Liar Liar: What Hotel Staff Would Say to Managers if They Could

What if you were unable to tell a lie, no matter how hard you tried? Would this be a desirable state of affairs in personal life? How about business? The answer is: Probably not. Sugar coating and judicious silence play important roles in society. If people went around verbalizing their every thought, the offense caused would be astronomical. The 1997 Jim Carrey film Liar Liar, in which a defense lawyer finds himself physically unable to lie, had a comedic field day with this idea.

And yet, companies spend billions of dollars every year to find out what customers are thinking. Honesty is a hot commodity. Understanding what people really want, how they really feel, is profitable.

It always has been.

What about employers knowing what employees really think? This too is good for business, especially in the hospitality industry—but working relationships between hotel managers and staff are delicate. Staff are concerned with losing their jobs or missing out on promotions. Day-to-day interactions are tinged with workplace politics. Honesty takes a backseat to politeness and job security.

This is understandable from an employee’s point of view. It may also be more comfortable for the manager. But comfort is rarely the thing that drives meaningful change. If hotel employees were Jim Carrey and had no choice but to speak their minds, here are some of the things they would probably say (especially the millennials):

“There’s a better way to do this”

There’s been no shortage of talk around creating an “open” work culture that values input from everyone on the team. Walking that talk is difficult. Interpersonal dynamics and personality clashes are everywhere, and it’s possible for hotel managers to stymie their staff without even knowing it.

Make no mistake: Hotel staff have ideas. They want to be heard. Some of those ideas will be impractical, even downright bad, from a managerial point of view. But accepting (and even celebrating) bad ideas is the only way to create that innovative culture everybody talks about. It’s the only way to access the really good ideas. Besides, hotel managers have bad ideas too. If they didn’t, our industry would have reached a state of perfection long ago.

“Leadership isn’t just for you”

The idea that leadership belongs to the hotel manager alone is as outdated as a gaudy plaid suit from the 1970s. Employees want to be empowered and valued as intelligent members of the team, regardless of what position they hold. It’s what motivates them to work hard, innovate, and strive for mutual success.

“I’m not grateful for the job”

The idea that staff should be grateful for the opportunity given them is also nice, and may even be true. But it’s like a pair of tinted glasses to go with that plaid suit. Giving it too much importance makes you look dated. Helping your employees achieve their objectives is more valued.

According to Fast Company, the average millennial spends less than three years in a job. If employees don’t find fertile ground under their feet, they quickly move to greener pastures. The success of your operation is linked to the personal success of your individual team members.

“You shouldn’t have hired me”

Hotels with lazy hiring practices have no reason to wonder why staff performance is underwhelming, or why employees appear to be sleepwalking through their shift. Improving team performance means putting the right people on the roster. It means keying on your best employees, understanding what makes them successful, and looking for like qualities in new hires. There’s a difference between someone who “just needs a job” and someone who wants to learn, lead, and work toward mutual success. Understanding that difference is not easy, and as a hotel manager, it’s largely on your shoulders.

“You realise my supervisor is not telling the truth, yeah?”

In a typical hotel hierarchy, employees are often screened from interaction with their bosses’ boss, with the view that communication will follow the chain of command. This is a good and effective approach……if you are a solider and are in a war. In today’s working environment, communication can be up and down a couple of levels without affecting the chain of command. It all depends on how the Hotel Manager approaches it. Staff at all levels are great assessors of what really happens in an organization, and sometimes those in supervisory/management roles filter the truth to suit their own needs or cover their own backside. Good managers create opportunities to interact at all levels and ask questions that don’t undermine. Management By Walking Around anyone?

Can you handle the truth?

Barring a dramatic termination of employment, or a magical curse à la Jim Carrey, hotel managers will rarely hear the unfiltered truth from their staff. That’s why they must learn and practice the art of eliciting honesty. Being able to do so enriches the work culture, makes it more transparent and desirable, and enhances virtually every aspect of team performance. The best place to begin? Understanding that hotel employees, just like hotel guests, have needs and wants that evolve through time. Providing an opportunity for them to share these are signs of a great manager.


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