Photo by Toshi Tasaki
When Doreen Clarke, director of housekeeping at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Tarrytown, steps out of the elevator, a line has often formed outside her office door. Her staff knows that they can come to her for any problem or support they may need, which is one reason only one staffer out of 20 has been with the Tarrytown resident for less than a year.
“I tell my team members that, without housekeeping, there’s no hotel,” Clarke says. “You have the most important job.” It’s something she needs to remind them of often because, as you might imagine, housekeeping staff are prone to low morale. “I tell my team members to have pride in themselves; don’t let anyone look down on you,” she says. “If you keep doing the best you can do at all times, you will achieve whatever you set your mind to.” She speaks from experience.
Clarke, a mother of five, immigrated to the US in 1998 from Montego Bay, Jamaica. She started as a housekeeping supervisor at the Tarrytown Hilton (when it was under different ownership), eventually making her way to The Waldorf Astoria’s housekeeping department, where she worked her way up to assistant executive housekeeper of the night shift, a directorial position. She was recruited back to the DoubleTree in 2007.
This year, the hotel earned a score of 100 on the brand’s 2012 quality assurance standards, previously unheard of at the Tarrytown location. “I never let my staff’s good work go unnoticed because, if you know what you’re doing well, you’re going to keep doing it.” Those top scores landed each room attendant a day at the spa, complete with massage and nail treatment. And, after realizing she had three staff members who hadn’t missed a single day of work in three years, Clarke petitioned management for $150 gift cards for each one. “She has a way of rewarding us at all different times—she makes sure that we’re recognized,” says Lillian Hayes, assistant director of housekeeping. Says General Manager Rich Friedman, “She’ll do anything for her people, and it shows, because it’s really not easy to hold onto housekeeping staff.”
“She’s not just your boss—she’s your therapist; she’s your friend; she wears many different hats—and she wears them all well,” Hayes adds.