Are we having fun yet?

Are we having fun yet?

We all know that the recession has taken its toll on our industry, not just in prompting a fanaticism toward driving revenue while decreasing expenses, but also on the way we do business — both with our customers and our employees. Some markets, such as New York City, have fared better than others. Yet all markets have experienced employee job loss, wage freezes, benefit reductions and increased job responsibilities without additional compensation.

These realities have been pervasive throughout our industry. Jobs have been eliminated and organizations have slimmed down. Bonuses have been reduced or eliminated. Employers have asked for longer hours at less pay and with fewer benefits — all to offset a decline in bottom-line performance.

Yet, as a service industry, we still rely on our employees to “make it happen” regardless of anxiety and stress in the workplace created by fear of job loss. We expect stellar performance from employees year-round. The question to ask, then, is what are we doing to acknowledge employee contributions to the operation during tough times? Are we assuming a “we’re all in this together attitude” or a “take it or leave it” approach? My experience in chatting with industry colleagues is the latter.  

Our industry relies heavily on guest service scores to monitor employee performance and adherence to standards. Are we equating this, however, to employee job satisfaction and the influence this economy has had on the “psyche” of the hotel? If the pervasive management attitude mirrors the anxiety of tough times, it is unrealistic to presume that employees will assume a positive attitude in their jobs. Pessimism filters down through an organization quickly and permeates a hotel’s culture. It sits like a wet blanket over a hotel and is never a cure for bottom-line ills.  

It’s no secret that the most successful organizations remain upbeat during times of uncertainty and take on the challenges with gusto, creativity, drive and humor. Much is written about the curative effects of laughter and fun in the workplace. However, what I hear most often these days when fellow hoteliers are describing their jobs is, “It’s not fun anymore.” If anything, our industry should be fun, and in fact, hospitality — by definition — is “good cheer, warm welcome, geniality, consideration, cordiality and good fellowship.” I like the concept of “good cheer” and wonder what has happened to our collective sense of humor. Has it gone the way of a general malaise?  

If so, what are your thoughts for a cure? I’m laughing as I think of mine.