House Managers in the Modern Household
A House Manager might go by many names, and wear many hats. For example, In the USA the term Estate Manager is often used, and job titles such as Personal Secretary, Steward or Majordomo are largely interchangeable in this context. Different countries and cultures – or indeed, different families and households – might well have their own terms, but his or her position in the staff of a private household is of paramount importance.
In short, a House Manager is responsible for the overall running of the property and is in charge of the staff within. It’s not just a question of leadership however (although this remains at the top of the list), the House Manager might be required to step in to almost any role within the house as required, be familiar with traditional ideas of service and possess the organisational skills of a PA. They can broadly be thought of as a modern-day butler.
This doesn’t mean the starched collars, penguin suit and stiff upper lip of olden times (see our article on household uniforms) – the role has evolved significantly since then, and as well as getting hands-on with easily identifiable household roles such as preparing for the principal’s arrival or organising events, they might find themselves fixing a broken wi-fi connection, driving the cars, acting as the family’s ambassador or even helping with the children’s homework. What hasn’t changed, however, is the requirement for absolute confidentiality – a “see all say nothing” approach is central to the ethos.
Responsibilities and Duties
An exhaustive list of what a House Manager might need to do is, as you may have gathered, impossible to compile. However, day-to-day duties might involve:
• Leadership of the household staff
• Recruitment, training and overseeing of household employees
• Management of household budgets and maintenance of financial records
• Ensuring compliance with health & safety legislation
• Stock-taking of household supplies
• Administration and paperwork
• Organisation and running of social events
• Liaison with suppliers, employees, authorities, guests, and other households
• Oversight of and responsibility for household security
• Business and vacation travel arrangements
• Calendar and appointment management for principals and for other staff
• Errands, driving, and any other miscellaneous tasks as required
Key Qualities of a Household Manager
Responsibility – every action, undertaking, staff member and issue within the household falls within the House Manager’s remit. Shouldering this level of responsibility with unflappable efficiency requires the right attitude and inner strength to achieve.
Organisation – it goes without saying that a position this broad will require detailed organisation and multitasking.
Leadership – a vital quality in a House Manager, essentially in charge of any and all staff in the household.
Communication – the House Manager will have to communicate with the principals, the other members of staff and a whole host of people outside the household. Interpretation, dissemination and feedback of a swathe of information on widely ranging subjects requires a keen mind.
Confidentiality – A household is a mine of confidential information, it is the responsibility of the Household Manager to see that anything potentially sensitive remains private. The principal’s trust in this aspect of the role must be absolute.