Household Managers: The Backbone of the Household
Ask a member of the public to name private household staff and they will probably mention nannies, gardeners, maids and almost certainly a butler. Whilst they might not spring as immediately to mind as a nanny, nor be as entrenched in works of literary and televisual fiction as a butler, the true backbone of the household staff is often the household manager.
A private household manager (or house manager, as they are sometimes called) is responsible for a property and usually the other staff therein. They will control all the day-to-day aspects of the running of the house, oversee and sign off tasks undertaken by other members of staff and often undertake duties often more commonly understood as being in the realm of the PA. They might be seen to be the right-hand man/lady of the principal of the family, a position more usually associated with that of a butler (they are, by some, thought of as a modern-day butler; and many butlers might indeed take on duties outlined here as falling into the preserve of the house manager – it all depends on the structure of the particular household staff, on which there are many, many variations).
As with so many household roles, it is of course impossible to note down everything that might be expected. It’s also worth mentioning that responsibilities vary from country to country, and we’ve focussed on the UK/Europe here.
Common duties can include:
- Making travel arrangements, both business-related and domestic, for the principal, their family and other staff.
- Diary and telephone call management.
- Supervising other staff members, including their duties as well as hiring and firing, dispute resolution and team management.
- Overseeing security arrangements, both for the house itself and the family when travelling.
- Keeping household accounts, dealing with contractors and tradesmen and overseeing renovations, repairs or other work.
Naturally the role is suited to people with management experience, as well as experience in service, and perhaps previously as a PA or security chief, depending on the role. Accommodation might well be provided, either within or near the principal’s residence, and salaries can be generous. It’s not a 9-to-5 go-home-and-forget-about-it type of job however, and a house manager might be called upon at any time with just about any type of task.
As each family, so each household, is different, it follows that finding a good fit with the ideal household manager is very important. For example, one family might employ a larger number of staff in one location and require a manager to oversee them, whilst another might be more focussed on security and international travel.
Whatever the situation of a particular family or residence, it is very often the household manager who acts as the unsung hero who holds everything together and makes the many parts function as one: the backbone of the household.