OperationsThree 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.

Daniel A. Johnson
Daniel A. Johnson
Daniel A. Johnson, CHA, CHIA, is an award-winning hotelier with decades of industry experience. He currently serves as a consultant to hotel owners and developers throughout the Mid-Atlantic region.