Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Professional Decorator Does More Than Just Hang Curtains

Dear Tazi-Kat:

I am a professional florist specializing in custom design and decorating for large accounts - mostly businesses and historical mansions, with a few select personal accounts for customers with very large homes. The holiday season is a very busy time of year for me. Although I handle all the design work personally (and throughout the year, in order to ease the burden), the actual set-up occurs just prior to the event or season being celebrated - weddings, parties, and seasonal decor. Most of my clients want their winter holiday decorating done within a very short time - after Thanksgiving but before December 1st - and I have to hire extra staff to get everything done right and on time.

My problem is my best friend, "Maureen". Maureen fancies herself a decorator simply because she enjoys decorating her own home with various seasonal touches that she buys as the local discount store. She has no education or training in the field of interior decorating or in live plants (including flowers or greenery), but this has not stopped her from asking me for a job - as a "holiday extra to start, and then hopefully something more permanent". On the one hand, I feel badly that Maureen needs the work - who doesn't in this economy - but on the other hand, she just isn't qualified to do the type of work I need done. I have offered Maureen work in my shop - running the register, watering the plants, and light office work; but she refused it, saying her "talents would be wasted" in the store.

I can't tell Maureen that I have completed my holiday hiring because she knows I have not and that I am actually desperate for extra help since two of my regular holiday temps just got married (to each other) and moved out of state. How can I politely tell my friend that she just isn't qualified for the job?

Running Ragged

Dear Running Ragged:

It amazes me how many people think they can do someone else's job because they think it looks easy! Please, let me tell Maureen this for you: Interior decorating requires a great deal of education and training in both art and architectural design, as well as palate matching, and knowledge of fabrics; textures, and styles. and how to pull them all together in a way that works for the client's tastes, not your own. Just because someone thinks they have an eye for color or manages to find great seasonal knick-knacks at the Christmas Tree Shops does not make them a professional decorator!

Whew! Thank you for letting me get that off of my chest! Now, as to how to answer Maureen without hurting her feelings: You can't. The fact that Maureen "fancies herself a decorator" means she will take your rejection quite personally; not only because you are friends, but because you are also a professional. The easiest way to explain the situation to Maureen is to tell her that your line of work and the clientele you serve demands the services of professional decorators, who come with unbiased, proven credentials. Inform her that although you appreciate the offer, right now is not the best time for you to train a new employee; and that regardless of her talents, she is still new to the field of professional decorating and would need extensive training before you could send her out to work unsupervised.

If Maureen continues to press the issue, I suggest that you offer to train her after the holidays, once things have slowed down a bit and you have the time to focus on working with her (whenever your slow season occurs). Once Maureen sees all that goes into working with someone else's existing decorating and style tastes, she may discover that she is not the professional decorator she thinks she is - or, you may be pleasantly surprised to find Maureen has a genuine interest in decorating, and is open to learning it on a professional level (which, you might need to inform her, would include classwork at a certified school or college and not your personalize teaching for the duration of her training). I think this duel-sided approach is a compromise that should work for both of you, while sparing Maureen's feelings as much as possible.

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