Staff relations and the hospo/life balance.
I got home from the gym today and walked into my room. I stood in my doorway and just sort of looked around. My usual organized chaos could be seen, as well as some girly stuff…. A pink laptop, some clothes, girl products in the bathroom. These things don’t belong to me, they belong to a girl of course. A real live one. Who happens to be my girlfriend. I don’t mind having her stuff lying around because she’s totally awesome…..amazing in fact! Where did I meet this perfect creature you ask?
Yup, my girlfriend works with me…..actually she works for me. While I’m affectionately now known as “dirty ol boss”, our relationship is actually a serious fulfilling one that just keeps getting better and better. So nothing makes me prouder than being able to write this blog that hopefully breaks the stereotype of the fickle hospo worker who throws their affections around willy nilly.
As a hospo-for-lifer, I am more aware than most of how the industry can take over your life. It can be a sort of traction beam that just keeps sucking you back in again and again. It’s an addictive lifestyle, and a little bubble that can be hard to balance with a life outside of it. It can be especially hard to hold down a long term relationship with someone outside of the bar environment.
Sometimes I reminisce on my first years as a bartender, and I cringe a little. There I was, all young and stuff, on an epic ego trip because I was behind a bar, thinking it was all about me. Any young thing in a miniskirt who gave me a smile, I’d turn into some show-pony douchebag. When I did finally get into a long term relationship, quite often I would put the lifestyle first, to the detriment of my personal life. “Sorry girlfriend-at-the-time, I’m not going to stay in with you for a nice night in front of the TV, because whatshisname from that bar you don’t like is having drinks at that other bar you don’t like…. Yes I’m aware it’s a Monday night…”
This happened a lot, and I always chose hospo over the girlfriend. I could’ve taken her with me… But I didn’t. It was almost like I enjoyed living two lives. And as you would expect, the relationships started to suffer.
I know plenty of people who think hospo workers are flaky alcoholics who simply spend what little time they have left after drinking all day, sleeping with each other and everyone else, flitting from one casual fling to the next. Those people exist for sure….but they also exist at the law firm…and the accounting office…and the local gym…. And the library….And bloody well everywhere and everyone knows it. There’ll always be those people and they’re entitled to do what they want. And hey, we’ve all been there! I’m just here to tell you not to lump us all under the same banner, and that staff relations happen and can work in the hospitality industry.
Of course you gotta be smart about it. Bars are a fast paced, close knit environments and you don’t want a high school-esque drama blowing up in other peoples faces. But it’s the nature of the beast that you will form loyal bonds with your workmates, and if you like someone, you like someone dammit, and life’s too short. If it’s a genuine feeling, be an adult, admit it and own it. The trick is to continue being an adult once it starts! Every bar has a door at the front of it. That’s where you leave the personal stuff when you turn up for your shift. Work is work, and the rest ain’t. That’s the hardest thing to do when it’s with a workmate, but if you get it right, you’ll be loving both your work and personal life a whole lot more, and you’ll have one hell of a fun relationship too.
Two of my best mates in the world are a couple. They part-own and manage a very busy late night bar, and after many years together continue to have the most rock solid, unshakeable relationship I’ve ever seen. They still manage to out-drink and out-party most of their own staff and still run a tight ship. They’ve found the balance between work and play, and as a result they are happier and more successful. In fact, when I look around the people who are the most successful in the industry are the ones who have a life outside of it, and a proper relationship with a significant other.
I think of it a little like the scene in the movie Tropic Thunder, where Robert Downey Jr’s character tells Ben Stiller’s character: “never go full retard…” . When you’re young and start working in a bar, it’s very easy to go “full hospo” or “full retard”… And that’s cool. We all do it and you’re only young once. But if you want any longevity in the industry, not to mention your personal mental and physical health, a life outside of the bar is absolutely essential and ultimately vital for your progression as a human. The more things you do, the more life experience you have and the more interesting you become. Therefore the more willing you are to experiment in business, and the more relate-able you are to a wider range of customers and clients.
The hospitality industry is about creating an experience for others, but so is life! Maybe remember that next time you have to choose between the real world or the lifestyle…. So you might have to miss out on the random Monday night bender this week to chill with the girlfriend…but it’s hospo! So there’ll be another one tomorrow and the next day…and next Sunday…so you’re really not missing anything. Believe me you’ll thank yourself in the morning….and so will she.