Tuesday, 30 July 2013
Seven Cardinal Sins Committed by an Hotelier!
Hoteliering is an exciting business with never a dull moment on either side of the continuum, running from good to bad. Hotels are, truly, a line of business on steroids. They never sleep, they never take leaves. There are no summer offs or Christmas breaks; in fact some of the traditional festive times when the entire world seems to shut down are the peak season time for hotels. War or peace, bad or robust economy, change in the country’s government, change in the hotel chain’s ownership or management – hotels never seem to close down. Even under bombings or terror strike, hotels manage to spring back into action in no time.
With such frenetic activity at play, driven by people of all creed, caste, colour, culture; hotels become hotbeds of frayed nerves, sharp tempers, low immunity, people short-circuiting driven maniacally by high expectations and forever-burning fire in the belly to deliver and over-deliver.
Hence, it is but natural that we as hoteliers are prone to committing some of the Cardinal sins; all in a day’s work.
These thoughts are meant to guide us back on the track of righteousness and nudge us into fair play. The little reminder (borrowed from the Bible and Dante’s The Divine Comedy) at the end of each sin is intended to serve as an instant deterrent. Here follow, in alphabetical order, the seven deadly sins that we can consciously or subconsciously commit and stand the risk of being accused of -
Hotels are a kind of show business. More than a lot of other professions, Hotels urge us to look closely at our own Image management. Because we represent brands and deal with a certain profile of guests, it becomes imperative for us to present our best to the world. We must be kitted out in the finest threads, often branded. We cannot afford to have a strand of hair out of place. Those limbs that shake all those hands and do all that walking around must have been neatly attended to. Not just the shoes, even the teeth should be regularly polished. You get the drift, don’t you!
In such an environment, comparisons become easy. So and so is carrying a giant LV Tote, has acquired the latest iPhone, is driving fancy wheels, has been holidaying in the most luxurious places, is sporting a Hermes tie………….our place of work brings in several opportunities for us to turn into varying shades of green.
Besides the outward disposition, the work culture is such that we are given to one-upmanship, tussle for position and prominence and deeply embedded sense of competition – inter-teams, intra-departments, with sister hotels, with other chains. And therein, get the seeds of envy sown in intelligent, hard-working people who, otherwise, have honourable intentions.
A colleague gets sent for the WTM in London or ILTM in Cannes, yes Cannes – every time. A certain Guest Relations Manager is allowed to sign off at the unbelievable hour of 5 PM every day, only because she is proximal to the head honcho. The peer’s appraisal is shades better than ours; which means that he or she is up for a higher raise and a fatter pay packet. The PR Director is the apple of the GM’s eyes and seems to have it somewhat easy. The expatriate colleague, fresh off the boat, received a warmer orientation and welcoming than you did and his list of perks have stuff that you cannot even ask the Management for. There are a million occasions in hotels that can turn you into a green-eyed monster; should you not be watching that mind of yours and not letting your conscience and good sense to rule over unwanted thoughts and emotions that steal a passage into the deeper recesses of your head.
The scriptures define ‘envy’ as wanting to have what someone has, a desire for others’ traits, status, abilities or situation; and liken it to jealousy.
Wouldn’t it be better if we focused on bettering our own selves by admiring the good in others, by getting inspired rather than vehemently grudging others’ of whatever we are after!
Sharp reminder of divine punishment – In Hell - You'll be put in freezing water. Dante’s diktat – “Your eyes will be sewn shut with wire because you have gained sinful pleasure from seeing others brought low.”
There was this PR predecessor at a certain hotel I worked for, who was known to invite her husband to almost all her official dinners. This way, not only did her husband get to network with a great set of contacts; there was also no need for anybody to prepare dinner at home. How did I find out? Her overdone malpractice became a joke with the journalist friends, some of whom recounted the story to others and it got onto the spin of whispers on the informal circuit.
Not just hoteliers, the larger world too, seems to want more of everything – more money, more promotions, more rewards, more fun, more attention, more fame, more glory, more happiness, more free time, more trips……the list of wants is endless.
And then, there are the typical three villains we have studied about in our Psychology classes. We all, from the time we are toddlers, seem to pine for more power, leadership and control – seat of most of the trouble in the history of mankind. So, we come to work in the haloed precincts of our marble and metal edifices and splatter around our gluttonous need to gain more power, be a lot more in control of things than we are hired for and send out bad energy that spin balls into an overly negative atmosphere at work. This sense of acute selfishness cuts us off from others and makes others skeptical of us, creating a feeling of distrust, disharmony and disengagement.
Gluttony stems from complete lack of self-control and can have serious ramifications when one just must address this self-indulgent state of hunger any which way he can. The more serious outcomes can be embezzlement, cheating, misappropriating funds and putting business to sizeable risk.
If we didn’t have this innate desire to consume more than what we actually require, not just life in hotels but life in general and the world at large would be a much better place and we would not be heading slowly but surely towards our own extinction.
Sharp reminder of divine punishment – In Hell - You'll be force-fed rats, toads and snakes. Dante’s Diktat – Gluttons are “forced to lie in a vile slush produced by ceaseless foul, icy rain.”
Mentored by envy and fuelled by gluttony, Greed, indeed is, the wounded heel of Achilles in all of us. We just seem so unsatiated, regardless of what we achieve and all that we earn – be it praise or profit, rest or riches, material gains or momentary pleasures.
While a lot of us get slayed by this dragon of greed that raises its ugly head within us, in some degree or other, I have had one outstanding example in my recent professional past. The Colleague seemed to have this endless pit of greed which he was enslaved to and had to fill it by hook or by crook. It was sad to see him want more and more of everything. He wanted to be the highest earning, even among peers. He would unabashedly put others in bad light or steal credit so as to let the strobes shine on him. When we all were given Company cars, he wanted his to be in a different shade and with a sunroof. From thinnest laptops, latest gizmos to clocking maximum frequent flier miles, the man was ravenous about everything.
But almost all of us fall prey to this, at some point or another. It could be our greed for praise and recognition. We may covet that position, regardless of the value we are capable of bringing to it. We could be avaricious about the troika of pay, promotion, perquisites. In fact, Company benefits have become a dirty word, just because our sense of greed overpowers the humaneness and professionalism in us that should, instead, guide most of our actions.
Our inclination to feed the excessiveness fuelled by our selfish greed forces us to disregard our personal and Company values.
The good thing, whether we like it or not, and whether we wish it or not, is that life and work both teach us that contentment is a far better thing to abide by. Now, it is up to us whether we want that lesson to be pleasant or harsh.
Sharp reminder of divine punishment – In Hell - You'll be boiled alive in oil. Dante’s Diktat – You’ll be “bound and laid face down on the ground for having concentrated too much on earthly thoughts.”
Just because we work in an industry that works through the day and the night does not mean that we consider it a place where ALL our basic needs be met and desires be fulfilled.
We lust for money, we lust after power and fame, and we crave carnal pleasures. That is human nature – as we’ve all come to learn and live. But then, we have also learned to live within the realm of ethics and virtue that stand tall between being lawful and illegal; grossly improper in conduct or within propriety.
Hotels present enough opportunities and have several hidden nooks and private spaces which propel secret rendezvous. Then, the work environment and hours are such that many love stories can blossom into a walk up to the altar. And that is kind of nice and fascinating about the industry.
What we have reservations against is one-sided lust or emotion driven by desire to gain out of it or control someone or harm another or just as a past time when energies should go into productivity and honest output.
Several office romances have grown up into wedded bliss. Some spouses have continued working together in the same establishment; others have worked out different arrangements. But it all has been a wholesome outcome. And that is what is sought. We must remember that romantic emotion is rational and thought over, while lust is insane, unbridled and irrational.
I have seen flushed faces staring back from quiet Ballroom stairways. I have unwittingly caught red-handed passion-stealers on guest floors. Back of the house Duty Manager’s Desk, abandoned work stations, under-lit hallways, even unoccupied guest rooms have been breeding areas for those bitten by the love / lust bug. I have personally warded off interest from an overly keen boss, a colleague with a glad eye, as also an over-friendly guest. Lust is not uncommon in hotels; like in a lot of other places.
What is strongly objected to; is when lust at work takes the nasty forms of sexual harassment and sexual favours for promotions, job security and preferential treatment. Further a lustful relationship at work is unethical, it is against corporate mission, vision and goals and clouds good judgement on part of the workers involved. It eats into productive time and useful energy that would otherwise be put to decent work. It leads to gross misuse of office resources. Behaviour such as this puts a blotch on your reputation and credentials and hinders your growth and development. Lust and similar inordinate behaviour make you unprofessional and shave off years of hard work gone into assiduously building up a personal brand.
Not just the above mentioned connotation; lust for money, success, power is based on an unreal, unethical premise that will not serve you in the long run. There are enough examples of stalwarts and superstars who have fallen into the abyss of shame, ignominy and anonymity; and they have found it difficult to embark on the scaling up once again.
Sharp reminder of divine punishment – In Hell - You'll be smothered, not in kisses, but in fire and brimstone. Dante’s Diktat – You’ll be forced to walk within flames to purge yourself of lustful thoughts and feelings. And then blown back and forth by the terrible, hurricane-like winds of a violent storm (symbolic of your own lack of self-control), without rest.
We all our guilty of this; in small doses or big dollops! The organisations we work for are one of the biggest reasons for creating a sense of false pride in us. The fault lies with us as the lines between these mega brands we represent and our own selves get blurred so much so that we think we are the Brand. Custodians, Ambassadors, Representatives yes; but we are not THE brand in its sense of opulence, luxury, fame and reputation. Yet, we hear the commonly uttered chant, “Don’t you know I am so and so from XYZ.” Do we take a minute to reflect on the fact centered on what will become of us if the XYZ is removed from our calling cards? If we were to view the reality for what it is, we would be a lot humbler and shorn off affectations.
We are proud about the companies that have hired us, the designations we can boast about, the flashy lifestyle that those roles have bequeathed on us, the associates and affiliations the company has brought closer to us. Did you notice, I said ‘about’ and not ‘of?’
This arrogance, vanity and sense of self-importance is the cause of our undoing. All sacred writings known to man define Pride as “an excessive belief in one's own abilities that interferes with the individual's recognition of the grace of God. It has been called the sin from which all others arise.”
Pride is the worst sin that destroys all our senses – it blinds us from seeing what is right and fair, it shuts our ears from voices of reason, it disrupts our thinking, it makes us ravenous for more false adulation and flattery, it steals the kindness and compassion from our hearts and minds and it makes us utter such awfully damned things about ourselves that continue to haunt us all along our personal and professional journey.
Pride makes us paint a distorted, unrealistic image of ourselves as superior workers, better than the rest. It throws a spanner in our learning process and stunts our mental growth.
People with Pride as against people who are proud of their work, their skills and their workplace (and there is a marked distinction between the two) are usually disdainful of others, are destructive of the team spirit and are sheer killjoys to work with. They enjoy bringing in fear psychosis into the environment they dwell in and are parasitic in their equations, always wanting to gain more out of others unrealistically and disproportionately – be it recognition, rewards, riches. People with arrogant pride step on others to prop themselves up, are myopic in thinking as they wear blinkers of pomposity, excel in alienating others, imprison themselves in their constricted castles of conceit and erode the healthy work environment with their pronounced negative effect. People afflicted with hubris are so greatly self-centered and have an intense love for the self that they fail to see beyond themselves. Hence, they fail to acknowledge the good deeds and good work of others. The worst sinner is a grossly proud and supercilious boss as he or she stomps out all good energy and from him flow harmful traits of fear, flattery, wasteful fawning, falsification and fantasy that is as far removed from reality, rectitude and efficiency as anything can be.
What is mindboggling is the fact that pride stems from low self-esteem, a complete disregard of the status quo and outright rejection of others and their sound opinion. It is said in the Bible, “Pride goes before destruction; a haughty spirit before a fall.” And Pride has the propensity to bring about the downfall of the ‘prideful’ individual and destruction of the workplace in which such people fester. Dante defined Pride as "love of self perverted to hatred and contempt for one's neighbour." Extrapolate this to the work environment and see the quantum of venom and viciousness it unleashes.
Sharp reminder of divine punishment – In Hell - You'll be broken on the wheel. Dante’s Diktat – You’ll be “forced to walk with stone slabs bearing down on your backs to induce feelings of humility.”
At another hotel, there was this Human Resources Director who became a butt of inside jokes for the afternoon power naps that he just had to take. I remember getting into his shoes during the course of a certain Food Festival for promoting which I had to entertain my media friends for elaborate lunches and dinners. Getting back to the work station post these soporific lunches was quite a painful task. But the difference lies in periodic or situational vs. the habitual; the latter being a point of serious concern.
There are lazy people by nature and bearing and there are people who get slow for a certain period of time on account of immense work pressure that threatens to keep them on their toes for time that stretches well beyond the witching hour. We know that operational staff in hotels come under the latter category – Rooms, Housekeeping, Kitchens, F&B – our mates from these departments keep the hotel buzzing through the day and night. Regardless of the shift, feeling not so bright and up and about at all times is absolutely excusable and cannot be slotted under sloth.
We are talking of those of us who are in the habit of delivering their shoddy, unproductive best on account of an inherent behavioural pattern of being slow, tardy, lazy and lackadaisical. We are also talking of those times, when the best of us are hit by the wave of languid inertia and shameful indolence that eats into our office time, office reserves and supplies, our fecundity, the Company’s bottom line, our reputation and that value that we bring to the table. Sacred books also view Sloth as the ‘failure to utilize one’s talents and gifts.’
Sloth conjoined with its close cousin ‘procrastination’ works towards sending your output to the outpost of leisure & lethargy and your mind to a suspended state of vacation.
Lazy workers and slackers can easily be accused of theft at the workplace – they steal company’s precious time and destroy the day’s propensity to produce. They are destroyers – they eat into Company’s market share and profits by their sheer non-deliverability. They are seasoned annihilators – they kill drive, company morale, customer trust and satisfaction and above all, their own potential and opportunities.
If we are not slothful workers by nature and inherent personality, then we all our aware of several ways to shake us off the stupor and supineness. A drink of water, a brisk walk around the hotel, a quick conversation with another colleague, a little 'me time' of music or reading, a spot of meditation, a spurt of office calisthenics or stretches – all are known to bring the gush of energy back into us. For those whose CV should have sloth mentioned somewhere amidst similar other strengths (err weaknesses) must be sent for mental training, behavioural coaching and must be reprised of the Company mission and goals. If all this fails, then either they should not be hired or relieved very quickly.
Sharp reminder of divine punishment – In Hell - You'll be thrown into snake pits. Dante’s Diktat – You’ll be made to “run continuously at top speed.”
Machines don’t talk back to us or argue. Machines don’t swear at us. We can kick the sides of machines should they fail to perform to our expectation. Try that with people and you put yourself in the dock for being reprimanded, red-marked or thrown out of your job, depending on the seriousness of your crime.
But hotels, being a people business, give us any number of occasions to lose our shirt. Then these awesome places of work go ahead and give us more reasons, such that we do not wish to put back on the darned piece of clothing.
The Boss is mean and vicious, the subordinates slimy and snarky and the peers downright cut throat and caustic – reasons more than enough to make us see red and get vindictive. Other members of the team refuse to see our point of view, our POV is not even considered or heard at forums, our good ideas are mercilessly squashed. In the official quagmire, we deal with people who are smarter than us or less endowed – either ways it gets our pulse racing – angry that we are not as good or exasperated on having to deal with the low brows.
The superior rides roughshod over our esteem and endeavours, the associate aims at snatching away, ever so indiscreetly, the credit due to us; and the junior snakes up to gain a firm footing on the ladder at our expense. Life at work can be so unfair and it is our birth right to be angry about it. Right!! But the real deal is; we cannot afford to be angry. The better rationale is, we should not be angry and should attempt at winning over the raging sense of wrath into productive channeling; as this negative emotion is known to harm more and help much less.
With hotels lending a million permutations and combinations to equations and activities, it is not unusual for them to be wrought with elevated tempers. I have witnessed the Executive Chef bellowing out in full steam over his Kitchen underlings. One such colleague showed this aspect of his personality to me and the accompanying TV crew, all because he was excessively stressed over a big Food Festival, the opening night of which was not going his way.
I have sat within ear shot of a red-faced General Manager as he threatened to take the pants off the Director of Materials because the man was not managing to get some consignments into the hotel on time for a mega launch. Another time, the same General Manager with the same hot-headedness lost it on the Financial Controller so bad that we thought he would get up and punch the guy in the face – in the Morning Briefing, with all of us Excom around!
A Managing Director with one of the world’s leading hotel chains recounts an incident when he worked in the Chef’s kitchen as an entrant into the industry. He noted with disbelief how the enraged Chef would chuck ladles of curry onto the facing wall just to vent.
Such heightened drama comes easily to those who have a lot under their hats and belts. Working in overly stressed condition often brings this downside in our demeanour.
While, in all the examples above, the managers have had sound reason to be irrational with their temper but it is never a good thing to lose it publicly. In times such as this, no matter what or who is the trigger, it makes sense to count to ten or hundred and bite your lip in time.
Sharp reminder of divine punishment – In Hell - You'll be dismembered alive. Dante’s Diktat – “The wrathful will fight each other on the surface, and the sullen lie gurgling beneath the water, withdrawn into a black sulkiness which can find no joy in God or man or the universe.”
The non-believers and agnostics amongst us will, no doubt, be disbelieving about the ‘punishment in hell’ blocks. But even the most rational of us will agree that heaven and hell exist here and now. At the workplace, punishment can take the form of soiled reputation, defamation, legal suits, blacklisting, losing one’s job or position right up to rendering oneself completely un-hire-able.
While we all can be accused of being guilty of all or some of these sins to varying degrees, our effort must be to seek penance by our noble thoughts and wise actions. We must aim to rise above the bar and attempt to not commit any of these sins, at least consciously – both at work and in life!
PS - Picture courtesy - Google Images and Deviantart. Gluttony by Anita Joy Holland. Sloth by Azlath.