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The Hotel Business Ė A Calling or Simply a Way to Pay the Bills? Ehotelierís Weekly Review
By Anne Edwards, Editor in Chief, ehotelier
What are the clues by which you gauge how you will be looked after at a hotel? For some people it happens subconsciously as they look around, noting features such as cleanliness, attention to detail such as lighting and comfortable seating, the décor of the bar area or whether or not they receive the reception they expected. For me, it is about looking at the clues the staff members provide to me. Are they smiling and confident, well-groomed and enthusiastic about their jobs or are they sullen and reluctant, their tired uniforms an extension of their over-worked, exhausted selves? Does there appear to be adequate staff to manage what needs to be done or is the atmosphere harried and stressful? Is there time for a cheerful ‘Good morning’ from a housekeeper in the hallway or is that just a fanciful notion to a staff member on a 30 minute turn-around schedule? The way the staff members are treated is a good indication to me of how I will be treated and using this measure has mostly worked for me.
The way you perceive your work – a job, a career or a calling?
In Three Things that Separate Leaders from Managers, there is a quote by Gene Wade, founder and CEO of UniversityNow that says “You’ve got people who are just going to work instead of thinking about why they’re doing what they’re doing, and then you have the leaders.” Bryan K. Williams picks up this theme in Exceeding Your Customer’s Expectations? Why Bother? when he asks “Is it a job, a career or a calling?” For Williams, “The way you perceive your work has a major impact on whether you ‘bother’ to exceed expectations or not.” Why go that extra mile when the bare minimum will still guarantee a pay cheque?
To me, any job can be a calling, and I agree with Williams when he says “Those who view work as a calling find intrinsic value in what they do. Their work is genuinely meaningful and their pay is the proverbial ‘icing on the cake’. There are doctors and lawyers who may view their work as a job, while there are housekeepers and truck drivers who see their work as a calling (and the opposite is also true of course).”
Why are so many staff members just going through the motions?
So, if anyone in any job can behave as if their work is a calling rather than purely a means of making money, why do we find so many people going through the motions of their job instead of finding meaning and taking pride in what they are doing? Some of the answers to this question lie in the individual taking responsibility for their own attitude towards their work and some of them lie in the work environment itself. I read with horror and surprise the treatment of Tara Kimkee Tan in the article Hotel Worker Fired after Giving Birth in Room. Tan is currently filing a ten million dollar lawsuit against the Standard. Tan claims “she routinely worked more than 80 hours a week, was denied maternity leave and was slowly stripped of her duties.” She also was told she was “too old and too fat to work at the hotel.” After the delivery, Tan says she was “removed through a side door, instead of the lobby”. The lawsuit says the hotel's new general manager told her she "did not need to have the baby at the hotel. What was she thinking?"
In another case earlier in the month, housekeepers from the Hyatt Andaz hotel in West Hollywood, California, filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board over an electronic tracking system used to monitor their productivity. The housekeepers were given an iPod Touch to carry with them as they work—but not to listen to morale-boosting music, or to communicate with one another as they clean. The iPods are outfitted with a program that tells the housekeepers which room to push their carts full of cleaning equipment to. There's a button to push when they start cleaning the room and another to push when they finish. Under their old system, the housekeepers were given a paper at the beginning of the day listing the rooms they needed to clean, and they could do them in the most efficient manner. Now, with the Rex system, the iPod tells them which room to do next, even if that room is on another floor. They may make the trip from floor to floor, pushing their 100-pound carts on carpet, many times rather than just one. “It creates unnecessary travel time, and a housekeeper doesn't even have an extra minute,” a spokesperson said.
Creating an Environment in which to Excel
In both of these examples, is it reasonable to expect that these workers would view their job as a calling? The intrinsic motivators such as achievement, recognition, interesting work, advancement by training, responsibility and a sense of belonging all take a beating in these kinds of environments. Can we create an environment in which staff can view their job as a calling? And is it up to the management to do so or is it more beneficial to wait until staff members have figured it out for themselves? In the case of the Hyatt workers, what they really wanted was to be consulted in the design of the tracking system because they believed that they had the expertise due to their experience. In the case of Tara Tan, I would hesitate a guess that what she really wanted was to be treated like a human being.
A Holistic Approach
Some of the stories I read and some of the conditions for staff that I see lead me to understand the examples of staff revenge found in The Dirty Secrets that Luxury Hotels Don't Want Guests to Know. It’s time to view our hotels as one holistic system that extends to staff as well as guests, online presence as well as actual presence, design as well as SOP, and to demonstrate that hospitality can really be a calling and a job in which to take pride.
About Anne Edwards
Anne Edwards combines her love of language, travel, and different cultures as Editor in Chief of ehotelier.com. Prior to this position, Anne lectured in Cross Cultural Studies at the Blue Mountains International Hotel Management School in Australia and currently consults to the Australian Federal Government on subjects such as Leadership and Building Productive Partnerships. Anne has travelled and worked internationally for twelve years, holding various positions in the field of education, most notably as linguistic advisor to the Crown Princess of Thailand for two years where she sampled some of the best hotels in the world. Her love for travel spans the freedom of wandering on a shoe-string budget to the finest standards of service in world-class properties. As Editor in Chief of one of the largest hotel news sites in the world, Anne has a birds-eye view of what is happening in the industry internationally.
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