Sunday, January 7, 2018

Working In A Home Is Different? Well, I Think Not.

...it would actually be helpful to stop the pompous illusion that we're some kind of unusually special service talent that's perched at the top of the good service food chain.


Quite frequently over the years, I've heard the comment from random sources within our industry, "Working in a home is different." And this is meant to, in some way I suppose, convey a unique nature, unique challenge, unique ability, or perhaps even a unique joy, that domestic workers envelop by having a workplace which also happens to be someone's residence, as opposed to working in a corporate executive office cubical, the local diner, or driving the morning bakery delivery van at 5AM.

Yet the comment always stops then, right after the word "different," and without any explanation, because, simply, there is no explanation available.

And that is because, simply, there is no truth to that comment. 

I'd challenge anyone to provide even anecdotal evidence that domestic workers have unusually unique interests, needs, or abilities to serve others - or to feel wanted, valued, respected, and yes, to be provided a paycheck for their services, which are somehow outside of - "different" than - those workers performing virtually any other service job which one could think of. 

And there's no need to be offended, because acceptance of this common bond with all types of workers actually makes domestic workers much stronger, not weaker; this common bond with other service workers actually makes us much better to understand ourselves, our work environments, and our responsibilities as great employees - because they are just as common - and, perhaps, ultimately become even better service providers as we learn from everyone who holds a job - instead of isolating ourselves into some sort of prefabricated, marketed uniqueness which really does not exist, nor should it.

*****

Citizen Editor isn't shy about using the current news feed to make a point, where domestic workers can perhaps benefit and draw comparisons. Or simply to gather greater understanding, for simply learning's sake. And, since we don't have any advertisers' dollars to answer up to, we are free to speak here without fear.

A respected Household Manager colleague of mine, like many people who've held jobs throughout their lives, was once upon a time fired from a job. Being fired from a job is not a shameful event to experience, yet, when observed logically, a consequence of worker performance not aligning with employer expectations and to a degree which the employer's ability to manage the discrepancy is, for reasons often outside the control of the worker to influence, limited to the termination of said employee. However, not examining the event and learning from it by seeing how this is simply one of many events which domestic workers can experience which are similar to anyone working in any other job, is indeed shameful.

Such thoughts are at the forefront this morning as I recall President Trump's decision on how, at the beginning of his term, he handled some of his "employees" - the nation's seventeen intelligence gathering agencies - for having brought him information which has both disappointed and embarrassed him on a global scale. He had decided, therefore and directly because of having been brought this information, that he found the restructuring and slimming down our nation's top intelligence office to be necessary.

In other words, many of our nation's intelligence operations workers were to be fired... for having performed their jobs as they had been instructed to do so.

This seems to be the only way the President - like many employers who have just been embarrassed by unfortunate truths brought to their attention - are able to handle their sad realities. 
They say that knowledge is power... 

Like many new Household Managers - and like many new managers at any company one could think of - my colleague assumed, and reasonably so, it was incumbent upon her to gather all information at the ground level where she was working and bring both it and suggestions for resolutions of any observed problems to the principals' attention, for purposes of increased efficiency and performance of his company - the estate

In this excitement of her first Household Manager role, she thought - and reasonably one could argue - it was necessary to bring to the principals' attention the unfortunate fact that one of their domestic workers was stealing from them. One of their long-term, loyal, and most beloved domestic workers, sweet member of the family, de facto.

Was reporting this bit of gathered intelligence the right thing to do? I don't know, but I do know that she had trouble paying her rent shortly thereafter. 

It was excruciatingly painful information for the principals to discover - and it was ultimately resolved by removing the conduit of that information, so that all could return to blissful normalcy which was experienced before someone had suggested to the family that a Household Manager would be just what they needed to come in and organize, bringing the household to a high level of efficiency and professional level performance. 

And after this brief experiment with efficiency, the household did indeed return to its previous normalcy. And the family member/thief was promptly given an increase in salary.

Is this event unique to the domestic service industry? Well, I think not.

Now, imagine yourself a worker at the CIA. No, I don't necessarily mean the type of CIA worker in a trench coat and sunglasses darting around in some back alley, the type of CIA worker which gets all the attention in the movies, which actually comprises an uber small percentage of those actually working in the intelligence gathering business. No, I mean the type of everyday person that is common to many
Just don't show up to work like
this and you'll be fine.
others who are working in their jobs, including the CIA or any other intelligence agency; that of someone who is typically sitting at a desk and reading news reports about some new political activity developing somewhere in the world, or perhaps going out from time to time where observable activity is taking place and perhaps speaking with various people; someone who, like all managers in all companies, everywhere, in all industries, need to take small bits of seemingly disconnected information and know how to connect them all together, and then present a summary to their employer so that conclusions can be drawn - and truths be discovered about what people are doing; and about how to improve processes and efficiency. 

Done correctly, and if the truths discovered are popular and acceptable, the worker then gets to keep her job, to go home to her husband and her kids every day and help pay the rent or the mortgage and buy the food so that her kids can eat, and to pay for the uniforms for her kids' soccer games. Just like the rest of us do. 

But what if gathering this information, even if it's information which could greatly affect the operation of the enterprise or the customer of that information, i.e, the nation; and  could prove detrimental to the  ability of this worker to do all the things they personally need to survive? 

What, then?  What choice does she make?

Both Democrats and Republicans, as anyone who has followed the news and tweets over the past year, are at at complete loss to explain why the President has frequently promoted an admiration bordering on personal friendship with the Russian President and dismissing both the information from - and the competency of - the people who have been sending him information which conclusively, and in agreement throughout all of our country's intelligence gathering agencies, that this person has recently and personally directed hacking activity, sabotage, towards the United States. The information, based upon late night tweets and various random shouts to media reporters, appears simply too painful for the President to deal with, as it conflicts with his wishful notions of that leader and, apparently, new found friend, de facto. Even if that friendship manifests, at it appears to everyone who is observing this unfold, only within the confines of his own small, reptilian mind.

Those working in the intelligence gathering business, those people who's job it is to gather and understand real world activities occurring on the ground level across the globe, those activities which impact the safety, security, and overall efficiency of the United States and it's citizens, like anyone working in any job, anywhere... now have a choice to make:  Do they now risk peril to the greater good, keep quiet about what they discover from this point forward when analyzing information, thus putting our nation at risk, yet also improving the chances of being able to survive in their own lives, providing comfort to their employer by not bringing him information which may conflict with the employers' preconceived yet irrational notions, and thus keep their jobs, pay their rent, and feed their kids?  

Or do they do the "right" thing and bring unpopular information to those who they work for, risking the financial security of their own selves and families?

*****

Have you ever been fired from a domestic service job because of information which you had brought out into the light of day? Have you ever had an employer state that you might be, in fact, fired very soon, because he is upset that you brought him some (truthful) information which was simply too painful for him to know about? Did you ever become aware of information at your workplace that you felt that you had a moral or a professional obligation to address in some manner, yet knowing that if you did, the politics of the workplace were such that your own continued employment would be at risk?

These workplace dynamics are not unique to the domestic staff industry, nor are they unique to anywhere. Nor are, for instance, CIA agents, who are sworn to protect the interests of the United States, any less "service oriented," nor do they possess any less so-called "service heart" than those of us who spend our days folding underwear and pouring wine, nor any less ability to think ahead of the curve and understand what their employer wants from them on a moment to moment basis. Nor do 8th grade math teachers, waiters at The Olive Garden, or that guy mentioned above who drives the bakery truck at 5AM after he wakes up and kisses his sleeping kids goodbye. Each of those workers have the same innate human need to feel wanted, to feel valuable, to feel their service to others matters, and each has the same ability as domestic workers to satisfy those needs - through concerted efforts of providing good service to others.

And it's not such a bad thing we realize it - and start to connect with and learn from others who are outside of our own domestic service industry, and it would actually be helpful to stop the pompous illusion that we're some kind of unusually special service talent that's perched at the top of the good service food chain - because that illusion prevents us from learning from others who are just as, if not more, service talented than ourselves.



So, aside from catching a glimpse of the boss in his pajamas from time to time, we realize there's not anything about this domestic career experience which is so... "different."

And I'd say that's a quite valuable realization to have.









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