Trust issues…

“I’m having this recurring issue and I was wondering if you could help me out?”

The person asking the question was the Director of Security – in charge of a number of nightclubs – and one of his Heads of Security (HOS) had been approaching him with a fairly regular complaint.

“This HOS is telling me that his Manager often overrides his decisions.”

“Uh-oh,” I said, “Let me guess, the Manager is actually deciding who gets let in the door…or who gets kicked out?”

The Directory of Security laughed, “Yeah, pretty much hits it on the head.” I took him by the arm and we proceeded to have a fairly lengthy discussion about trust and ownership of one’s position.

Believe it or not, this is a fairly common issue in many work environments. Managers and Owners are often hesitant to either cede control or to allow their workers to make final decisions. On the one hand, I can understand where they are coming from. After all, you are the boss and the ultimate outcome will fall on your shoulders whether it is good or bad. So taking the chance that one of your minions will mess things up can be a daunting proposition! On the other hand, you hired them for a reason…right? You hired them to do the work that you don’t, won’t, or many times can’t do so that you can focus on other things.


How many Owners/Managers/HOS would put someone with zero experience at the Front Door? I’m guessing not many. Why? Because you want to make sure that the person acting as the gatekeeper to your facility is competent, wise, and knowledgeable. If you wouldn’t dare to put an inexperienced person at the Front Door, then why wouldn’t you trust an experienced person to make the correct decisions in that position?

Many times, this lack of trust comes from not being around enough to see this individual work on a regular basis. If you only pop in to check on your Staff once a night or only watch them work for 15 minutes or so, you will never get a full picture of what they are capable of. So show up, watch them in action, and ask questions of your Staff. Everything from “How is your night?” to questions about capacity and the general state of Patrons that evening. Not only will this show that you are engaged and know what you are doing, it will give you an understanding of your Staff’s knowledge about their position.

If you see a Staffer making a decision that you don’t understand, ask them about it. DO NOT accuse them of screwing up – unless it is something blatant – but instead, ask them to explain to you why they made the decision and then EXPLAIN to them what they did wrong if you see an issue. One of the biggest failures of Managers is not explaining the who, what, why, when, where, and how of mistakes their employees make. Take the time to have those discussions. And don’t forget to praise them when they make the correct decisions. Show your Staff that you are interested in enough in their decision-making process to have trust in their decision-making process.


A big part of gaining trust is proving that you yourself are responsible. If you are going to be responsible, you have to take ownership of your position. And that means if something goes wrong, it’s your problem. This applies to both employees and even more so to Managers. I’ve seen employees walk away from issues and say, “That’s not my problem.” and I’ve seen Managers do the very same thing. What many Managers don’t understand is that all mistakes will eventually come back to them, so they have to take ownership of those mistakes…just as they would expect their workers to do.

As a Manager a big part of “owning” your position is not only admitting to mistakes you made but also attempting to rectify those mistakes on your own. If you tell something to do something and it works out poorly because the decision was a bad one: OWN IT! “Yeah, that was my bad. I’ll sort it out” DO NOT try and pass it off on other people. All this will do is lose you respect and maybe even have your Staff questioning your decision-making process. One of the worst things you can do is walk away from a problem that YOU created. By rectifying mistakes that you make, your Staff will see that you are mature and willing enough to admit your shortcomings. Lead by example. Don’t fail by ego.

As an employee it is just as important that you assert yourself and “own” what you do. If you are watching the patio, make that your domain! Know the ins and outs of every nook and cranny; down to when the 3rd porta-pottie line tends to get crowded. If you are a Doorman, know your IDs, your signs of over-intoxication, and how to greet people. If you are a Roamer, know your routes, your best spots to watch the action, and how to easily navigate the crowd! Why? For one, it’s your job. But it is also the sign of a person who takes pride in the work that they do. When your boss – or a Patron – comes up to ask a question, you’ll know the answer! And this brings us back to the idea of building TRUST. If you can demonstrate that you know your job, your boss will trust you to do it.


But what if you do your job well, you fix your (minimal) mistakes, and the boss still steps in, on, or over you? My suggestion is to make some time – NOT at the moment the issue occurs – to meet with them and hash some things out.

First off, refresh their memory of the incident and ask if there was a reason they acted in a particular way. You may be surprised that a) they don’t even remember the event or b) they saw things in a completely different light. Once you gain an understanding as to their perspective you can then present your side of the equation.

“I appreciate that you felt this way about XYX, but let me explain how it looked from my perspective”

Then calmly walk your way through your concerns and the solution that you would have proposed. This might help give a little clarity and hopefully provide your boss with the information needed for him or her to see your side of the story. Should the boss continue to step on your toes, it may be necessary to have an additional conversation addressing your concerns about their ability to trust you to do your job.

“Just so you know, every time you step into a situation, it diminishes my ability to handle the problem. I know you want to help out and I truly appreciate your input. And the team and I want to be able to provide you and the Patrons with the best service possible. But if you continue to interject, it sends mixed messages to the Patrons and Staff. They’re not sure who to turn to for guidance and direction, which in turn causes a lot of confusion.”

If this is a conversation you are going to have, make sure that you can provide several concrete examples of issues that you have faced due to “interference” by the boss. This is especially important if the issues then turned into liabilities.

Remember, you want your Owner/Manager/HOS to trust you to make the right decisions. But the only way that will happen is if you own your position and show them that they can trust you to make the right calls. And for you Owners/Managers/HOS out there: trust your Staff. They’re the reason you stay liability free.

Until next time…

Deflecting blame…

I would love to make you feel better and tell you that every night that you work at a Bar or Nightclub was going to wonderful, free of incidents, and full of satisfied Patrons. But I’m not going to. The more likely scenario is that you will be bored, an ejection or two will occur, and at least a handful of customers will complain.

Handling complaints is one of the things that Nightclub Security Staffers have to do on a VERY regular basis. From too long a wait for drinks to a cover charge that is too expensive, someone is going to complain about it…and someone is going to have to deal with the complaint. Whether you are Head of Security or a Roamer, the person hearing the complaint will probably YOU, based solely on the fact that YOU are standing there to hear it.

Just because handling complaints is part of your job doesn’t make it enjoyable or even amusing. Well, sometimes it can be amusing. But the times that it is not amusing can make for very frustrating conversations. These conversations, especially when talking to an intoxicated Patron, often devolve into a back and forth that goes nowhere.* This is usually the point at which less experienced Staffers will lose their cool and begin the ejection process. There is however, a way to get completely out of the way of a conversation before it starts to devolve:


At most times in your life, deflecting the blame is often seen as using an excuse (which it is) or not taking responsibility for your actions (also a possibility), both of which can come back to bite you in the behind. But in a Bar/Nightclub environment this tactic can not only take the problem out of your hands, but make you look like the good guy/gal.

People view people in positions of authority with either disdain or admiration, depending on the authority figure’s actions. In the Nightclub setting, the authority figure is generally the Manager or Head of Security. And everyone who walks in the door knows that the final say will rest on the shoulders of either or these individuals. Why not use this to your advantage?

In some circumstances, a deflection of blame should be the first thing out of the gate! Should you have to approach a table full of loud individuals, which is the easier approach:

  1. “Keep it down! You’re getting out of hand!”
  2. “Excuse me, but my Manager was wondering if you could tone it down a bit. He’s been getting complaints.”

#2 will usually do the trick. It makes you seem like the Good Guy, just following orders.

Another example would be at the Front Door. An individual walks up out of Dress Code and you deny them entry. If they start to complain, which is the better response?

  1. “I already told you, you can’t get in dressed like that. Go away.”
  2. “I would usually let you in, but my boss is being really tough on us in terms of dress code. Sorry.”

Again, blame deflected. You would let them in, but it is not up to you! I have heard some Security Staffers go so far as to badmouth their boss to Patrons in order to make them happy. I personally wouldn’t go that route, but it seemed to work at the time.

The other bonus to deflecting blame higher up the food chain is that the HOS/Manager are usually “too busy” to hear the complaint that is being fed to you. That means there is no further recourse for the Patron. You’ve “done your best, but you can’t do anymore.” It works wonders. Add this deflection tactic to your bag of tricks and see how it works!

Until next time…

* We will be discussing “Circular Conversations” in the near future.

Conducting Nightclub Security Interviews, Part 2

Last week we started to discuss the basics of interviewing Security Staffers. This week we’ll get into a little bit more detail.


Right off the bat, you want to be the one directing the interview, not the Interviewee. So make sure that you have your questions ready to go. And when formulating your questions, consider not only the information that the Interviewee will give you – like the basics of who they are and where they’ve worked – but where the questioning may lead.

Oftentimes, an answer to an interview question will give you an idea as to something else you’d like to ask that you hadn’t considered. Conversely, you can ask a question that forces your interviewee to disclose more than they expected. Asking your Interviewee an unusual question can help give you insight to their personality or personality quirks. One of my favorite questions is seemingly pretty straightforward:

“Tell me about the worst job you’ve ever had?”

First off, most people have at least one complaint about somewhere they have worked. There is always something that bothers you about your job. Always. Second, by asking this question – which most people will readily answer – it relaxes your Interviewee. “Wow, he’s asking about that really crappy job, now I can vent.” It’s a little tricky, but getting an Interviewee to relax will allow you to see the parts of their personality that they usually wouldn’t reveal. Especially during an interview! Third, when people vent about things they don’t like, it will give you an idea of whether they will be a good fit for your establishment. Interviewees have actually told me that they couldn’t stand their last boss because he expected them to always be one time. No, really, that happened.


Remember our recent post about Scenarios? Now would be a great time to ask your Interviewee some of those scenarios questions. Think up any number of things that could go wrong during a shift and ask them how they would handle it. Again, the answers can be incredibly revealing. And better to ask now than find out the hard way when something goes wrong.

I generally ask between 3-4 scenarios questions dealing with:

  • Intoxicated Patrons
  • Intoxicated Co-workers
  • Altercations and Ejections
  • Incidents in general

Asking questions relating to behavior is another great interview tool. Have they made any mistakes on the job? How did your Interviewee react to making the mistake? Have they had conflicts with management and how where they resolved? Scenarios and behavioral questions go a long way to seeing if your Interviewee will be the right fit for your establishment.


Besides taking notes on your Interviewees answers, you should also be watching their body language? Do they appear nervous? Flustered? Poised? How did they act towards your receptionist/host/hostess when they arrived for the interview? How did they act after the interview? Pay attention to their non-verbal cues, things like shifting in their seat, avoiding eye contact, or excessive perspiration. If they are nervous to begin with, do they calm down as time goes on? Are they watching you or the clock?


Remember, you are the one dictating when the interview begins and ends. Make sure to let the know that their time is up and that the interview is over. Thank them for coming in and ALWAYS ask if they have any questions for you. The good candidates usually do.

After the interview, review your notes, make reference calls and background checks, and ask your co-interviewers (if you had any) their opinions. And make sure to take note of your Interviewees’ responses to the interview opportunity itself. Have they written you a “thank-you email”? Have they called to expand on earlier answers? Do they have further questions? Make sure that you note these things.

Once you have reviewed things on your end, I would suggest a second interview. You can make this less formal, add additional interviewers, or even do it over the phone. Involve those people who you think are important to the hiring process (ahem, Head of Security) and have a new set of questions to ask. Chances are this second interview will only confirm your decision to hire, but it is always better to be safe than sorry. Never feel obligated to hire someone because they’ve made it this far into the process.

Take your time. Even if you need to hire someone ASAP, you still have time to think about your decision. Better to take time on the front end than have to deal with the flak later. Remember, this individual will (hopefully) be with you for a while, make their hire a carefully thought-out choice. Good luck and happy hunting!

Until next time…

Nightclub Security Positions (Part 3) – Door Outs

Today we continue out discussion of positional responsibilities with DOOR OUTS. Some you are probably confused, wondering, “Why is there someone watching who is exiting a Nightclub?’ Allow me to tell you…

Door Outs/Line Walker is one of the more misunderstood, underrated, and usually overlooked member of the Security Staff. In fact, many clubs and bars do not have a Door Outs position.

Skill Set and Responsibilities:

  • Have general knowledge of a Bar/Nightclub’s Policies and Procedures. That means reading your establishment’s Security Manual.
  • Provide access control to both VIP and Regular lines – If your club has separate lines for different clientele, it is up to the Door Outs position to make sure that Patrons are being directed to the proper line. A party of 10 with bottle service does not want to be put in the 100 person long Entry line. Door Outs should be engaging with any Patrons approaching the Front Door and asking how they may be of assistance. And, though it may seem obvious, Door Outs has to keep people from entering through the Exit Door!
  • Maintain line control for VIP/Regular lines – This, along with access control, is of great importance. Door Outs has to make sure that people aren’t crowding the entrance, jostling in line, cutting in line, are properly dressed, etc. Nothing is more frustrating to Patrons than arriving at the head of the line, only to find out they are in the wrong place or can’t get in! Door Outs should constantly be informing people (especially in the VIP line) whether or not they are in the correct line or are dressed appropriately for entrance.
  • Maintain traffic flow on sidewalk in front of Main Entrance – Nightclub and Bar entrances are notorious for having crappy traffic control, especially at the Front Door. Door Outs needs to constantly move people along, by shining a flashlight if necessary to avoid blockages. If you start to get a crowd in this area IMMEDIATELY clear it. Once people see a group crowding the Door, they will try to jump in and next thing you know you have a mob out front.
  • Answer any Patron Questions re: entrance requirements, dress code, and cover charge – Make sure you are constantly communicating with your Door Outs in regards to any changes to dress code and cover charge, especially if these change in the course of an evening. The better informed Door Outs is, the better informed your Patrons, the happier your Club.
  • Monitor “Door Out” count – That means clicking off every individual that walks out the Exit. Make sure your count is good so the Fire Marshall can’t ticket you for being over-capacity. That also means the Door Outs should be in communications with Door Ins to confirm that there is still room in the Club, henceforth allowing them to pass that information on to whoever is waiting  in line.
  • Monitor sobriety of Patrons exiting establishment – Door Outs needs to keep an eye on anyone departing in an intoxicated state. Whether single women and men or drunk couples, it is imperative that Door Outs guide them to a Taxi or a bench to sit on. If necessary, Roamers may be contacted to find lost friends or call for transportation if needed. Door Outs should also be making sure Patrons are not wandering into the street or loitering.
  • Work closely with Law Enforcement to maintain order at Front Door and Sidewalk – Law Enforcement will not be happy with you if your sidewalk is so crowded that it impedes traffic flow. Door Outs should work with Law Enforcement to clear the sidewalk or develop a strategy to keep it clear.

Door Outs should also be walking the lines in front of the establishment monitoring the demeanor of individuals and making sure that your stanchions are staying in place. Patrons have a tendency to “bubble” in line, bunching up in a large group instead of filing  in by twos and threes. Door Outs must be on a radio, prepared to clear the Exit (which should be a clear as possible) in case of any Ejections! A Staffer with good Door Outs skills can make the difference between the lines at your club’s Entrance being a mob scene or as orderly as a Convent food line.

Keep your Door Outs informed and well-paid. They will save you from the aggravations, a crowded sidewalk, and angry, misinformed Patrons who don’t know where to stand.

Until next time…