I remember one employer early in my career who was a cocaine user. I was cleaning his huge walk-in closet and found in plain sight his bag of drugs, a small mirror, and razor blades. What it was didn't register at first, but within a few moments the oddity of it faded and the stark realization of what I had come upon lay before me.
What was I to do? He and his wife were lovely people, were paying top dollar for my services as their butler. They had given me all the employee benefits one could ask for and were not demanding people. They had two children around 10 years of age. and two full-time nannies. They had a great housekeeper who had been with them for a few years, but who was told to never clean Mr.’s closet. However, when Mr. hired me he mentioned that he would appreciate me keeping his private areas clean and tidy. He must have known that in a matter of time I would come upon his stash right out in plain sight.
I had to figure out quickly how I would react. I could carry on as if I had not seen his drugs. I could have confronted him. But frankly, what would I say to him? Would I say, “Sir, excuse me for a moment, but would you like me to prepare your lines? Shall we find a place in your closet where we might store your drug of choice? I mean seriously, What would I say?
Within moments of this discovery, I remembered what I had learned in butler school: if, as a butler, I came upon any discovery that was illegal, I must leave the job site immediately. And so I did. In the years since then, I have thought often about that situation, and I am glad for the choice I made. Yes, in that moment, I was immediately without work. I had been there less than a year, so I couldn’t really use the experience on my resume, and even if I did, how would I answer the burning question, "Why did you leave?" So, as far as my career was concerned, I now had a gaping hole in my work history. I had worked hard and long hours for almost 12 months, and nothing to show for it.
I know I did the right thing by leaving. I have always seen my career as a being my life partner. I have dedicated my life to private service. I have given all of my energy to the work and the time-honored principles of being a butler. So, for my partner, I have always worked to make the best choices and decisions for us both. The glamour of a butler's work and life quickly fades after the first few years. Yes, I have met people, seen things, gone places, and been in some of the most amazing situations. But I always filter my career choices with these three simple questions:
Am I safe?
Am I privy to anything illegal?
Am I being asked to do anything I do not believe in?
Three easy and basic questions, because as life rolls along we are constantly faced with making choices and decisions, and if you keep the filter simple, in the heat of the moment you can make good and sound choices for yourself and your career.
Potter Poppins Academy is a butler training school in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in the United States. The Academy, led by esteemed head butler Ken Horne, offers courses such as Elite Butler Training, Hotel Butler Training, classes for principals new to managing household staff, courses in etiquette and protocol for business professionals, manners courses for children and young adults, and bespoke service consulting.