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Private Club Doctor - Q & A Column with issues of a GM & President

Search America By Harvey M. Weiner, Managing Partner
Search America®

An advice column for private club directors and managers previously published in Club Management Magazine under the pseudonym Career Doctor.  

Q.    I have heard of some managers being physically assaulted by disgruntled employees. Is this something to be concerned about and prepared for?

A.    It sure is. According to a recently released Justice Department report, one-sixth of all violent crime in the United States occurs in the workplace. We’re not just talking about deranged postal workers either. Anyone is susceptible and we are all vulnerable. When as many as a million violent crimes happen in the workplace we must be prepared.

The profile of those most likely to commit workplace homicide is an Anglo male between 35 and 50 with a history of violence against women, animals or children. They may have served in the military, own weapons and have a history of mental health problems and/or substance abuse.

We live in a time when the home and family have become less central to the lives of many employees. Additionally, our mobile society and lessened sense of community makes The Job more central to a person’s life. A perceived threat - accurate or not - of losing that job can trigger violent behavior. But, are we really surprised when rage erupts?

Experts claim that only about three percent of violent incidents occur with no warning. So, if 97% of the time some signal should have forewarned us, how do we recognize the signals? Supervisors must be trained to detect and report odd behavior - even if it means bringing in law enforcement authorities.

Warning signs typically include: Clinical depression, substance abuse, stress, sudden behavioral swings, psychiatric, family or medical problems, obsessive behavior, personality disorders and making threats. Clearly, in combination, these signals should set off a mental siren.

I strongly urge my clients to thoroughly screen all job applicants before and during employment. Personnel manuals and policies should contain language permitting inspection of lockers, desks, packages and vehicles. All staff should be trained in handling crises such as workplace violence, bomb threats, harassment, fire, flood and medical emergencies.

Trust your gut . Alfred Sloan, former President of General Motors is quoted as having said "The final act of business judgment is intuitive". Time is your foe when you’ve got a hunch about a potentially violent character. Respect intuition as a monitoring device. Become hunch-friendly.

Experts say the best defense against workplace violence is preparation. Consider the possibility that it could happen, prepare for it, be alert to it and learn the warning signs. 

I j ust got my first real club GM job. Bottom line, what should I expect from my club’s board of directors?

As a private club general manager you should expect of your board of directors: honesty, candor, support, essential resources, clearly defined expectations and empowerment to do your job.

Q.    I believe in keeping my private club board informed. Lately however, they tend to over react to negative information by getting too involved in day-to-day issues. Some of my club employees say they no longer know who they report to. How do I keep club directors informed without encouraging over-involvement? I believe in keeping my private club board informed. Lately however, they tend to over react to negative information by getting too involved in day-to-day issues. Some of my club employees say they no longer know who they report to. How do I keep club directors informed without encouraging over-involvement?

A.    It is a good practice to avoid surprising directors or governors, particularly with negative information. They resent being blind-sided. But, identifying a problem is not the same as defining corrective measures. Consider how over what.

Micro-managing is symptomatic of a management vacuum where the board, of necessity, is drawn into action.

Faced with a predicament, without management-recommended action, the board feels compelled to act. You should first consider, then offer, several possible solutions or strategies. Then ask for their observations. Be clear this is FYI and you’ve got it under control.

Q .    I am a private club president that just lost its manager. Since I am a semi-retired attorney and this is the slow season I am thinking about delaying the search for a replacement and serving as acting manager myself. I figure the board and committee chairs will also help. We’ll save a salary for a few months and learn more about the club in the process. What do you think?

A.    I’ve always wanted to play at being a lawyer. When your firm’s managing partner leaves would you recommend me as an interim? This is a prize winning stupid idea (Call me Mr. Tact). First of all, postpone the search and your season will be over before the new manager even starts. By then you and your buddies will be having such fun you’ll resist turning loose of your new toy - the club.

Come on now. You’re going to run a multimillion dollar business with no experience? Are you also thinking about taking over the local hospital, radio station and school district on an interim basis? Please hire a professional to run the club then go out and find yourself another recreational outlet.

Q.    My club House Chairman is pushing me to hire his son. Should I?

   Never hire anyone you can’t fire. That includes a member’s son, your daughter, the chef’s husband, the pro’s wife, etc. But, isn’t this discrimination? As long as you’ve got a written no-nepotism policy - enforced consistently - you should be O.K. Now, if the child really wants to learn the business encourage him to apply at another club. You may even offer to put in a good word for him with the manager of that club. 

The Career Doctor (AKA is senior club management recruiter Harvey Weiner, Managing Partner of Dallas based Search America®, specialists in private club management recruiting since 1974. Send your confidential questions or comments to: Career Doctor in care of Search Americaâ, Board Consultants for Club Management Selection. 5908 Meadowcreek Drive, Dallas, TX 75248   972.233.3302  
E-Mail: [email protected] or   © Search America