Working Security During The Holidays

I’m not in the habit of re-posting to this blog. As a matter of fact, I think it is one of the bigger cop-outs when it comes to writing a blog – anyone can just copy and paste. However, I also see the benefit to re-posting when there is an issue that bears repeating or needs additional emphasis. This is not a re-post as much as it is a re-write of a post I did around this time last year. It was a popular post, with the most common comment being, “I’ve been wanting to say this FOR YEARS!”.

So, without further ado and with a few minor changes, here we go…

Over the years I’ve had the pleasure of working with individuals of high integrity, strong work ethic, and exceptional character. I have also had the displeasure of working with slackers, layabouts, whiners, and the occasional ne’er do well. (I will now brush off my own shoulder for the use of such descriptive words…thank you.) When you work the field of security, there are many realities that you have to learn to face – or at least should – at an early stage of your career. The main one is this:

YOU MAY HAVE TO WORK WHEN YOU DON’T WANT TO WORK!

As a matter of fact, you will probably have to work EXACTLY when you have something else to do! Security is a profession in which your skill set is in demand ALL THE TIME. When most people are doing something else, you are working. Period. This is especially true during the Holiday Season. During the month of December, there are parties, events, parties, and events…and did I mention parties? They will fall on every conceivable day of the week, but usually on weekends. And definitely on the days that you were expecting to do your Xmas shopping. Or that your grandmother is coming to visit. Or on your “day off”.

First, let me clarify that I am not complaining about working wherever, whenever. It’s my job, I do it. Period. Have I missed out on fun, celebrations, vacations, and holidays due to work? Yes. Will I work again if asked? Yes.

EVERY. TIME.

Why?

BECAUSE IT IS MY JOB.

Whenever December rolls around, there WILL be events. And there is a good chance that Security will be needed to work them. Remember, people need to be safe 24/7/365. This is especially true during the Holiday Season, when people are known to get a little “loose” at parties or stressed while shopping. And yet, as soon as Staffers start getting scheduled to work, the whining begins:

“Why do I have to work again this year?”

“Bob always gets New Year’s off!”

“But I have a work party to attend!”

Let me break it down for you a little:

Do you want a job or do you want convenience?

Sometimes your job makes your life inconvenient. You aren’t paid to set your own schedule, someone else pays you to work THEIR SCHEDULE. And there is no convenience during the Holiday Season, especially in the service industry. Don’t like things that way? Start your own business. Actually, don’t. Because when you work for yourself, you work ALL THE TIME…especially during the holidays.

If you want time off for the holidays, ask for it in advance.

Way in advance. Like a month in advance. And remind your manager every week until the time you get off. Why? It’s responsible, mature, and shows initiative. Remember, everyone will want the month of December off. Also, you should realize that there is a good chance that you will NOT get Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s off, even if you ask. If you’re lucky, you might get 1 out of the 3. And in reality, if you’re lucky you’ll be asked to work all three because your skill set is in demand.

Sometimes in life we have to do things we don’t want to do.

Sorry, that’s just the way it is. As the old saying goes, “Sometimes you eat the bear … and sometimes the bear eats you”. Sometime you have to work on your birthday. Or your wife’s birthday. Or your boss’ birthday. Or on Xmas eve. Or New Year’s Eve AND New Year’s Day. If your free time is more important than your job, especially when your job entails random hours and unpredicatble situations…you should find another job.

Take one for the team.

No one else can/will/wants to work? Maybe you should step up and show the boss that you are willing to do whatever it takes to be part of the team. I guarantee that if you volunteer to work over the Holiday Season you will get to witness your employer looking simultaneously confused, excited…and impressed.

On the flip side, you can’t act like a whiny baby if you get scheduled to work, you haven’t asked for the time off, and it’s your job to keep people safe. The only thing that acting like that will guarantee is someone else doing your job…once you are fired for not doing it yourself.

So prepare yourself for the Holiday Season. It will be hectic and it will be tiring. The hours will be long, the parties ridiculous, and the lines even worse. Smile, take deep breaths, and remain patient, even when you have to escort drunken Santa out of a bar full of people. But then again, if you didn’t like a challenge, you probably would have chosen another profession…right?

Until next time…

Can’t We All Just Get Along?

The short answer to this question? NO

However, life is not lived by short answers and one can’t possibly expect to pursue a career in any field of work by not getting along with their co-workers. In the field of Security (and in this case Nightclub Security), getting along with your co-workers is of paramount importance. Your safety, your client’s safety, and your establishment’s safety all trump whatever interpersonal disagreements that you may have with your fellow employees. Speaking realistically, there will be people in your life or work that you don’t like or can’t stand to be around. So how does one handle this type of situation?

What is really bothering you?

Is it a co-worker or Manager? Is it a Patron? Is it a circumstance in which you find yourself? Is it a situation in which you put yourself? Is it a particular behavior by a particular person? Is the behavior directed at you only or at your co-workers as well? If it is a “behavioral” problem, is the behavior affecting you and how? And finally is it problematic or important enough to do something about?

How are you involved?

Take an objective and honest look at the “problem” Ask yourself (yes, it is difficult to ask yourself an honest, objective question…but please try) if you are somehow contributing to the problem with you reactions and behavior. Is it possible that you are actually part of the problem? “Don’t be ridiculous!” you say, “I am never part of the problem!” Really? Ask the opinion of somehow at work who you trust. Their response may surprise you.

Don’t make it about you.

Most people respond emotionally to a troublesome person. Try to keep in mind that someone else’s bad behavior is not necessarily directed at you or intended to be insulting. Personalizing the issue can sometimes make it worse.

Put yourself in their shoes.

When dealing with Trouble Patrons, it is important to try and empathize with them. The same goes for dealing with a bothersome co-worker. Sometimes knowing about someone’s personal or work situation can help you better relate to their behavior. Learning something about them can help you understand his or her perspective. It is easy to say, “Bob is always so rude!” Well, maybe Bob is in the middle of a divorce, has recently lost a member of his family, or is working multiple jobs to keep his family afloat. A little perspective can often go a very long way.

Be an adult.

Not matter the situation you find yourself in or how you want to respond to your troublesome co-worker or Boss, you must try to be as considerate, straightforward, and professional as possible. Take a deep breath, control your emotions as best you can, and work on improving your work relationships and your work performance. Sometimes leading by example can help others see the “correct” way of doing things.

Face the problem.

Sometimes the only solution is to face things head-on and talk to your co-worker. Let him or her know what you are experiencing and feeling. Let them think over things from your perspective. DO NOT be abrasive or go on the offensive. The point is to let your co-worker know that you want to improve your working relationship. People can be defensive when confronted, so be prepared to own up to any behavior on your part that may have contributed to any difficulties. By your being sincere and honest with your colleague, they can hopefully empathize with your position.

Increasing the intensity…

Sometimes a head-on solution is not productive. The other person may not be interested in what you have to say or may just be plain rude and unreachable. If this is the case, you need to let them know that while you prefer to resolve matters privately with him or her, you may have to take the issue to your Manager or Human Resources. Unfortunately, this is where things can become tense and awkward. Stick to your guns (perhaps not the best choice of words here, but you get what I’m trying to say) and don’t let a negative response from your co-worker dissuade you from taking action.

The Boss

In most cases, work-relationship issues will go directly to your Manager or Supervisor.  Your best course of action is to tell the boss your view of the situation as objectively, factually, and unemotionally as possible. This can be difficult if you have let the situation build for a while, but you must try. Otherwise, you may come across as a complainer or worse, as the actual troublemaker. Make sure to focus on the work consequences of the ongoing troublesome behavior. Unfortunately, the boss may be unwilling, unskilled, or not interested in dealing with “your” problem. If this is the case you can then consider taking the issue to Human Resources or possibly the Owner of your establishment. Keep in mind that escalation to this level can be a long process. And while no one wants to admit it, it can cause some serious ripples in the work place. This does not mean that you should not present your problems to your higher ups! But you must do it in as professional and patient a manner as possible.

But it’s the Boss!

What if the problem is actually your Boss? There is a good chance that he or she is not even aware that their behavior is affecting you and your work. Your approach to the Boss should be the same as with a co-worker, albeit with extreme tact and professionalism added. Ultimately, your Boss probably does want to hear from subordinates to want to have better work relationships so the can be happier, more productive workers.

Should your relationship with your Boss or co-workers be so strained that it has become unbearable, you may want to consider a work transfer. In this day and age, this is easier said than done, but it could be the only solution.

You may – and probably won’t – get along with everyone, but you have nothing to lose by trying.

Until next time…

What’s in a name?

Last week I had the pleasure of attending ICON Services Corporation’s security course: Celebrity & VIP Protection. Why? First off, here at Coast Executive Services we do more than just Nightclub Security Consulting. And second, anyone working in field of Security (or any other industry) should constantly strive to expand their knowledge base across all subjects.

On the first day of training, the course instructor (Elijah Shaw) asked a great question:

“How do you define yourself?”

In this particular case, he was talking about Executive Protection Specialists. And that got me thinking about how many in the field of Nightclub Security view and define themselves. For the most of the general public, anyone working in a security role in an entertainment venue is a “Bouncer”. And most individuals working in the field would consider themselves “Bouncers”.

Why?

Is “bouncer” the term people are most accustomed to? Is it the term they are most comfortable using? Or is it just what “bouncers” want to be called? I think that all off these are correct to a certain degree. I also believe that by using the term “bouncer”, we have a tendency to lock ourselves into the stereotype. You know: big, muscle-bound guys who like to be rude and get into fights. If you’ve taken any time to read this blog, you know that I go to great pains to refer to “bouncers” as Security Staffers.

I do this because it is important for us as Security Staffers to get out of the “bouncer” mentality. If you are a somewhat mature, semi-intelligent individual you realize that not only is getting into fights stupid from a self-preservation perspective, but it is also incredibly foolish in terms of litigation (getting sued). Second, I think it is equally important to try and change the way society as a whole views the profession of nightclub security. If people think of you as a bouncer, they will expect you to act as one. It is your job to show them the aspects of the job that they may not always see: customer service, cleaning, assisting with the over-intoxicated, etc.

We define ourselves to others by our titles. And others define us by the names they make up. So when people ask you what you do, what do you want your answer to be? Do you “provide night club security”? Are you a “guest relations specialist”? Do you work in “conflict management”?

Or are you just a bouncer?

Think about it.

Until next time…

Nightclubs and All-Ages Night

The most frightening words any Staffer working in a bar or nightclub can hear – besides “We’re out of beer!” are:

ALL AGES NIGHT

Many Staffers will break out in a cold sweat. Some develop the shakes, and others cry. Why are these words so terrifying? Because any time you bring individuals who are not legally old enough to drink into an environment were alcohol is being served, you are setting yourself up for a liability nightmare. You already know that under-age drinkers will try and enter your establishment on any given night. When you lower your admission age – whether 18+ or all ages – you need to take a variety of precautionary measures.

1) Extra Staffing – You should have an additional 2-4 Staffers on hand for All Ages night. At least one extra to help at the Front Door and some extra bodies to patrol the floor and bathrooms.

2) Bag Searches – All bags and backpacks should be search on 18+ or All Ages night. Since under ager drinkers can’t legally drink, they will often try to sneak in mini-bottles, flasks, or even Ziploc baggies with alcohol. Bag searches are simple as having the Patron open their bag and your Staffer shining a flashlight into it. Just the threat of an bag search will often be enough to make underage Patrons reconsider sneaking drinks in. Another option is to enforce a “No backpacks” rule.

3) Sharpies and Wristbands – Every individual under the age of 21 should have a large “X” drawn on the back of each hand as they  enter the club. The thicker and darker the Sharpie is, the more difficult it will be for the Patron to wash off.

Every Patron over the age of 21 should be given a wristband for drinks. The wristband color should be changed randomly every week to keep Patrons from buying their own and handing them out to their friends. A wristband with your establishment’s name on it works even better.

4) Monitor Bathrooms and Patios – This is something you should be doing anyway, but it is of extreme importance on 18+ nights. Having a Staffer posted outside the bathrooms, doing random bathroom checks can cut down on youths using the bathroom to mix drinks into their sodas or attempting to wash Sharpie marks off their hands. You may want to bring in a Female Staffer to monitor the women’s restrooms.

Patios should also be watched for Patrons attempting to hop fences or gathering in clusters to share drinks with older Patrons.

5) Change your glasses – An easy (though not always cost effective) way to cut down on the under age drinking is to serve non-alcoholic and alcoholic beverages in different types of cups. Plastic for soda and everything else in a glass or tumbler. This will also make it easier to spot individuals who should not be drinking alcohol.

6) Monitor for Intoxication – Since they won’t be able to drink in your club, most under-age attendees will drink before arriving. Make sure that your Door Staff are ultra-vigilant when looking for signs of intoxication. All of the tell-tale signs are usually amplified in younger Patrons as they are unaccustomed to the effects of alcohol.

In my personal opinion, All-Ages and 18+ nights are not worth the hassle. But should you make the decision to host one, make sure that your Staff is on its toes and paying attention. It could save your liquor license!

Until next time….

Opening Checklists for Nightclubs

So it begins, another night On The Rope. You’ve parked your car, made the long walk to the venue, and clocked-in. Now what? Well, if you work in a relatively organized establishment, you should a have a list of duties or a checklist to follow.

Oh, you don’t?

I guess it is time to have another little paperwork discussion. Remember, while paperwork can be a burden, it can also cover your behind and make you that you do everything you need to, in the correct order. And if you have a list for the end of the night, you should probably have one for the beginning.

So let’s tackle the opening (figuratively, not literally) and see if we can’t organize ourselves just a bit. First off, knowing Who is staffed When is immensely helpful when putting together your opening list. A running count of how many Staffers you have on hand to do work is always key to quick, easy organization. Now that you know who comes in when, let’s get cracking.

Here are some possible items for your Opening Checklist:

  1. Front Door – What does your Door Staff need when they arrive and what will they need as the night progresses? Stanchions, ropes, carpet, clipboards, count clickers? These are for sure items that should be prepped and placed ASAP. Think about what else you and your Staffers use up front and put it on the list. And don’t forget the little things…like water
  2. Front Door Prep – Now that you have your gear, how and when do you set it up? Do you need to re-configure your rope or your entrance? Do some sweeping? Figure out the best time and order for you and your Staff to get the door ready. And check the items off the list as you go.
  3. Interior – The Bar Staff has to prep their bars. You have to prep your Interior. Trashcans? Go-go dancer Platforms? VIP Stanchions? What do you need and where does it go? Have you done a sweep of the restrooms to make sure they are set? Put it on the list
  4. Exterior – Do you have a bar with Patios or exterior VIP Seating? Exterior restrooms or  Porta-Potties? Platforms to watch the crowd? Put it on the list.
  5. Equipment – Does everyone get a radio and flashlight? Who gets ID books? Put it on the list.
  6. Management – Have you met with Management to discuss your VIP schedule/special events/staffing? You should and it should be on the list.

Some people find that lists are redundant. And depending on the size of your venue, you may not need a very extensive list. But I guarantee that if you have a checklist – regardless of venue size or staff responsibilities – nothing will be missed.

Until next time…

What Does A Bouncer Do?

What does Security actually do? A lot of different things, many of them unseen by the general public. Here’s a little breakdown for you – with liberal doses of humor. If you can’t laugh at life once in a while, what’s the point? A tip of the hat to those who work in the field, some of whose stories I am using in the examples below.

  • Take your fake ID and give it to the police so that you avoid the ticket
  • Tell you to put your high heels back on so you don’t step on the broken glass…or into the puddle of vomit
  • Break up the fight your boyfriend is getting into because, “No one talks to my lady.”
  • Break up the fight your girlfriend is getting into because, “No one looks at my man.”
  • Keep you from climbing over the wall so you don’t slip, fall, and lose your teeth
  • Break up the fight you and your boys started because you, “Roll deep!”
  • Saving you and your boys from the fight you are losing because your opponents “Roll deeper.”
  • Carry you out the door and pour you into a taxi so that you don’t wake up in the drunk tank at 4 a.m. on a Tuesday
  • Ask you to stop dancing and climb down from the bar so that you won’t fall…and people won’t notice that you apparently forgot to wear underwear with your mini-skirt
  • Pull you away from the MMA fighter who you drunkenly informed, “I could probably kick your ass”
  • Take you out of line and put you on a bench so the police officers watching the line won’t arrest you for being drunk in public
  • Inform you prior to entry that your winning team’s sport jersey should probably not be worn to the losing team’s bar
  • Pull the creepy guy off you who insists that he knows you…even though your name is Tina and he says it’s Nancy
  • Patiently listening to you while you drunkenly insist on talking to your “…good friend Dave, the manager”, even though his name is Steve and he has no idea who you are
  • Try not to laugh too loud when you cut in line and say you, “…are going to spend mad cash up in here”…and it’s $2 drink night
  • Allow you to vomit on us so that you don’t vomit on the police officer
  • Deny you entry for over-intoxication now, so that we don’t have to carry you back out the door in five minutes
  • Kick you out of the bar for “motorboating” the cocktail waitress…whose boyfriend happens to be the Head of Security.
  • Take the beer from your hand before you walk out to the sidewalk with it and into the waiting arms of Law Enforcement
  • Nod and smile when you drunkenly inform us that our mothers are “women of loose morals”, and then guide you into the waiting arms of Law Enforcement
  • Thank you for telling us that our club is the “worst place ever” and let you know that the biker bar next door would appreciate a person of your candor

Believe it or not, the guys working the door and inside the club are there for your safety and security. They want you to have a good time, preferably one that doesn’t involve ejection of bodily fluids, physical violence, or verbal threat. Give ’em a break, huh?

Until next time…

Just walk away…

Every weekend, at least one person on a Security Staff gets yelled at. Sometimes by management, more than likely by a Patron. And every weekend, at least one Security Staffer will react in the wrong manner. The saying, “If you can’t take the heat, stay out of the kitchen” is an apt one for the field of Security, especially if one is working in a Nightclub or Bar. There will be numerous occasions during which you will be mistreated or taken for granted. And guess what? You have to take it.

I can already hear the detractors:

“No one talks to me that way!”

“Did you hear what he/she said?”

“I refuse to be disrespected.”

Well, believe it or not I am on your side. I don’t think anyone should be disrespected, talked down to, or insulted. But there are ways of dealing with individuals who behave badly that DO NOT involved getting physical – which is unfortunately how most Security Staffers react.

For example, if someone were to say something less than flattering about your mother/sister/grandmother/brother there are two things to consider…and no they are not how hard to hit the person and where will they fall after you’ve hit them.

1) Is what the person saying true? If it is true, then the announcement being made is probably common knowledge. And while possibly embarrassing, everyone already knows so it’s no big deal.

2) Is what the person saying a lie? If it is, then what do you care?

Now I am being a bit sarcastic and callous. But honestly, if 3rd grade insults still offend you, you need to seek employment in another field. Keep in mind that the person insulting you is upset (for any number of reasons), probably intoxicated (which in my book often leads to approximately 3rd grade behavior), and definitely not cognizant of the fact that yelling insults at a 250 lb. person who’s job it is to keep the peace is probably not the best of ideas.

So, what is one to do? How do you calm down or eject someone who is hurling insults?

First off, don’t take it personally. Just don’t. Again, if you can’t handle insults, this is not the line of work for you.

Second, try a little empathy. Put yourself in that person’s shoes: their boyfriend/girlfriend just left them, they were just fired, and the bartender refuses to serve the any more alcohol. That is an equation that when added up equals not too good behavior. Sometimes a smile and a nod (even if you don’t agree with their argument) can go a long way to soothing someone. EVEN if they have said something completely out of bounds.

“Yessir, I appreciate that you think my mother is a lady of loose morals, but I’m still going to have to ask you to leave.”

The key with empathy is that you want the person to think you are on their side. They can call you all the names they want as long as you nod and lead them out the Front Door.

Third, if they are truly upset, you have to try and disrupt their train of thought.

“Hey!”

“Sir/Ma’am/Miss!”

“Excuse me!”

Say it loud and get their attention. Then…

“Can you slow down a little? I want to try and help out, but you’re speaking too fast for me.”

Now the Patron thinks you’re listening – whether or not you really are – and may even slow down and try to explain themselves. Again, nod, smile, and (possibly) continue leading them to the door. (Granted, if this is a possibly violent situation a different set of rules apply)

Now, you’ve managed to slow someone down, listened to their complaint, and possibly managed to get them to the exit without them even noticing. You know what you do now?

Walk away.

No, really. Hand them off to the Front Door staff and walk away. You have now managed to remove the object of the Patron’s anger – you – from the equation. And you probably haven’t laid a hand on them. I have seen people literally stand slack-jawed as they realize that the person they wanted so badly to vent their anger at is gone. Conversely, I have seen people become incredibly upset. But guess what? They are now outside of the establishment and bad behavior outside is more likely to be noticed by Law Enforcement and dealt with far more harshly.

There is one caveat: Let the Front Door staff know WHY you removed the person. At least they then have the opportunity to soothe nerves in their own way, in their own time. And finally, don’t try to get the last word in. A simple smile and a, “Have a good night.” will make you feel like a champ as you WALK AWAY.

Until next time…