Chris Shaw posted a question on his blog and tagged me:
Do you feel like you are being treated fairly at your current or past employers? The question stems from the fact that very few people today stay at a company 20 to 30 years like they did when I was growing up. Do you feel like the company feels a loyalty toward the employee or do you think that they look at you just as head count? No reason to get yourself in trouble, so you can refer back to past employers.
I’m glad you asked. I’m being treated like garbage and I hate these bozos who pay my salary.
Oh, wait, is this microphone on?
Alright, seriously, time for a rant. Sorry, Chris, but you pushed one of my hot buttons here.
The Life of a Hotel Housekeeper
Did you know that many housekeepers make below minimum wage? They often make $3/hour because they’re considered to be tipped employees.
Hotels have to clean occupied rooms every day whether the guest is checking out or not. Sometimes they get lucky: the guest might be exceptionally considerate, use only one trash can, use only one bed, and not leave Cheetos crumbs all over the nightstand. Sometimes, they’re not so lucky, and they get a room where a family with kids has done what a family with kids does on vacation: leave stuff everywhere. Overall, housekeepers average around two rooms per hour, or about 15 rooms during an 8-hour shift. The numbers vary depending on whether it’s a corporate hotel (businesspeople are pretty clean) or a vacation hotel (families are filthy.)
A $3/hour housekeeper who cleans two rooms per hour needs to get $1 tip per room just to make it up to minimum wage.
Sadly, many hotel guests don’t leave tips. And the ones who do, often leave tips only on the day they check out, thinking that that’s the only day the maid really works. Not so much – my 2 rooms/hour number includes stayovers. Next time you stay in a hotel, tip the maid $2 minimum every single day, and start noticing how much she does. I’m super-anal about reducing their workload: I only use one trash can, I clean the coffee pot myself after I use it, and I try not to use the glassware when I just want a sip of water before bed.
Why I Know About Housekeeping
I got my start in the hospitality industry working in hotels and restaurants, and I worked my way up from front desk clerk to managing hotels. No matter how high up you go at a 100-200 room hotel, there’s still going to be days when you have to make beds or clean toilets or cook omelettes because somebody didn’t show up. You’re relying on a pyramid of people, and a great deal of them make near minimum wage or below. Dozens of them have to show up every day in order for your business to run successfully, but you can probably understand why some of them will choose not to make that commute into work in the morning, or why they’d want to work their way up to a better job (and out of your hotel) as fast as possible.
Succeeding in the hospitality business means a never-ending cycle of training replacement staff. When a new hotel opened up, they’d offer $.10-$.25 more per hour in order to lure experienced housekeepers or laundresses over. For a $3/hour employee, that’s a big incentive, and they’ll take that offer. Hotel managers are handcuffed by budgets, and they can’t simply give everybody raises every time a new hotel comes into town. Managers try to keep employees happy, build a positive work environment that people will enjoy, but it’s tough, and sooner or later every employee is going to leave.
Employees Are Replaceable
I can almost hear the protest comments rolling in now. “But you have to train people and promote from within,” they’ll say. “You have to make sure there’s opportunities for everybody as they grow!”
That’s naive. If you’re running a kitchen, somebody’s gotta wash the dishes, and nobody wants to be a career-long dishwasher. You can’t have an entire kitchen made up of head chefs, and furthermore, when somebody makes it to head chef, they aren’t itching to leave. You can’t expand your restaurant to more locations simply because you’ve got a few good chefs – there has to be a market demand for your food, ample room for expansion, and a lack of competition.
Business owners and managers have a tough job: they have to make employees feel welcome and needed, yet at the same time make sure that every employee can be replaced. An irreplaceable employee is a business risk.
I know I’m completely replaceable. If I quit Quest tomorrow, there’d be a line of people begging for my job, and there’s a bunch of people who could do it just as well or much better than I’m doing it. Heck, I’ve even pointed a couple out to my managers and said, “This is the next person who should have my job, and they’d be great at it.”
So how do I sleep at night?
Companies Are Replaceable Too
Both parties in the negotiation process have to benefit in order for the deal to work. Your job has to be a win for the company, and it has to be a win for you. It sounds so BS-life-coach-y, but it’s true: it’s gotta be a win/win scenario.
If you’re the only one winning, the company will let you go. If you’re making too much money, if you’re not putting in enough hours, if you’re not delivering the results they want, they are gonna drop you like a temp table.
If the company is the only one winning, you need to let go of them. Nobody else is going to do it for you. Nobody else is looking out for your career. (If you think headhunters are looking out for you, think again – they’re paid by the company, not by you.)
Sounds inconceivable in this economy, but there are always jobs for the right people. Even since the stock crash started, I’ve been contacted by companies who are hiring top notch DBAs, and they’re not paying housekeeper wages either. I’ve passed that info on to my friends who are looking for work, and I know two great database guys who might make great career moves in the next couple of weeks due to info I’ve passed along.
If you don’t believe me, and if your experience indicates that you can’t get another job right now, then stop to think about that phrase again for a second, and look at it closely. Other people are getting better jobs right now, as we speak. Maybe – just maybe – the problem is you, and you need to re-evaluate the way you think about careers.
It’s Not Just About Your Skills
Every time I write something like this, I get a chorus of private emails saying:
“You don’t realize how bad the market in @MyCityName sucks. Nobody’s ever hiring @MyCareerName, and I’m a rock star genius mad scientist with amazing talent. You’re a jerkwad who doesn’t know @MyFavoriteExpletive.”
You’re partially right: I am a jerkwad, and you probably have amazing talent. But like the book says, Talent is Never Enough.
Your manager reads books to figure out how to get more out of you: maybe you should be reading books to figure out how to get more out of your managers too.
I won’t deny it: the first few times I picked up books like this years ago, I thought they were flakey inspirational crap. But my career has changed when I started applying geek techniques: I stopped trying to overclock my desktop’s CPU, and started focusing on overclocking my career.
So before you blog about how your company doesn’t respect you, doesn’t love you deeply and truly, doesn’t take you for long walks on moonlit beaches and never wants to let you go, stop to think about whether you feel the same about your company. I like the company I work for, but only because we’ve come to agreements that are win/win for both of us. When it’s not – either when I stop delivering for them, or they stop delivering for me – I expect us to both start making plans to replace the other.
Who I’m Tagging
Got scared there, didn’t you? Thought I was going to tag you by name and make you tap dance around this question. No, I’ll refrain from tagging anybody on this particular meme. When I first read my name on Chris’s blog about this, my first reaction was, “There’s no way in hell I’m answering that one,” so I don’t want to put anybody else on the spot. If you’d like to answer it on your blog, go right ahead though!