Have you noticed divorce rates seem to be higher in the service industry?

Divorce rates seem to be a way of life in the service industry.

I’ve been asked about this a few times, mainly by my manager friends who are going through a divorce. I feel for them. Why? Because I’ve been through a divorce. It’s a horrible experience that I wouldn’t wish on anyone or their family.

To complicate things, my ex-wife and I had two young daughters. At the time, my oldest was three and my youngest was only 6 months.

After their mother and I split, it has been hard to form a strong bond with them. I’ve had to resign myself to the fact that I’m not, and never have been, their first choice of person to be around when they aren’t in school or at their activities.

That’s not their fault. It just happens when you’re not around them as much as the other parent. Kids like to be where they’re comfortable.

I’m sure it’s the same for every divorce. Unfortunately, this seems to be a common situation within our industry so I wanted to know if the lifestyle of restaurant and hotel employees really does contribute to the seemingly high rate of divorce in the United States.

Why does it happen?

Restaurant managers are expected to work at least 50 hours a week. But the reality is they end up putting in closer to 60+.

There are many reasons for that. Dedication to the job. Wanting that bonus. Covering for others. Restaurant not profitable. The list can go on and on. But whether you’re an owner or manager, you can bet on being there more than 50 hours a week.

For others in the industry, I can understand why divorce seems to be rampant. When you work in a restaurant, you work closely with others as a team and get to know your fellow employees well.

Naturally, after spending so much time with someone, attractions start to form. In fact, I met my ex-wife while working as a bartender.

What ultimately happens, though, is real life outside of work must also go on.

Inside the restaurant or bar, it’s all fun. It’s a social job. Alcohol is readily available. Drugs are readily available. The late nights are fun.

Outside the restaurant or bar, there are bills and other living expenses. And there’s sex (hopefully, this is happening outside of the business). Following that, children.

With children come daytime duties and responsibilities. None of which are easy if you don’t leave work until two, three, or four-o-clock in the morning…drunk…or high…or both. Not good if you’re married and have kids, but it happens.

But is divorce really a bigger problem for the service industry?

To research this, I tapped into my personal network and used online resources so this is slightly more conjectural than empirical.

To answer the question, though, it’s not. Divorce is everywhere.

However, there are some skilled positions within the service industry that have a higher divorce rate than others. I was surprised to find that Manager isn’t one of them.

Actually, the bartender position has the highest rate. And that’s not only within the service industry. It’s one of the highest when compared to all professions and industries.

I would assume this has to with the reasons I touched on above. Late nights. Lots of attention from others. Alcohol. Drugs. None of which gel with “normal life”.

If you’d like to know what the number one ranked profession is, you can find the study results here (warning: you have to pay for it).

Here are a few other sources I consulted. As I dug into them, I found they all used the study I’ve linked to above as the basis for their articles.

What you should be aware of as a business owner.

Your biggest concern with the breakup of an employee’s relationship is despite how hard they try not to let it affect their work performance, it does. And many times I’ve seen the downward spiral of a relationship coincide with the downward spiral into addiction which causes bigger problems.

Make sure you, as a leader, pay attention to the well-being of your employees. If you notice a change in mood or work performance, talk to them. You don’t have to intrude into their personal life, but you can show concern and check on them.

Showing concern for you employees inspires loyalty and is another great way to protect your business. Knowing what’s going on at all times is key. You don’t want an employee to suddenly stop showing up, or worse, cause a scene during business hours prompting bad reviews and social media posts.

Solutions.

Like everywhere else, a romance between employees may develop. Make sure you have strong policies in place to address this.

Try to be empathetic and keep your employee’s happiness outside of the restaurant a concern, especially if you promise a good work/life balance when hiring.

These days, it’s popular to promise “quality of life” to potential employees, but the reality is workers in the service industry work when everyone else is off. So if your employee has children or a spouse that has weekends off, that can add to friction in their relationship.

For me, I always made it a point to build a quick spreadsheet detailing my employee’s availability and when they would be given a weekend off. I made sure they knew about my spreadsheet and encouraged them to actively check it and communicate with me on it.

This way, I was able to rotate employee’s time off, keep up with requests, and keep them from getting burnt out. There may be times when you have to save them from themselves by forcing them to take time off.

Unfortunately, divorce seems to have become the norm within our society. The best thing you can do to protect yourself, your employees and your business is to accept that and plan for it. Strong training, strong policies in place, and good leadership are the keys to keeping your employees happy at work and outside of work and to keeping your business in top form.

Subscribe to Serviceable to find out more inside advice on the service industry and to learn how to open your own restaurant from idea to reality.

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