After 17 years on the job, I now know why I stayed so long.


Sometimes we just stay too long. Marriages, relationships, friendships and on job too long often to our detriment. Questions go unanswered, why would someone purposely choose a job where he is over qualified, underpaid, and under appreciated and often unhappy. Was it familiarity? complacency? or fear?

For me, its was all three.

Always The Boss

For those who follow Astrology. Aries, the first sign of the zodiac, are called natural born leaders. As long as I remember, I have been the leader, the supervisor, the Manager, the Director in charge. In addition of being the boss, I was a husband, father and uncle. Being the boss has been a part of my life all my life. In two of the last three juries I’ve served on ,I was the foreman.

My first managerial gig, was at the ripe old age of 18. I was younger than everyone on my team. The team, who made it clear on day one, that they would not take direction for me. Talking directly in front of me, they decided, the only reason I got the job is because I was black.

The very next day, I received a large soft drink order, I asked for help and was ignored. I called my boss and he said if you have to replace them, it was okay with him. Next day, I told one of my team members, to help the driver with the bread order and that we were going to clean the store. One of my team looked at me and laughed, so did the other team member. I fired the older of the two and told him, I will call when his check was ready. I looked at other man and told him if he wanted to he could leave, since I knew I could run the store by myself.

The man I fired ,called my supervisor. My supervisor told him it was my store and I could do what ever I needed to do to run it. Four months later, they gave me a raise and sent me to another troubled store.

Water Runs Downhill

I was blessed, to have caring and supportive bosses, mentors who were patient and wanted me to succeed. Most managers are appointed, few are properly trained and fewer receive personal support beyond a memo or email.

Water run downhill, if the only interaction between a manager and his Area Manager or direct supervisor is only via an occasional phone call or email, he or she may be setting up his manager to fail. Despite all the new Technology, humans still need direct contact with another human being. I can usually tell if a location is struggling, from it’s appearance to the faces of it’s front line. The manager who is not connected with his team. Inconsistencies that indicate his team isn’t properly trained, who do not believe they are a valued employee and doesn’t respect management, this ultimately flows down the guests.

One large company I worked for, challenged management daily. Initially it was tough, we were publically held accountable. If a manager made up an unsupported random number, he was called out in front of all the other managers. I remember the ultimate humiliation and hour later, my supervisor called and asked if she could assist me. The news and the directives were balanced, in addition to being told where we needed to make corrections, we were told the direction of the company. If one location, numbers increased, the manager of that location, was encouraged to share she did to turn her location around. Our Area mangers visited our locations on a monthly bases.

I learned if I respected and honored my staff, they will respect and honor me. They were more than hourly employees, they were an important members of the team and assets to the company! I learned if you wanted to make changes, you had to meet with your team who are in the trenches, the front line. They have first hand knowledge of the cracks in your organization. I owe all my successes to members of my teams.

One of my pet peeves in management was the lack of vision. The corporation spends hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars developing a cohesive team only to watch them walk away to other companies. I’m very proud to say, I lost many good members that I personally developed who have moved on to other areas of the company.

Thank you for calling the Hilton, Hampton Inn, Holiday Inn, Comfort Suites, Extended Stay America, Crossroads, Radisson, Fairfield Inn, Residence Inn, Courtyard, and the Ramada Inn.

Long hours, can take a toll on a relationship and marriage. I had to choose. However, in the end it was more than the job.

Couple of friends and I started a consulting business. It was 1998 we all had different strengths, but starting a new business was more challenging than any of us realized. Our traveling costs were through the roof and we were looking for avenues to cut costs. If worked at a hotel our company would get discounted room. I applied to a new hotel in Rancho Cordova and was hired.

The plan was to work at the hotel five or six months until business improved. A few months later we had to close down. We couldn’t survive with just a few clients.

Suddenly, the temporary job, became my primary job, where I’m making a fraction of my former salary. Working third shift three days a week wasn’t enough. At night, I would call the other hotels to inquire about openings. I was willing to work whenever, anyone was sick or if they were short staffed. Initially, no one was interested, the hotels wanted me to commit to a part time or full time schedule. One day, the manager of a Residence Inn called and ask me if I could work Night Audit at her property. Weeks later I being trained at other hotels learning their computer programs.

Before, I knew it, I was training new employees at other properties in and around Sacramento. Hilton, Marriott, Holiday Inn and Hyatt properties. I always enjoyed training and developing staff. I studied the hotel trading guides by the letter, no short cuts. I found it better to train by the book and management could alter or make adjustments to the needs of the location afterwards.

At the beginning of 2000. I was probably the best known front desk agent in Sacramento. Property managers shared my phone number with other managers. The conversations would begin with, this manager gave me your number and I’m really in a bind…….. These last minute, calls kept my lights on and allowed me to make my car payments.

9/11 brought everything to a halt. The travel industry was devastated and hotels had to cut staff. I was an easy cut, and before I knew it, every hotel removed my name from their payrolls. They all assumed, I would end up somewhere. They were wrong!

Unemployed, ineligible for unemployment. Divorcing with no savings. While I didn’t know what I wanted to do, I was clear it wasn’t in management. I found a job at an economy hotel in Rancho. making less than $9.00 an hour. Eventually, better paying jobs came my way. I stayed in hospitality because I was well known in city. I took a full time position at a full service hotel. Where I worked I worked third shift and also did the accounting for various restaurants in the hotel, the position paid well. Perhaps a bit too well.

I was employee of the month in my first thirty days. There were problems linking the hotel operations computers to the accounting department computers. Once that issue was solved, Ink Cartridges started disappearing at night from printers. Printers I needed for my to complete my work. I complained to my direct supervisor, but nothing happen. During the day, no one had issues with the printers or ink, I was shown where the extra ink cartridges were kept. Later that evening, the printers were empty and the box with the additional ink removed. I asked her if I could buy ink and be reimbursed, she said no! Meanwhile, the Controller of the hotel, was sending angry e-mails wanting to know where were my reports.

Unable to complete the accounting , I was fired by the controller of the hotel. I later learned, the ink issue was intentional. During lunch, one of my former colleagues overheard my direct supervisor tell she was outraged after learning what I was paid. People overheard her outrage, and that I made $4.00 hour more than she. The termination unnerved me, it was only the second time in my life, I had been fired.

Last Stop Natomas

Unemployed again, but this time I was confident, I would soon find another job. There were new hotels going up in Natomas, no more Roseville or Folsom runs as gas was nearing three dollars a gallon.

The property I choose was wonderful, I liked the managers and my colleagues. I was far and away the oldest person, more than five years older than the general manager. The pay was okay, but I had full benefits. The owners ,hired a trainer from the company and she stressed the importance of consistency. The hotel was well run and received a national award in its first six months.

My life started rapidly unraveling, I became homeless at 50, my son moved in with his mother and I moved in with a friend. A few years later, I had to be hospitalized and was out of work for about six weeks. For years, depression and worthlessness were constant companion’s.

Somewhere in the third year, I hit a bump with management. I was that employee that followed company policy to the letter. I was black and white and while from time to time I made exceptions based on the situation, management rarely heard those accolades, or when I made the guest happy. As in life. While I was never officially disciplined, the GM went out of his way to highlight any complaint about me and share it with my colleagues.

I attended a meeting at a hotel with my General Manager, where more mangers knew of me then him, if fact ,the managers invited me to lunch, when I think about it, no wonder he wanted my blood.

When your the person, who follows corporate policy, you can find yourself on an island, sometimes your resented by your colleagues and management. Rarely are you supported, you become THAT person, and their resentment often filters down to hotel guest who have heard about you from your co-workers and management.

I didn’t fully realize until many years later, how much those comments, hurt my feelings.

Indirect attacks from the General Manager increased, and some were personal. One particular attack, was riddled with inconsistencies, fearing my position was in danger. I sent a copy of his letter along with my response to headquarters.

During the early years, the property was a great place to be. I would get hugs from the housekeepers every morning and my colleagues on the front desk seem to like me. However, like management, my colleagues would make excuses and tell guest ” We’ll he’s does things by the book or he’s just that way” I was irritated with management would say that, but it had a certain sting with my colleagues. I long believed, I wasn’t chosen to be employee of the month, due to my attendance. In fact, I didn’t think the locations omission was an issue. I’m not THAT person! Then two of my colleagues who attendance was much worse than mine were chosen employee of the month. .For years, I could feel my skin get warm as I walked by the plack missing my name.

Despite, the attacks, I thought he was a good manager. I was truly loved by my co-workers. I received, hugs and food nearly everyday from the housekeeps at the hotel and it was one of the things that kept me going through the long dark days. More than a decade later, I am still connected to many of the former employees via social media.

I Stayed

While I felt under appreciated and tolerated at my job. The managers and owners of other hotels seem to appreciate the work I did when I worked for them and offered me work for their properties. But I made excuses to stay. I was training staff at other hotels making must more that I was earning at my hotel, but I couldn’t leave, even though, it wasn’t a healthy place for me.

Late at night, I would receive unsolicited job offers. First by local managers who knew me by my name.. Then by current corporate managers and Area Managers who worked for management company that operated our hotel and planning to leave for work for another hotel management company ,who believed I was a good fit for their team. One woman who was the head of HR of a massive hotel in Virginia, heard about me from a local manager thought I would be perfect and offered me the job at my job. I fantasized about these opportunities and the salary and by the end of the week, I would decline the positions. In the back of my mind, I kept hearing, what if I failed? I would be out of work, with no benefits, I would lose my car and become homeless again. Reinforcing my belief that I was loser.

Lemonade

Through the darkness, there were many positive things that happen to me, due to my hours.

Outgoing, I always wanted to act and perform. When I was young, I moved to New York to become an actor singer. I spent months going out on auditions, never getting a single call back.

Thirty years later, I was checking Craigslist, and there were auditions for a local commercial here in Sacramento. With low expectations, I went there without a resume or a head shot. I was asked to read a line twice and then excused. As I was leaving, someone asked me to wait. I overheard someone say but, he’s too fat ! t. I thought about leaving but then they asked me my name, when I spoke, one man asked me to read a line. I read lines standing, sitting, and an hour later, they asked if I could come back the next day. It was my first call back ever! Fat and fifty! Who’d a thunk it! I didn’t get the job, however I was asked to do voice work and was paid $300. Over the course of seven years, I have appeared in a dozen commercials, training films and even appeared as myself on the ID Channel and none of this would have been possible working nine to five.

Despite, the drama, there are many events that have taken in my life, that wouldn’t have happen if it weren’t for this job. I have gone on auditions in San Francisco and management, would allow me to sleep in the hotel before my shift. Through word of mouth, I became a consultant, working with independent hotel operator up and down the valley and my employer allowed me to take off anytime I needed off. 12 years ago, In 2008,, management allowed me to write at work and within three or four years I was generating income from the blog.

Final Days

There is a saying in many black churches.

“It’s not when you want it. it’s not when you need it, but when ever you get it, it’s right on time”.

It was a common question, why would someone with your experience, education, work at a hotel? I was unable to answer the question until now. Fear!

As much as I wanted to leave and do something else. Fear kept me there. I was offered very well paying jobs without applying. After becoming homeless and getting sick, I could rely on the check no matter how small and the benefits the job provided. Homelessness is traumatic and I convinced myself that I was a loser and any movement beyond Natomas would end poorly.

At the end of last year, holding on I would stay on and work two days a week and retire. By January, I was offered another well paying job in hospitality, here in Sacramento. But this time I wanted to take a break. Jobs are plentiful in Sacramento and I just may stay in hospitality and work a few days a week at another property. With the staffing shortage, I’m confident I will find work soon. To start a new chapter with a clean slate, without the baggage and resentment. The fear is gone,I am free to take any position any where in the world.

I will certainly miss a lot of people and I’m sure I will be in contact with some.

For the first time in years I’m excited about life’s next chapter

CityFella

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