Etiquette in a Private Household Role
Working within the highest echelon of household staff, with ultra-high-net-worth individuals and at the world’s finest homes and estates can be very rewarding, but to even the most talented newcomer it can also be quite daunting. One question that always comes up is that of etiquette in the workplace – how does one remain professional and make the most of your role, and keep your employer, and indeed yourself, happy?
Anticipating the needs of your employer will ensure you become an integral part of the household. Make sure you are always aware of the schedule and any changes there may be to it at the earliest available opportunity. That way you’ll already be meeting their needs without being asked – and should the timetable change again, you’re prepared.
Correction then reflection
We are all human and we all sometimes make mistakes. Your employer understands this of course, but in a domestic staffing situation the most important thing is to simply correct your error and swiftly move on. Your employer isn’t necessarily looking for an apology, nor to bring into question your capabilities, but neither are they looking for the opportunity to offer forgiveness. There will be time later to consider where you went wrong and what can be done to avoid it happening again
Take the initiative
Once all your given tasks have been completed, a competent, confident member of staff will take the initiative and make independent decisions that will further benefit the household. Such initiative will be hugely appreciated, as long as it is within the parameters of the role and doesn’t interfere with the work of other household staff.
Attention to detail
In an effort to be efficient, it is important not to rush any finishing touches. Your employer is looking for consistently high standards without any decline in quality, regardless of the volume of work or the time of day.
Loose lips sink ships
Discretion is of the utmost importance to any domestic staffing role, regardless of position within the household, longevity of service or the status of your employer. If asked about your role, the household or your principals you should always respectfully decline to respond – both to others within the household, and most certainly to those outside.
It is imperative that you keep your employer’s personal business completely confidential. The ability to remain silent has always been an important element of any domestic staff member’s job. Learning to avoid or deflect enquiries whenever possible, especially while working with celebrities or other high-profile people, is paramount.
Research the location of your employer
Know where you are going: research the culture, customs and legal requirements of the geographical area of your employment. Show respect to the country and/or region you are working in as well as to your employer by taking these factors into account from day one. For example, should a Western candidate wish to pursue a role in the Middle East you will need to pay attention to rules on alcohol, dress codes, and many other factors. Awareness in your role is vital.
It might seem a basic requirement, but it bears repeating: communication is important – know your role and what is expected of you. Understand your duties, and also the boundaries of your role, the expectations and requirements of what you are supposed to do and what you are not supposed to do.
Why a good reputation is so important in this industry
Your reputation is a real, living thing. It has its own existence, in some ways separate from the physical you. It represents the collective mental construct everyone else shares about you, a construct based partially on your own actions but also on the perceptions others have about your actions.
Your reputation plays a vital role in progressing or holding back your career. This is more true in private households than almost anywhere else – your reputation will make or break your career. Mistakes, and how you handle them, could have a ripple effect and affect you for many years to come; but on the positive side, a job well done speaks volumes and can propel your career to new heights.