Compliment in public, criticize in private – how to discipline your hotel staff
What’s the hardest part of any management job? Whether you’re a general manager, sales, and marketing manager, front desk manager or manager of housekeeping, you’re not alone if your answer is disciplining your staff. None of us want to be ‘the bad guy,’ but it’s a role we’ve all had to play—even if we’re lucky enough to have a team made up of primarily hardworking, enthusiastic and skilled hospitality professionals. Fortunately, addressing behavioral and performance issues as they arise can actually improve your relationships with the employees beneath you—if you do it correctly.
Start by communicating your expectations. From their very first day on the job, everyone on your hospitality team should have a clear picture of what is expected from them, both behaviorally and in terms of performance. Make sure your employee handbook includes information on workplace rules (such as punctuality and attendance), the daily/weekly/monthly tasks for which each position is responsible, and the ways in which you intend to measure their performance.
It is unlikely employees will reach their full potential if they don’t understand what is expected of them. The rules and guidelines you establish provide them with a roadmap they can follow to excel at their jobs. This will help them stay engaged—or actively invested—at work. According to one Gallup poll, employee engagement is highest among workers whose managers help them to set priorities and hold them accountable for their performance.
Publically compliment your staff when they excel. Positive feedback and acknowledgement—from a simple “thank you for doing such a great job today” to an employee-of-the-month award for the suggestion and implementation of an efficiency-increasing idea—makes your team feel appreciated, shows them you are paying attention to their work, and encourages them to continue to perform at their best.
As with rules and expectations, be clear when explaining the reason for the recognition or reward. Don’t wait weeks to say thanks or otherwise acknowledge a job well done. Compliments and praise are most effective when they’re given promptly.
Address any behavioral or performance issues in private. While praise can be freely given in public, criticism is generally better received in private. Taking a staff member aside or setting a formal private meeting time will reduce embarrassment and make it less likely your worker will react to your questioning and criticism with hostility or resentment.
Try to meet with your employee as soon as you become aware of the issue. Be very clear when explaining your dissatisfaction. Ask if they were aware that what they were doing could result in disciplinary action. If the issue is related to performance, ask if they feel they need further training and set a timeline for reevaluation. Document your conversation and add it to the employee’s personnel file.
Follow a progressive disciplinary plan. If you want to retain your staff’s respect, you need to discipline consistently. Appearing to play favorites is a quick way to damage their trust. Establishing and following a progressive disciplinary plan will help you avoid this. In essence, this type of plan begins with a verbal warning (but documented in their file) during which you offer advice and guidance before setting a period for improvement. If the prohibited behavior continues or satisfactory performance progress is not made within that time, the next step in the plan is usually a written warning.
When giving a written warning, you will again explain the reason/s for your dissatisfaction, what the employee needs to do to remedy the situation and the consequences if he/she fails to do so. Your plan may include one or more written warnings before you resort to final disciplinary actions such as suspension without pay, demotion or termination.