The Sins of The Bouncer

Human beings are imperfect. As a matter of fact, I have yet to meet anyone who didn’t exhibit a number of flaws in their character – including yours truly. From work ethic to fiscal responsibility to a short temper, you can bet that someone you know has an aspect of their life that could use a little work! As a matter of fact, the workplace is where many people’s faults and flaws are amplified or exacerbated. And your friendly neighborhood bar or nightclub is no different.

Unfortunately, the general public has a skewed view of bouncers. They’re seen as muscle-bound idiots on power trips who care more about hitting on girls and getting into fights than they do actually being helpful or keeping people safe. And, truth be told, that can often be the case! After all, stereotypes have to come from somewhere and many bouncers do NOT help to reverse the bad guy image.

I present to you…THE SINS OF THE BOUNCER!!!

Pride/Ego

You know the type: can’t be bothered to speak to their co-workers, only talks to the cutest girls, is rude to most guys (besides their bros, of course), and is more than willing to argue with the Manager – after all this is HIS door and no one tells him how to run it. Pride and Ego will get a bouncer into far more trouble than they can possibly imagine and will most definitely lead to trouble. What’s the saying? “Pride goeth before the fall”? Too much Pride and Ego will keep you from acknowledging your faults, learning a new skill, or admitting fault, and will definitely alienate your Patrons and Co-workers.

If you take pride in being known as the “asshole at XYZ Club”, just remember that XYZ Club won’t be around forever and you’ll probably need another job. Who’s going to hire the asshole? On the flip side, if XYZ does happen to be around forever, how’s your Ego going to react when a club-goer from 10 years ago comes by and says, “What, you’re still here?” Remember, you’re a Bouncer, not the Sultan of Brunei. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness, it’s an acknowledgment of gaps in your skill set and a willingness to be humble. Wanting to improve is a sign of self-awareness and a desire to grow. And humility will get you a lot farther than you think.

Violence

“I’m here to kick ass and chew bubblegum…and I’m all out of bubblegum” It is always easy to spot the guy or girl who is eager to go “hands on” with any Patron, is content when they can literally pull someone out of line, finds joy in throwing people out the Front Door with as much force as possible, and is definitely NEVER backing down from a fight. There are many, many, many individuals who see working in bar and nightclub security as carte blanche to release their anger issues or violent tendencies on unsuspecting individuals. What almost all violent individuals seem to forget – and maybe it’s a result of being hit in the head too many times – is that they are NOT going to be on the “winning” end of a fight…even if they win it!

Besides the moral issue of unnecessarily laying hands on people, there is the matter of being fired and sued for doing so…even if you may have been in the right! There is also the very real possibility of seriously injuring a Patron or co-worker or yourself; not to mention how bad your actions are going to make you, your co-workers, and the establishment look. And here’s a little tidbit for you brawlers to chew on: there are very, very few undefeated PROFESSIONAL fighters on this planet. I promise that you’re not going to be one of them.

Laziness

Helping the team pick up trash at the end of the night will not make anyone think less of you. Getting up from your stool to check IDs doesn’t make you look any less tough. Escorting a coworker to their car or helping a Patron into a cab is not going to take away any of your Instagram likes. Taking the time to learn what the new IDs look like is not going to make you worse at your job.

If you don’t want to work, don’t come into work. You aren’t doing the rest of the crew any favors by complaining, dragging ass, or mysteriously disappearing when it’s time to stack chairs. What many don’t realize about being lazy at work is that it actually shows. It comes across in your body language. Not only does it make you look bad to your boss but the Patrons will be able to spot it a mile away. They might not know what your job entails but they – and your boss – can spot a slouching, uninterested, half-asleep employee a mile away. Just stay home. No, really, stay home.

Impatience

No one said that dealing with inebriated individuals was easy. Or even fun. Well, ok, on occasion it can be humorous. But if you don’t have the patience to listen to someone repeat the same story 3, 5, 10 times…you’re in the wrong business. If you don’t have the patience to tell someone the same thing 3, 5, 10 times…you’re in the wrong business. We’ve said it a million times, dealing with drunks is like dealing with 3-year-olds: they’re annoying, they don’t listen, and they probably don’t understand what you want them to do. So you need patience.

Impatient staffers have the tendency to snap at Patrons, rush into situations without thought, and generally miss the entire point of what their boss is telling them. Being quick to action is not necessarily a fault but it can have devastating consequences. Taking a moment or two to surmise what is ACTUALLY being said or what is going on can mean the difference between apologizing to a Patron for almost throwing them out or apologizing to the boss because you threw out their drunk friend. Yes, people can be annoying. Yes, people will not pay attention to you. But taking a moment to formulate a plan, figuring out what to say before you say it, or having a little empathy for the frazzled Patron will make your job much less stressful and much more bearable.

Greed

When most people think of greed, they think only of money. But greed is by definition “…an intense and selfish desire for something, especially wealth, power, or food”. Greedy bouncers want more of something. Their thought is, “What’s in it for me?” For some, it is money: they take from the register, overcharge on the cover, demand money to cut the line, or pocket the tips that are meant for their co-workers. Others will want to jump ahead in job title, jockeying to become the Doorman or VIP Host or Head of Security, no matter what the cost. And some refuse to give up shifts or won’t work anywhere but where they will get attention and adulation.

The problem for a greedy person is that there is never enough. So they will do whatever it takes to get more, which in turn begets its own set of issues. You may be lining your pockets without realizing that someone is actually counting the register and expecting there to be X amount of money in there at the end of the night. Charging some people extra at the door may cause a ruckus up front when the Patrons – and your boss – realize that you are running a racket. Not giving up your shifts might mean that when you need a shift covered, no one is willing to help you out. There is no room for greed on a team. Greed takes you out of the team equation. Greed blinds you to the needs, concerns, and potentially the safety of others.

Have you considered that perhaps the Patrons will reward you financially – through continued business and tips – if you work with the team instead of only looking out for Number One? Or that if you give up the occasional shift, someone might actually turn to you as the go-to when they can’t make it in? Being a team player pays off in non-fiscal ways: it earns you the trust, respect, and confidence of others. And ultimately, that is worth far more than the extra few dollars in your pocket.

Lack of Knowledge / Lack of Training

 Now more than ever, security jobs are focusing on safety, security, and customer service. An individual working in a bar or nightclub in a security capacity needs training – be it on the job or in a classroom setting. The days of hauling someone into the alley and beating them about the head and ears are long gone. The days of liability, lawsuits, and punitive damages are most definitely here. Not knowing how to do your job properly may let an under-rage drinker into the bar. Lack of training might lead you to miss the heavily intoxicated Patron about to fall down the stairs. Lack of training may even get you killed trying to break up a fight. There is nothing cool about not knowing how to do your job.

Get licensed! It is something that I have stressed too many times to count. And in this day and age, most municipalities and states require licensing of some kind. At the very least, licensing will give you a basic understanding of your role and cover you should anyone ever ask for proof of training. If you are lucky, you may work for a business where training is provided for you. If not, seek it out! Better yet, have your boss hire someone to put on a training session for you and your co-workers that cover a variety of different topics.

But remember, learning isn’t just about seminars and classrooms. If you don’t know how to do the job, while on the job…ASK! There will always be someone who knows how to do that thing. Someone with more experience than you. Ask for performance reviews. Ask for critiques of how you handled situations. Hold work meetings to hash out problems and look for solutions. Gaining knowledge will not only make you better at your job but will make you a more valuable employee. If you learn enough of the things, at some point down the line someone will be coming to you for help!

If you are an individual who can recognize yourself as partaking in one or more of the above listed “sins”, remember that it is never too late to change. I would even opine that we all slip back into old behaviors on occasion. But one of the great things about being human is that we can make the choice to do and be better AT ANY TIME. Take inventory of your skill sets. Check your attitude and approach. And work on improving yourself. It will make you more valuable to your employer and more importantly, it will make you a better person overall.

 

 

Consequences – A Deeper Look

In a recent Tao of The Velvet Rope podcast, I discussed the potential consequences of action or inaction by you or your Security Staff. And in a recent blogpost, we saw the predictable outcome of bad action on the part of some Security Staffers.

It is human nature for individuals to react to the stimuli around them. In stressful, unexpected, or confusing situations we humans tend to have three basic responses: Fight, Flight, or Freeze. In order to streamline this discussion and perhaps add a touch of clarity, I would like to rename these responses Action, Escape, and Inaction. And while these new names are exact in their nomenclature, they’ll work for our purposes.

Think about the following Bar/Nightclub scenarios:

  1. You witness two Patrons yelling and shoving each other. Due to your distance from the two of them, it is hard to tell what initiated the physicality or how serious it is.
  2. A couple is standing across the room from you. The woman is petite and her boyfriend is a tall, well-built athletic type. They start to argue loudly, the woman poking her boyfriend in the chest.
  3. A young man and woman walk past you, towards the exit door. The woman is heavily intoxicated and the man is holding her up to keep her from falling over. You did not see them enter the bar together.

Each of these scenarios offers a myriad of potential responses. In Scenarios 1 and 2, you could call for back up and dive in fists swinging or brusquely ask what the problem is (Action), wait and see how things play out (Inaction), or you could leave the room and ignore the issue (Escape). In Scenario 3, you could step in to offer assistance (Action), stand and watch (Inaction), or turn a walk away (Escape).

What is important to understand about each of these situations and what makes the job of the Security Staffer so unpredictable and potentially dangerous is that if you don’t carefully consider the consequences of your Action, Inaction, or Escape, you can find yourself in deep, deep trouble. Very, very quickly.

Take Scenario 1, for example. Many bouncers would rush through the crowd in order to break up the fight and end up fighting or forcefully ejecting one of the Patrons involved. Let’s say that you do this and in the course of your Action, you punch the Patron. He falls down, cracks his head on the pavement, is knocked unconscious, and is taken away in an ambulance. What are the potential consequences?

1) Legal – You get sued by the Patron, the bar gets sued by the Patron, and the Patron presses criminal/civil charges against you.

Well, the bar has insurance to cover them. You don’t. Which means…

2) Financial – You need to cover the cost of your lawyer and potentially the cost of the Patron’s lawyer and doctor’s bills. You could also lose your job, have your wages garnished, or be unable to find further employment due to your new criminal record, which imposes a further financial burden on you.

3) Physical – What if you don’t win the fight? That means injury. And potentially serious injury at that. Maybe you lose the use of a hand or a leg or suffer from headaches due to a concussion. And let’s circle back to the doctor’s visits, doctor’s bills, loss of work, and again…loss of income.

4) Emotional toll – How about the stress of dealing with all of the above? And what if the Patron – or you – is permanently injured due to your actions or – heaven forbid – is killed. What is that weight going to be like to carry? And what about the toll all of this may take on your family or significant others? And that’s not to mention the possibility of you, your staff, and your establishment now carrying a negative reputation.

Inaction and Escape carry the same set of possible outcomes. If you ignore the issue or walk away and someone is hurt or killed, the list of potential negatives grows longer due to your negligent behavior. You were hired to keep people safe…and you failed to do that.

Scenarios 2 and 3 carry the potential for serious negatives. Full disclosure: Scenario 2 happened one night when I was working. The woman smashed a glass on her boyfriend’s head, nearly severed his carotid artery, and had to be hogtied and carried away by Law Enforcement. All this because everyone took the situation lightly and ignored it…until it was too late. Ignoring Scenario 3 might end up with a woman being sexually assaulted by an individual she doesn’t know or the woman driving away and crashing her vehicle.

“What the hell!? I’m screwed no matter what I do…or don’t do!” is the response I can already hear from some of you. No, no you are not. The key to avoiding negative consequences is simple:

THINK

Take a moment to survey the situation. Does something feel wrong and if it does, why? What is going on that is making your hackles rise? Or is it the case that upon a moment’s examination, you realize that the situation you are witnessing is not a serious as you considered. Say, for example, that the Patrons yelling and pushing each other are best friends just goofing around? Once you’ve surveyed the situation and made a decision, how is it that you should approach the situation at hand? Do you jump in? Do you yell? Are you humorous in your approach?

In the second and third Scenarios, taking a moment to assess the situation and ask if everything is ok takes just that…a moment. A moment that can keep things from escalating, can help to defuse tension or gain some reassurance that the couple heading out the door is actually together and fine.

I had mentioned in an earlier podcast that you should always ACT when you are uncertain of what do. And people tend to misinterpret that as jumping into the fray or immediately springing into “hero mode” No. Thinking is an action as wellTaking a moment to consider the possibilities is an action. Calling for backup is an action. Taking a deep breath and taking in your surroundings is an action.

Keep in mind that YOU are making the decisions. And YOU will have to deal with the consequences of YOUR actions. Impulsive behaviors in a high-stress, alcohol-soaked environment very rarely work out for the best. I would use the example of the last few blog post’s bouncers as a perfect example. Punching or beating up intoxicated individuals NEVER works in your favor, even if you are exonerated.

Always consider the consequences that may result from what you may or may not do in a given situation. The few moments you take to scan, assess, and strategize can make the difference between injury, financial ruin, and loss of reputation. Your action doesn’t need to be immediately physical but it should always be thoughtful. Need to figure out a way to get this point across to your Staff? Think about Scenario training and always debrief at the end of the night to go over any incidents or questions they may have.

Until next time…

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.

TRUST

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.

OWNERSHIP OF POSITION

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.

THE CONVERSATION

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…
 

 

The FNG

The Rookie.

The Kid.

The Newbie.

At some point in time, you have either been or will work with The F’ing New Guy. Some staffers will be happy to take the opportunity to teach the kid the ropes. But most staffers will groan when they have to train a new bouncer. Why? Because teaching someone new everything there is to know about working nightclub security is basically impossible. Every inch of the club that you know so well is a confusing, obstacle filled maze to the new employee. Whether it is who gets to cut the line or which bathroom is for employees only, the amount of information that the new guy or gal needs to process can be overwhelming.

What many experienced staffers can’t see is the opportunity for growth that training a new bouncer provides. New employees ask questions you many not have considered for a while – or ever! They may see the crowd that you are used to in a completely different light. They might spot things that you take for granted and have been ignoring. But most important, they give you the chance to spread a little wisdom and in doing so, improve the way you do your own job!

START SLOW

I always start new staffers out with a tour of the establishment: entrances and exits, bathroom locations, fire extinguisher placement, gear room, etc. I don’t go into heavy detail about each area, just point out the basics so they know their way around. They’ll have plenty of time to learn the rest as they move forward.

New security staffers need to be assigned the easiest tasks for a couple of different reasons:

  • The approach that a new employee  takes to doing something simple will test their willingness to learn and determine their attitude towards being assigned menial tasks. If they aren’t willing to do the simple things, they probably can’t handle the complex ones.
  • Learning the simple tasks helps build the foundation upon which further responsibilities will be laid. If someone can’t learn a simple task, they shouldn’t be saddled with the responsibility of a more complex one.

I like to place new staffers in “static” posts: guarding a hallway, watching a back entrance, or manning an observation platform. This allows them to get a feel for not only how the crowd flows, but lets them refine their people watching skills, develop their abilities to say “no” – as in “No, you can’t come this way”, and get used to standing in one place, often for hours at a time.

ANSWER QUESTIONS…AND ASK THEM

New employees will have a TON of questions. You should always answer them honestly and directly. If you don’t know the answer…do not make one up. Let them know you’ll look into it and get back to them. In addition, never discredit any question that someone asks! I recently trained a very fresh crew of security staffers and they asked me “When it’s ok to go ‘hands on’ with a patron?” Many people would go on a tear or even fire the crew for asking such a simplistic question. But the reality is that this crew was NEVER TRAINED in ejections. My job was to teach and train them, so that’s what I did! I asked them if and when they thought it would be ‘ok’ and took it from there.

Asking a new hire questions is just as important as answering their questions. Ask them about themselves as well as what you have been teaching them. They’re a part of your team, so get to know them and make them comfortable. When you ask them what they’ve learned, don’t try to be tricky or sneaky about it. Be direct: How do you do this? Where to you place these? When do we act in this way? If they don’t know the answers…tell them the answers! This is not about making them feel stupid, it’s about teaching them how to do a job.

BITS AND PIECES

New hires can’t stay doing the simple tasks forever. Once the staffer seems comfortable with the basic work, slow integration into the team is the best policy. Have them tail someone (or several people) for the duration of a night. Have them do the job while someone watches. Pick up glasses, clear the bathroom line, keeping the sidewalk in order, all tasks that will need to be part of their duties moving forward. Again have them ask questions and ask them questions as you move along.

I would highly recommend NOT placing new hires in positions – or given responsibilities -where they would have heavy contact with patrons: VIP lines, entry ways, or ID checking. There is too much potential for slip-ups that might rub regular patrons the wrong way or lead to liability concerns.

THE TEAM

Most important is to make the new member feel like part of the team. Will they be treated differently? Absolutely they will, just by virtue of being the “new kid”. Just remember that the “new kid” might be the one to pull your butt out of the fire should things go wrong. The more knowledgeable your team is, the stronger they are and the safer you will all be.

Until next time…