Crossing boundaries? The right and wrong of befriending hotel guests
Friends or more?
A touchy subject for sure when it comes to hotel staff fraternizing with hotel guests and vice versa. How do you know when you’ve crossed the line from being perceived as friendly or flirtatious and why does it matter?
"In my experience, the best practice is generally to be friendly, but not friends. This protects both the employee and the employer,” says Michael J. Tews, Ph.D., associate professor, school of hospitality management at Penn State University. “Employees socializing with guests outside of the employment context could be potentially damaging to the brand image of a company.”
In addition, the possibility for sexual harassment exists.
“If employees are advised to socialize with guests, the employer would be liable if an employee was harassed. This is the negative side of things,” says Dr. Tews.
Another suggestion is to, “Socialize with guests off property,” says Dr. Tews. “Once you cross the line on property, where does it stop? If you have a drink with a guest in the lounge after work, someone else will follow suit and bigger problems might prevail. Not a lot of people talk openly about this stuff, but I get the sense that it’s frowned upon.”
If a guest makes unwanted advances to a hotel employee, “Most times, staffers will deal with it and brush it off for fear of affecting their job, which is part of the problem, as a guest may feel you are there to accommodate them. While you can’t just say, buzz off, as you’re still acting on behalf of your organization, employers want to do their best by their employees. If you’re come on to or harassed, you should immediately bring the issue to your supervisor’s attention, letting him or her know you are not comfortable. Better companies will make it explicit on what to do,” says Dr. Tews.
Check your employee handbook for specific rules and regulations on this issue, says Suzanne Bagnera, Ph.D., clinical assistant professor at Boston University’s School of Hospitality Administration.
“Typically there is something in the handbook that states you should not be fraternizing with guests or employees, because of what could happen. You’re in an environment with beds and liquor, which creates a challenge,” says Dr. Bagnera.
If a guest asks you out for a date or drink, “Respectfully decline. Tell him or her you could lose your job and that it’s against the policies of your hotel,” says Dr. Bagnera.