and in the last few hours of his life and he consciously knew that it was his last few hours  -  was having instructed his lead (white) domestic service worker that no black people were to be inside the room at the moment of his death. 

He didn't think that black people - even the very ones who'd been bathing him and soothing him and comforting every essence of his being, both physiological and psychological, for the past year - providing certainly more comfort and care than any of his family members had been willing to - should be in the room when the angels came to take him away to heaven. 

He simply thought this would reduce his chances to get through the pearly gates and he wanted to make sure the angels who came to get him, the angels who would be white, of course, only saw white people in the room upon their arrival. "Just to be safe." 

Imagine that being your known, being your conscious, and being your determined and lasting legacy for all eternity: Get the black people out of my room, so I can now die and get to heaven. 

I have no information here beyond any other mortals, but I just have a suspicion that, upon arrival to said destination, my friend was greeted by the Jesus on the left side of your computer screen, the one that many biblical historians believe, beyond any doubt and based upon studies of demographic trends which existed in that very part of the world at that time, resembled the real Jesus who actually lived and walked the earth, as opposed to the fantasy Jesus of much lighter skin tones, the one often more popular, living only in the picture frames hanging on the walls at miscellaneous churches for as long as most of us can remember.

"Oh, what I really meant when I gave that order just a few hours ago before I arrived here, that order I gave to get you people out of my room, was, um..."

~~~

The reason I have put a black man on the home page of the website is very simple... 

...to create a visceral reaction in you - and to challenge your notions of what really matters when creating a high-performing domestic service work team. 

...to help you to think about the whats and about the whys of the colors of the people in your life, and in your career.

...to know that how we include - or exclude - the entire rainbow of others in our society, in our communities, on our websites, in our workplaces, on our domestic staff service teams, and in our lives, matters a great deal. 

And why perhaps even you, yourself, as a domestic staff worker, household or estate manager, domestic employment referral agency owner with a website that features only light skinned domestic workers, or estate owner, don't want to be around, don't want to hire, don't want to supervise or be supervised by, don't want to be employed by, don't
want to work alongside, don't want to give money to or take money from, don't want to be associated with, or don't want to be comforted by in your own last dying hours: black people.

And an opportunity for you to examine why, exactly, you may be feeling that way, who taught you to feel value with those notions, and yet more importantly than either of those: what's your plan now and where are you going with this.

~~~

And if I have done that, and if you've had a reaction when seeing that photo and thought about some things that you haven't been challenged by anyone before in your life or in your career, then my home page and this posting about why I have a black man featured there - will have succeeded.



Thursday, October 18, 2018

Domestic Staff Alcoholics

At some point, you will likely encounter employees with problems related to alcohol in dealing with performance, conduct, and leave problems. - Alcoholism in the Workplace: A Handbook for Supervisors / OPM.gov


A long-term associate, who now runs a substance abuse detox program for HNW clients, recently contacted me and asked to be mentioned on this blog. And although I was flattered he considered me a viable resource for promoting his business, I reminded him the Mission of The Domestic Staff Citizen is to provide a free community resource, one of information for topics relevant to domestic staff household management - one in which both the domestic workers and the estate owners can access in a truly commercial-free zone.


Yet, the topic of substance abuse is of such importance, I was surprised it had escaped the attention of postings thus far, and thusly, here we are today, and although not promoting any specific vendor, hopefully we'll be providing food for thought and enough free resources for you to begin your own research and decision making. 

~~~

The topic is so enormous, however, this simple posting won't attempt to be a clearinghouse of resources for the reader, however, as with other research on all things human resource management, some links to create awareness and compassion of the matter, for the purpose of how we ultimately retain our good performance as service providers and help others around us, as well.  


One such resource which is simple and to the point, is from the OPM.gov website, Alcoholism in the Workplace: A Handbook for Supervisors. Nothing in this online booklet will be groundbreaking to the average person, yet it's a good reminder of the focus which supervisors in workplaces should assume: that of ensuring service delivery as promised, and increasing whatever actions move the team toward that end and and decreasing whatever gets in the way. 


And alcoholism, as with any other illness or distraction which may befall a worker and which needs to be addressed head-on by strong-willed supervisors with sufficient resources and conclusive actions, falls within that category of what gets in the way.

~~~


If you torture the data long enough, it will confess. - Ronald H. Coase

That famous quote by Ronald Coase has been heard by just about anyone who's taken a statistics class - and was the first thing I thought about when a website I perused this morning tossed out the assertion that 25% of all female surgeons in the United States are alcoholics. And male surgeons? Well, slightly less than the girls, yet, they smoke more.


Wait. What?! Surgeons? They're alcoholics? And they smoke cigarettes, too?


It may be true. All you'd need to get the numbers to match up is to find one alcoholic female surgeon and sit her down at the kitchen table with three others who aren't, and there you'd have your sample population containing 25% for your study. But even if my cynical reaction is off the mark and the study was actually of a scientific and honorable methodology, my point here is that whenever I see a study quoted on a for-profit business website, I usually want to keep looking for more information - from those folks who aren't selling something to you with fancy websites and smiling salespeople; somewhere the data had, most likely, anyway, not been tortured.


But the numbers themselves don't matter too much, really. Substance abuse issues are the potential reality for anyone - in any job or demographic. The fact is: any percentage of your domestic staff team may be subject to the illness of alcoholism and other substance abuse issues, just as any of them may be affected by any number and range of other physical or mental illnesses which create issues for the enjoyment of their lives and performance at work, issues which can be treated if the resources are actually available and the barriers of shame are removed for the domestic worker so that he/she may access the help they need to get better, and the estate management - and the estate ownersare actually serious about addressing this and other estate performance issues head-on, and expecting consistency in high performance from each and every one of their service team members.


That last part is important enough to repeat here again, yet this time we're going to use some really big print to underscore the importance:

...and the estate management - and the estate owners - are actually serious about addressing this and other estate performance issues head-on, and expecting consistency in high performance from each and every one of their service team members.


Does your household staff manual contain language such as suggested by SHRM which addresses the expectations for sobriety on the job?  Are these expectations discussed during your staff meetings as openly, plainly, and without introducing any stigma or shame into the illness, just as would be expected for any other physical or mental illness which needs attention and help for the worker?

Of noteworthiness is the helpful approach the booklet from OPM.gov handles the matter for supervisors, which is that of recognizing and addressing the issue as it arises with a worker and to be helpful, of course, yet to not slide into the role of an enabler:


Avoid being an enabler. 

An enabler is someone who allows the alcoholic to continue the addition without being held responsible for his or her actions. Supervisors often think that they are being kind, when actually they are hurting the alcoholic [domestic worker] by letting him or her continue to engage in self-destructive behaviors. 

In addition, failing to hold the alcoholic [domestic worker] accountable can have a negative effect on co-workers' morale.  - OPM.gov


And within this same resource, they explain the ultimate responsibility to treat this (just as with any other) disease rests upon the worker, not the supervisor or the company:


Alcoholism is a disease. [Domestic workers] who suffer from it need the [family office's] compassion. 

However, sometimes that compassion has to be firm in order to communicate that, while the [family office] is willing to help the [domestic worker] get assistance, the [domestic worker] is ultimately responsible for his or her own rehabilitation, recovery, and performance. 

The best help that you as a supervisor can offer is to learn something about the disease, refer the [domestic worker] to the EAP/Employee Assistance Program [which your family office or health insurance broker should have already established as ready in advance], and hold him or her accountable for his or her conduct or performance. - OPM.gov

OK and here we go again... that last part is important enough to also repeat here, and this time again in more really big print in order to emphasize the importance for both workers and estate owners:

...and hold him or her accountable for his or her conduct or performance.

Are we starting to see a pattern here? Is this starting to look like the human resource management approach to ensuring the consistent delivery of product or service to the client, AKA estate owner, as was  promised... and as is expected? 

~~~

This is a truth - if and only if - the domestic
worker on your estate chooses it to be a truth.
Although the above advice deals with specifically alcoholism, I believe the same approach is valid toward all other performance issues on a domestic staff team.

My own professional opinion is that the most important consideration is to be the open and friendly, non-judgmental communication and approach toward this and any other challenge a worker may be facing with a direct and no-nonsense sit down conversation. And as the booklet above advises, the supervisor (of whatever domestic staff title he/she happens to hold) should offer credible resources for the worker to draw upon, yet simultaneously accept nothing less from the worker than 100%  commitment to the elimination of the performance issue - and any root causes thereof.

The below 5-Step process is a sensible and favorite formula of mine, one which is appropriate for this... or any other performance issue at your estate... and one that keeps it simple and respectful for any performance issue, whether it be alcoholism, drug abuse, dishonesty, laziness, poor team collaboration, or even that drippy and perpetual annoyance of chronic work schedule tardiness:

  1. Houston, we have a problem.
  2. We've all had problems and made mistakes - and there's no shame in that.
  3. We've got some amazing resources here to help you improve!
  4. Your continued employment here depends upon: your improving.
  5. And now, the choice is yours.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

The First 99,059 Page Visits

I think blogging, by and large, is basically therapy. And I'm sure, and I know, that there are some terrific bloggers an some legitimate bloggers. But I think, by and large, a huge percentage of people who are blogging are doing it for self therapy.  
- Mike Barnicle.


Every now and then, I'll scroll down and notice how close the page view counter is getting to 100,000. I'm not sure why, because, honestly, I've never been a size matters kind of person.

But today I was just reflecting back on the history of this blog, and instead of giving one of those long, boring self-congratulatory types of reviews that people are given to do, I'll just recall for Citizen readership the very first few incubator days, way back in May 2010, and what I was feeling at the time.

Plainly put, I was applying for jobs at the time, and I wanted domestic placement agents to think about more what I knew than simply the "experience" on my resume. I wanted them to think about what I could actually know to do, both now and in my future - not simply what I had known and had done in my past.

Or, did I simply need a blog for self-therapy?

~~~

Whichever the real reason was, the trick became, how to do it?

Perhaps I could engage in self-therapy and present topics to inspire others - all at the same time.

That would be multi-tasking. 

And multi-tasking is what employers are looking for, right?

It all just made sense.



via GIPHY

Back in 2010, it was not easy to have a website, it was still one of those things you hired other people to do for you. And it was just too much money, I ultimately decided.  

Then I learnt about Google blogs, which were free. And although I wouldn't have my own domain (that luxury would come much later), I could at least have a link to this thing on the web that I could share with domestic placement agents, so that, along with my dry, boring AF resume (they all are, by nature, despite the bells and whistles that people try to work into them and make them magically stand out among the masses), the agents could actually get inside my head and see that I was passionate about service team management skills - not just service team management "experience," which may mean something good, or maybe not.  

As I knew at the time and still believe, "experience" at something doesn't mean the person was any good at their job, or even liked it at all. And I wanted there to be something that could show that I really liked this stuff.

The original Citizen was going to cap at five postings. That would be all I needed, I thought, to cover all the major topics that were on my mind. But then, as these things go, one path led to another. Now at 200+ postings and 99,059 page views later, I think I've covered just about everything. But I've also had that same thought, just about every year.  

~~~

So, then, where to go from here?  

What makes an estate actually run well - and what actually inspires people to be the best version of themselves and work well as part of a service team?

I had some ideas. 

And I think I have even more ideas coming.

~~~

But then... so do you also, my dear Citizen readers.

And I look forward to hearing about them all.


Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Where Have All The Footmen Gone?

...it was a real learning environment that held the greatest value for all concerned; the kind where the Butler position was considered a true executive role...


I was going to title this post, "In Praise of Patience," yet I fell asleep twice while typing it into the header box, and although that's really what I'm talking about here, sometimes I need to spice things up a bit so it's not so boring to our readership.

So, as I was realizing today that on LinkedIn, although I'm proudly an aspiring member to The 5-Minus Club, I do like to occasionally "follow" people (in a healthy, non-creepy way, I mean). And one such person I follow is Christoper Mengel, who always seems to have something interesting to say, although, I think we generally label those people we agree with on things as being interesting, yet that's a topic for another day.

Christoper had liked an article which referred to bringing back apprentice programs for skilled trades. I had not become aware they had disappeared, actually, yet that's my bad for not keeping up with the world outside of my own. And although the article referred to what's commonly referred to as skilled trades, such as electricians and plumbers, I honestly believe it could equally apply to domestic workers.

I like the idea of apprenticeship - because it recognizes the idea of patience. Patience on the part of the employee, and patience from the employer. Patience is something I don't see much of in the world. And maybe that's why the idea of anything that supports patience - seems to be disappearing.


Patience, Jimmy
Once in a while, though, I do see a domestic job advertisement that has called itself an apprentice opportunity. The cynical part of me, I'm not proud to say, sometimes thinks that it's just a sneaky way for the employer to bring in another pair of working hands for cheap. Yet, the other part of me, and that part is usually 51% or greater, thinks there is someone out there that really wants to help both the worker - and the estate - to become better, and both for the long run. And that takes time, and that takes patience.

This was all very possible back when large domestic staffs actually existed. I mean those really large, Downton Abbey kinds of staffs, which were large for a reason: because it was a real learning environment that held the greatest value for all concerned; the kind where the Butler position was considered a true executive role, someone who administered the business of the entire estate and actually managed the staff - and what we now, loosely, refer to as an Estate Manager, yet had more actual authority than today's Estate Managers to make decisions, and with more actual resources entrusted with to succeed.

But, those large staffs don't really exist anymore, and Butlers have, sadly, in recent years been mostly stripped of their executive functions in many homes, while domestic staffs are now being routinely managed by email and texting - by a Personal Assistant located somewhere in a family office, several miles away. This peculiar shift in management trends and hierarchies, the development of instant-everything, along with the development of short-sighted HR investments by the family office in order to "save time," may have created, IMHO, some issues.

Footmen spent years earning pennies while studying their craft and becoming Under Butlers, and then more years of guidance and study to become a Butler. Now, though, aspiring Butlers typically spend just a few weeks (or even less than one week) in a self-funded training program, and then expect to earn $100K+ at their very first domestic job. Same for many of today's Chefs, Housekeepers, and virtually all domestic staff positions, whom expect to begin at the very top of their careers on day#1, due to having attended (and paid substantial money for) hyper-accelerated private training programs that have, supposedly, now substituted for all the years of hard work and hands-on practical experience - previously only engaged through the onsite domestic service apprenticeships of years past.

The apprenticeship - the entire becoming part of a career to reach an actual, high level of proficiency - before earning a job title - has now been deleted. Some may argue that estate owners are at fault, for now expecting domestic workers to be highly capable on day#1 of their jobs, this due to the newly heightened wage and salary levels of domestic workers which would indicate such. Yet, would this expectation exist, if new domestic workers were neither demanding nor expecting that? It's a bit of a cycle which seems to feed on itself.

And some would argue that small, minimalist staffing, no apprenticeships, and the abbreviated programs which now jump-start people's careers (and their salary expectations) are all very "efficient." But, I'm not so sure.
Something tells me that estate owners of years past were not idiots; something tells me they were not people who would put up with anything that was particularly inefficient. I think that today's easy web connection to the heavy marketing of every product or service that reaches into our lives and our careers has affected how we value the things that used to take some investment in serious time; the things that used to require some... patience.

*******
  • So, would you, as the Estate Manager or Principal, be willing to spend several years guiding and grooming someone through an apprenticeship program who has, simply, very good potential, in order to reap a long-term investment?

  • And would you, as someone who sought a career in domestic service, be willing to spend several years working for substandard - apprenticeship - level wages, yet through the guidance of those with more experience, you would then be gaining the deep level skills, the self-confidence, and most importantly, the reputation, as a dedicated, long-term learner who took their craft seriously enough to put themselves through a real apprenticeship program?


Your opinions on our postings, as always, are welcomed!



Friday, September 28, 2018

In Defense of The NRA

...to face the things that really matter, and how to take care of the people you love or perhaps the people that you work for in the manner that is practical reality - and not just in the manner that is luxury fantasy.


Getting older sucks.  There's just no way around it.

At 59, and with each passing year, it gets more and more frequent that I get out of bed with some upper body (or lower body, depending on what areas I hit yesterday at Equinox) muscle group singing, good morning!, in just that special way which only they know how to do.

UGH.

~~~

Yet, despite what a wise old friend told me years ago when she was just a few years more experienced than I am now in this silly game of life, "Getting old - it ain't for sissies," I've found there are nuggets of gold being discovered in life now that I never could find before, and makes the journey all the more worthwhile.

It struck me this morning, while in the shower, which, incidentally, has recently become a very special and sacred sort of space - and only those people north of 50 will know what I'm talking about there - is that I truly like something that's developing more fully in my life, more and more each day, with just about the same intensity and fortitude as the above mentioned challenges.  I suppose it's nature's' attempt at compensation, my soul giving me something in return to take my mind off the fact that six pack abs will be something of the past, very soon, if not already now, truth be known.

And that's the something of: keeping an open mind in life. 

Of keeping judgments held back just a bit, a bit more than I used to do, until a bit more rational inquiry and information has come in to take the place of fear and popular reaction.

~~~

Open mindedness is a skill, and one I believe must be developed. Being 59 years old now helps, simply because by my age, you've seen enough situations where withholding judgment turned out to be a good thing after all. And you've seen enough situations where judging situations and people quickly turned out to be a bad thing - for yourself, mostly.

~~~

I'm about as liberal as they come.  I have a worldview that we as a world, a country, a society, a family, a workplace, and workplace teams, should be inclusive and expending most of our energy taking care of one another in some way, not just competing with each other or allowing for divisions to flourish based upon our often unique communities or heritages.

I think that's my definition of liberal. Others are free to disagree.

Yet, more and more as time goes by, I've found it helpful to keep an open mind, and that means for everyone, not just for those who agree with my worldview.  I think people with different worldviews still may have something to offer me and the world around me. Others are free to disagree.

Being liberal, my liberal friends are often shocked that I keep an open mind and even participate in topics which they have shut themselves off to. Then again, most of them are younger, and I think just haven't had enough time to see how keeping an open mind can be an advantage for them.

~~~

Being liberal, my liberal friends are shocked that I think Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh may have some things to offer to the country, and he may be more than simply the sum of the alleged behaviors which he is now being investigated for.  Maybe not, but maybe.  

Sadly, though, no one today is speaking any longer about the issues which would actually come before the Supreme Court, and how those issues would or would not actually shape our lives. Sadly, that's no longer interesting.

What would it be like if I was only known for the worst thing I've done?  - Catherine Hoke


Maybe this nominee isn't someone I'd want on that particular Court. But it's difficult to know that right now. Maybe keeping an open mind will help me to know. Others are free to disagree.

~~~

Being liberal, my liberal friends are shocked that I support the NRA, and even more shocked that I've earned a Concealed Carry Weapons permit.  

But by keeping an open mind, I've discovered that the NRA isn't happy about gun violence in our communities any more than anyone else is, and also no more than Mercedes-Benz would be happy about the drive-by shootings with which their luxury product is both preferred for and successfully used for, by violent gangs.


Quite the opposite, in fact; as there is no one in this country, no one at all, really, other than the NRA, who is setting high standards and training for safe and responsible firearms handling, along with promoting your ability to retain a full array of options - as you personally determine to be appropriate for your own circumstances - for the protection of yourself and your family from those who would do you harm. 

The NRA isn't trying to convince you to have a gun. But they do want you, a responsible, stable, mature, and law-abiding good citizen, to retain your option to have one, just in case you wish to assume some of the responsibility to protect your loved ones - instead of always hoping that someone else will just happen to be around at the moment needed, to do that for you. 

And, if you do choose to help with that responsibility, the NRA can guide you and train you, quite extensively, if requested, in how to handle it safely and to remain a responsible, upstanding and fully law-abiding citizen of your local community. 

But, I never would've come to that realization, if I had simply fallen in line to others' opinions of how I should think, instead of keeping an open mind and allowing more information to come forward to consider.

~~~

Thinking about the difficult, and often very unpleasant, things needed to protect others' well being and safety is what open minded people can do. And getting older, one finds the maturity to face things that cannot always be faced while younger, to face the things that really matter, and how to take care of the people you love or perhaps the people that you work for in the manner that is practical reality - and not just in the manner that is luxury fantasy.

~~~

Being liberal, my liberal friends are shocked when I express that people should - themselves - be held accountable for making their way in life, accountable for good performance in society and accountable for good performance at work; that I have a preference for those who are living their lives as Gives, instead of Give Nots.

Although it seems contradictory to them, I believe that holding people accountable and being compassionate towards them can peacefully exist together; can compliment each other. Yet it takes an open mind, it takes looking at these issues from all sides, and being open to more than just shutting oneself down to additional inquiry and voting one way or the other because someone said they must vote that way, in order to stay popular with a certain in-group.

~~~

I remember learning at USF that there's over 300 new books published each year on the topic of workplace management and leadership. I think that number may be a bit low. And I think that tells us that there are many ways to manage and inspire domestic service teams and successful private estates, and will continue to be; otherwise, there'd only be one book which was ever purchased and read, instead of the countless thousands which have come and gone over the years.  

Being older, one realizes there are many ways to get the job done, many ways to relate to people and to help them be the best that they can be, whatever it is that they want to be, and there will be many more ways to come. All it will take to know about them, is to keep an open mind.

I find that realization of keeping an open mind to be exciting, to be energizing, to be life positive, and to be life affirming.  

And those are some things I didn't always have 20 years ago, when I was 39.

~~~


And so well maybe, I was just thinking in the shower today... 

...with all that good stuff coming around these days, maybe getting older doesn't suck so much, after all.