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Three Tough Scenarios Every GM Will Face

Three Tough Scenarios Every GM Will Face

Employers frequently enter the hiring process with high hopes and aspirations, believing the addition of a new associate will bring positive change to the organization, an improvement to overall performance or add a certain degree of experience that will help build a better team going forward. Once the right folks have been hired, companies must successfully invest, reinforce, and maintain the team as long as possible, thereby strengthening the vision for the property and illuminating the best path forward for that team to achieve the property’s goals.

However, as has been said, all good things must come to an end. Employees will get poached by other employers, some will find opportunities elsewhere and leave for better pay or benefits and, as a cyclical business, the hospitality industry is certainly not immune from expansions and contractions resulting in staffing changes based on need. Whether one operates a difficult hotel, manages a turn-around, is building a new facility, or operates an award-winning property, the GM will wear several different hats. One of them, unfortunately, must be that of an effective terminator.

There are three universal scenarios that any effective terminator—regardless of brand, size, or property location—is bound to face. GMs may need to terminate employees due to attendance, theft, or insubordination.


Few industries count on the involvement of so many individuals to achieve success. All staff are needed to facilitate the daily transition from guest to guest. When someone fails to arrive on time, unexpectedly calls off, or simply decides not to come to work, the entire operation suffers to some degree, sometimes catastrophically.

The manager has to evaluate the severity of the impact, reasoning, history of attendance, and more while ensuring an even application of company policy across the board with regards to attendance. If a termination is warranted, an effective terminator acts swiftly. Multiple second chances will not improve behavior but encourages others to question the importance of timeliness. If an associate can’t show up on time or show up at all, then a 24/7/365 business like hotels has to move on.


Whether small or large shortages in the cash drawer, misappropriation of supplies or resources for personal use, or personal awarding of points or vouchers, theft is intolerable. There are as many situations as there are potential considerations, yet they all should lead to the same end result—termination. All thieves follow the M.I.C.E. acronym; motivation, intent, convenience, and excuse. The fact is, they saw an opportunity, had a reason, and made the decision to steal from the business.

An effective terminator must, therefore, act decisively. Gather the pertinent information, investigate fully, have any statements or witness accounts in writing and signed, follow the company policy, and, if the evidence is there, terminate. Don’t stop there, however. Go a step farther and prosecute to the fullest extent of the law. An effective terminator doesn’t just sever the employment relationship in this instance—he or she must demonstrate the consequences of theft. Just firing an employee signals that theft by an associate only results in losing one’s job rather than stemming future potential, setting a weak precedent. Prosecuting is a must.


“No” is a powerful word. Sometimes it is used bluntly while other times it is simply implied by the refusal to do the required task. It can come with indifference or blatant disregard toward the supervisor or manager. Regardless, insubordination often brings the manager to a crossroads where they can either choose to underreact or overreact. On one hand, aware of impressions, staffing needs, and hotel occupancy, managers smooth things over for the betterment of the operation in an effort to get by and ‘see how things go’, delaying appropriate decision making. On the other hand, power-tripping managers instantly react, take personal insult to any refusal of their request or directive, and fire the associate on a whim. There is, however, a third option to choose—simply pause and find a balance between the two.

An effective terminator will ask several questions: Was the task asked considered reasonable? Was it asked of others as well as the person involved? If it was a direct assignment, was it within the scope and skill of the employee’s abilities and capabilities? Has any associate been asked to do this before? Have they been adequately trained? Has the associate been known for refusal or issues in the past? So long as all the answers are “yes” and barring any special circumstances, termination is the right choice.

The difference between a terminator and an effective one is this “pause and consider” strategy. While some associates simply work for a paycheck, all staff want to work for someone they respect. Staff won’t tolerate someone who lets others get away with inappropriate behavior any more than working for a tyrant who fires staff on a whim. They will, however, respect a manager who is even-keeled and applies policies fairly.

These three situations will inevitably occur at every hotel, and not just once. Each situation will be unique and must be reviewed and documented. And just as these scenarios are inevitable, managers will always need to deal with the aftermath of any termination. Employees build friendships with one another while on the job—there are loyalties to contend with, and staff perception of the hotel and its management are all impacted by any change in staffing. Some will invariably agree with a termination and some will not.

How and when a manager conducts the termination will have a lasting impact on morale and productivity. If the process is done right, there will be an increased respect, appreciation, and reinforcement of the rules, and employees will better gel cohesively as a team going forward without the issues disruptors caused.


About the Author
Daniel A. Johnson, CHA, CHIA, is a vice president of operations at Argeo Hospitality, an Anthony Melchiorri Company.


  1. Very interesting article and I absolutely agree on all three points. Having said that, I have never been in a hospitality management position. I have worked in this field for over a decade, mostly in guest relations (better known as front desk), but as is common in this industry, I’ve also cleaned my fair share of rooms, served as bellman, concierge, audit and the list goes on.

    Just one point about insubordination- often times front line employees can see when certain policies and systems simply don’t work as well as intended. On a busy weekend with a line of guests, they may abandon certain procedures for what seems to work for them. Personally, if I see new policies outlined and I don’t fully understand or I feel that there is a better way, I will go and speak with my GM or AGM and it will be thoroughly explained or, in some cases, we will work together to find a better way.

    The problem is that many front line employees are afraid to speak up. Either because they fear authority or don’t feel like there is an open door policy. In those situations, managers need to take the time to really hear the employee and truly respect their ideas and problems.

    Just my two cents from the front line! I hope it makes sense!

    Sidenote- I absolutely love lodging magazine and the resources provided. Maybe I’m the only “regular” hospitality employee that finds this information fascinating and informative, but I doubt that. As great as it is, I think it would be awesome to have perspectives from front line employees. It would be helpful to the industry leaders that read this as well as the normal folks like me.

    Have a great day!

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