Tonight I was honoured and flattered to be invited by Angela Rafuse-Tahir (@hotel_goddess) of The Fairmont Empress to join her and several other local social media types (including Matt Wright – @matvic and Mike DeWolfe) for an informal event on The Veranda.
We were treated to a fabulous time with delicious food and a wonderfully light and flavourful beer from Victoria’s own Hoyne Brewing Company that contains honey from the hotel’s own bees. Despite the rain misting the air and the fog creeping into the mouth of the harbour we were toasty warm and enjoyed ourselves chatting, tweeting, snapping photos with various devices and generally getting to know one another.
Also joining us from the Empress were Nathan Pearce, Director, Food and Beverage and Executive Assistant, Jocelyn Paris (memorable name, Non?!). All three staff sat down, tucked into the food and joined us in having a beer. It was a delightful time. General Manager Martin Leclerc came over and was introduced to Mike and I by Angela (he already seemed to know Matt who is very active in city affairs and may know him through those channels).
Each of these four staff members are, in my opinion, in love and to my eyes it showed on their faces and in their behaviour. They are in love with their jobs and with their grande dame – The Empress herself. Leclerc was genuinely bubbling over with enthusiasm when he said how proud he was of ‘his team’ that raised more than $3,000 for a local charity with The Bengal Affair party. Angela told us about ‘Chef’s’ (that would be executive chef Kamal Silva) efforts to use more local products and his gardening around the property.
I am sure that there are moments when they, like any long-partnered people, find the object of their adoration less than appealing. But I got the sense that they were having the time of their lives and that as challenging and long as their days may be they are proud and happy to count themselves as part of Leclerc’s team (just as he is obviously thrilled to be leading just over 600 people). And for Leclerc and Rafuse-Tahir this is not a giddy infatuation – between the two of them they have nearly four decades of experience in the hotel industry.
This kind of synergy and connection to employment is what I am hoping for when I finish my degree in Sweden. How envious I am of people that so obviously enjoy and derive satisfaction from the work they do rather than just doing it for the pay cheque (which I will be the first to admit to – although I will add that I for the most part usually enjoy my colleagues, it’s ‘the system’ that usually grinds me down).
And there in lies some of the difference between other workplaces and The Fairmont Empress – if there is a ‘system’ in place it seems to be on the employees’ side rather than on that of management. For example I know that Leclerc works out consistently at a local gym from his tweets so I asked if that was subsidized by the hotel – and indeed it is. The hotel supports the community and has made a real commitment to the environment that goes beyond the typical and is certainly not ‘greenwashing’. It is a union shop that offers above-average pay, benefits and, unless I’ve been completely hoodwinked in the twenty years I’ve lived in Victoria, a good place to work. This is not to say it is without stress or ‘easy money’ – tonight the whole hotel was bustling and busy and staff were hopping – and as Leclerc said of Victorians in the Douglas article “Everyone loves to bitch about their Empress”.
But there is love in the air at the queen of the harbour and it’s not just coming from the newlyweds that may be staying in its rooms. Rather it is emanating from everyone from waitstaff to its GM and those in between. And it shows.