Respect Your Hotel Titles

The workplace today is vastly different than it was 50 or even 20 years ago. Organizations have a flat structure, people opt to work from home, attire is far more casual and we’ve all but stopped addressing our superiors by their formal titles. While most of these progressions are indeed progress and advantageous for productivity, employee happiness and innovation, it’s the latter one that may cause some problems specific to the hospitality industry.

A while back, I wrote about how the phasing out of the neck tie for front desk staffers (for the men at least) will change guests’ perceptions of a hotel. I argued that even though this change may invoke a more casual and breezy attitude for the brand, there is nevertheless something to be said about a sharp dressed man. When you dress for success, then you will get exactly that.

Upholding a brand standard of neat uniforms or formal attire sets the tone with your guests that you are indeed a professional and that you are more than prepared to handle their every need. By abandoning the neck tie as a mandate, we are inviting more lackadaisical sentiments to set in regarding the nature of our work environment and how serious we are about our jobs.

Comparatively, while I go by ‘Larry’ at the office, it wasn’t too long away when anything less than ‘Mister’, ‘Misses’ or ‘Miss’ were the only appropriate ways of addressing one’s superiors. Just like the neck tie, by flattening the hierarchy via the ways you allow your subordinates to open a dialogue, you may be subconsciously permitting many other workplace transgressions.

There’s another prominent aspect at play, and the military offers a clear-cut example. When you address an officer as, say, “Colonel, sir!” it’s not just a form of reinforcing discipline and the command structure. We address such an officer because we respect that individual insofar as their character and what they’ve gone through in addition to the institution for which they represent.

As a similar example, while you may or may not agree with the current POTUS’s action, you’d be damned if you don’t call him, “Mr. President” if you are ever lucky enough to find yourself in a room together. You call him this not because you are afraid of the secret service stationed nearby, but because you hold the United States and its government in high regard.

Say what you will about either of these institutions, but both require expert precision to be run properly. While I wouldn’t advocate that hospitality organizations move at the pace of a national government or follow draconian military-like protocols, perhaps injecting a touch of formality vis-à-vis job titles may just be the trick to imbuing a sense of duty and deference for one’s work.

Hitting a little closer to home, one hotel example where this formality still exists is with our executive chefs. For them, there’s never a first-name basis when you are all in uniform. It’s, “Yes, Chef.” or “No, Chef.” And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Running a kitchen is tough. It’s a hot, loud and crowded space with a thousand moving parts and machinery that make it quite dangerous. Without discipline, not only would the quality of food and speed of service suffer, but people would get hurt. The use of proper job titles embodies this drive for process perfection as well as the time-honored institution of culinary artistry.

Moreover, it’s not only important for line cooks to address their immediate superiors as ‘Chef’. This must also be trained and reinforced by everyone else so that we all fully understand that great food is an essential part of hospitality and that it requires some form of veneration to get right.

While not enforcing this code for senior management makes these executives more accessible, maybe it’s time we starting calling our GMs by ‘Mister’ again. And as a final point, job titles are a two-way street. That is, in order to be called and continue to be called by a prescribed nomenclature, you must first earn this namesake as well as honor its traditions and ethical parameters.

(Article by Larry Mogelonsky, published by Hotels Magazine on July 15, 2016).

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