Shall I serve tea in the drawing room, sir? Or would you prefer to take Cognac in the library? This is the sort of request from a colleague we like here at business:life after a hard day. The butler is a role every company should seek to create. He (equal ops legislation aside, it is still more likely to be a he) is the pivot around which an organisation functions, the linchpin between the workers and the management — a classic middle manager, and rightly very proud of it.
From the 'admirable' Crichton, Jeeves (really more gentleman's gentleman than butler, but let's not split hairs) and Lady Penelope's Parker to Bruce Wayne's Alfred and Carson from Downton Abbey, the butler is
a versatile mix of confidant, emmisary, protector, fixer and, crucially, cocktail maker.
Knowing the ins and outs of every department and the secrets of all, from the highest to the lowest, is key to success — knowledge, after all, is power, according to Sir Francis Bacon (or perhaps his butler). The butler sits at the centre of the entire network, eyes and ears attuned to everything, stopping problems before they arise.
The butler is always well dressed, supremely discreet and can be trusted in any meeting. His devotion to his employer is total, and often he is more a wise counsel than a servant. He is, literally, chief of staff. The word butler has its roots in the person who was in charge of the household's wine and, let's face it, if you can trust someone with the key to the office drinks cabinet you're on to a winner.
The butler has traits that we should all attempt to emulate: the quiet, non-showy way he gets on with work, his devotion to the highest standards, a multitasking mind, a 'can do' attitude, impeccable manners and punctuality.
The downsides? He may tend to over-seriousness (in front
of you, anyway), and all that deference might start to grate after a while. It's nice to be respected by one's employees, but nobody likes a toady. And, if you're a small firm, his sort is a bit of a luxury, in that he has reached his zenith of development. Even if he has the potential (and many can be much more astute than their superiors), he is happy with his station in life, doesn't have ambition to take the boss's job, and will always
be more cheeseboard than executive board. Now, where is he with that blasted brandy?
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