Butler standards Newsletter Richard Ratliff

The Modern Butlers’ Journal, July 2018, Professional Standards of Performance

Professional Standards of Performance: Application #7


Dealing with Bad Language

By Richard L. Ratliff

Scenario: Suppose a butler, somewhat accomplished in golf and whom his employer enjoys as a golfing companion, is invited by his employer to join the day’s foursome. I am using this scenario because of a recent experience of my own, but the illustration might be from any activity in which a butler is asked to join in as a participant with members of the household and their friends or guests.

Suppose the employer and his two golfing friends enjoy some normal social banter, and the language of the two friends becomes rough, and laced with rude humor. The friends try to engage the butler, even asking the butler’s opinion concerning vulgar questions. As a participant in the foursome, at what level may the butler join in?

The standards: The Standards of Professional Practice state that a butler “must know and practice good manners and etiquette…must master the etiquette associated with his responsibilities…[and] must be able to resolve…awkward circumstances with poise while preserving the dignity of others and the occasion.” The standards also state that “a butler must be a consummate professional, characterized by…a high standard of moral integrity”, and “…should remain in the background….” The butler’s role requires a boundary of professional courtesy that must never be crossed, without the risk of compromising his relationships with the employer and his household, including guests (or in this case, golfing companions of the employer).

Recommendations: The informal environment may tempt a relaxing of a more formal protocol. The butler must not compromise his professional role and integrity, yet must allow his employer and two golfing fellows their own enjoyment of the outing. A slip could cause an awkward turn to the whole activity, and even risk the employer’s relationships with his friends.

Golfing courtesy requires pleasant interactions between members of the group, but also requires the courtesy of allowing each player to concentrate on his own game, especially since wagers may be at stake.

The butler may simply deflect the potential distraction with a statement something like the following: “That may be an interesting question, but I can’t comment right now. I need to think about this delicate pitch over that deep sand trap in front of the green. I suspect you know this course better than I do. Should I go for a lob shot or a lower pitch and roll?” Sidestep. Change of direction. No offense meant, given, nor taken. Then pitch it close, drain the putt, and win the hole and the bet.

Professor Ratliff is a retired butler who co-authored Volume 1 of Serving the Wealthy and has published three other books and over thirty articles. He can be reached via the Institute.

The Institute is dedicated to raising service standards by broadly disseminating the mindset and superior service expertise of that time-honored, quintessential service provider, the British Butler, updated with modern people skills, and adapted to the needs of modern employers and guests in staffed homes, luxury hotels, resorts, spas, retirement communities, jets, yachts & cruise ships around the world.

Por Steven Ferry

Steven Ferry is chairman of the International Institute of Modern Butlers and the author of bestsellers "Butlers & Household Managers 21st Century Professionals" and "Hotel Butlers, The Great Service Differentiators." He also trains and consults for the profession around the world.