HR professionals work hard when communicating with team members. Their goal in each written and face-to-face interaction is to put a face on the employer’s brand and to keep the promise they’ve made in recruitment ads and onboarding material.
When a workplace is alive with mutual respect and excitement for the future, HR will be able to read an employee’s appreciative response to an email or see in his or her face unbridled enthusiasm.
Sometimes, however, there is a not so well-concealed employee response that should be a signal for the employer that something is amiss. That can be damaging and destructive if ignored.
What force could attack an employer’s carefully built employee-relations program, slowly dissolving the sinews of trust between companies and their employees? How is it possible that an employer could permit the destruction of an asset so precious that it cannot be purchased nor otherwise replaced once it is destroyed?
Enter workplace “culture killers”—the attitudes, actions and wrong-headed thinking that creep up slowly, leaving GMs and HR with an after-party hangover that is the opposite of hospitality. Within this darkness lies much of a company’s employment litigation and fair employment claims, as well as union issues, sour employee attitudes and increased employee turnover.
Here are the Top 10 workplace “culture killers” and how they can be avoided:
10. Benign neglect. In the crush of business, even well-intended managers can lose touch with their surroundings. Instead of annual workplace satisfaction surveys, make the workplace culture (at least) a monthly topic for every department’s manager meetings.
9. The absent leader. When a respected manager, department head or fellow employee is away for an extended period or is replaced by a person with a less team-focused style, the culture that the departed person nurtured is at risk. Don’t assume that when good people leave, employees will just keep marching forward.
8. Adoring the stars. Concentrating on top performers is good, but the team they belong to can lose its identity quickly without equal attention. Use those top performers to motivate their colleagues, and watch what happens.
7. Cloudy values, vague expectations. There is no goal to which employees can aspire without clearly communicated values and performance expectations.
6. Uneven accountability. It’s sometimes called favoritism, and it’s always a problem. Use objective metrics to measure performance, and then compare how employees or teams with varying results are disciplined and rewarded.
5. Old management techniques. A healthy workplace in today’s world is built on connecting, not separating employees. Empower work groups to be self disciplined. Use their natural desire for collaboration to solve challenges, especially the toughest business problems. If the problem is a corporate issue, bang on the doors and get someone’s attention.
4. Ignoring anxiety. Chip Conley, former CEO of Joie de Vivre Hospitality, said that in uncertain times “anxiety equals uncertainty times powerlessness.” To remedy this, acknowledge uncertainty. Escape employee anxiety with reassurance. Decide specific ways the challenge will be overcome, and put the best teams in charge of helping the weakest.
3. Words and deeds disconnect. Employees listen when leaders speak. When leaders promise, they must deliver. Award-winning brands are built upon the legacy of leaders doing what they promised. When a GM or CEO cannot meet that promise, he or she must be transparent about the reasons to keep the connection with employees healthy and alive.
2. Focusing only on business. The young people entering today’s hospitality workforce are inspired by volunteerism and finding ways to help others solve our world’s challenges. Think big, outside the four walls of the monthly profit-and-loss statement. Get the team involved in group outreach and reward every person involved.
And the No. 1 culture killer?
The boss from hell. Lousy bosses flub one after another opportunity to build loyalty and mutual commitment with their team while being steadfastly adept at one ignoble skill: tearing down everything the company’s brand represents.
When poor bosses are unchecked, workplace culture alarms sound. Unwanted employee turnover rises and complaints of favoritism increase. Discipline problems and guest complaints emerge.
How can leaders spot the boss from hell before he or she can destroy their team? In his management blog Conley speaks of “the five fundamentals of management etiquette,” which include:
• “Be an intentional listener.”
• “Be radically responsive.”
• “Remember the little things.”
• “Under promise and over deliver.”
• “Practice gratitude.”
Conley’s compelling advice easily can be adapted by any hospitality employer. The CEO can then use it to evaluate his or her senior team; GMs can do the same.
The best leaders will sail through this test while those with development needs will become obvious. Tap the best leaders to mentor those who show promise but need assistance to be successful.
Fire the others.
Chuck Conine, managing partner of Hospitality HR Solutions is a graduate of the Cornell University School of Hotel Administration and a certified senior professional in human resources. In addition to providing traditional HR services Chuck works with hospitality clients on leadership development, executive coaching and employee engagement.
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