Recent events such as the #MeToo movement and Black Lives Matter have changed what it means to be a good coworker. As more hospitality companies focus on diversity and inclusion as part of their hiring and promotion practices, hospitality workers can expect to work with people from a wide array of backgrounds.
Fortunately, the hospitality industry has long had a diverse workforce. But still, coworkers of different cultural, racial, and religious heritages as well as LGBTQ colleagues may face greater challenges in the workplace, both from fellow coworkers as well as guests.
To be a valuable coworker to everyone, you want to make sure you carry out all of your job responsibilities and help others, even before they ask for assistance. But to be an ally, you need to be supportive of coworkers with whom you don’t necessarily share an identity.
There are a lot of articles out there about what it means to be an ally at work. Often these are focused on using privilege to speak up for coworkers who are marginalized. Hospitality workers should first call on a supervisor to step in when they see or hear a colleague or a guest speaking or behaving inappropriately to another coworker. Hospitality is a very public-facing business.
Calling someone out –whether it’s in front of a guest or to a guest directly—for making unsuitable remarks or acting unacceptably comes with risk for the business. Hotel management won’t tolerate situations that could make guests uncomfortable and consequently result in bad reviews on social media.
Your employer will be very aware of this. However, they also will not want to see a guest or a staff member be made to feel uncomfortable or unvalued. So involve a supervisor immediately when you see a coworker being mistreated. This is part of what it means to be an ally.
You also don’t know how it will make your coworker feel if you escalate a situation on their behalf. Be conscious of their feeling.
Also, ask your managers if there is an established protocol for responding when other team members endure improper comments and behavior.
Another way in which other articles on being an ally at work don’t necessarily apply to hospitality is the fact that they are often aimed at Caucasian men. The hospitality business already enjoys a more diverse workforce than most other industries.
While corporate leadership is largely comprised of Caucasian men at most hotel companies, the workforce is made up of a broad spectrum of people who can’t afford to wait for corporate leaders to rectify each issue as it arises.
So regardless of your own identity, be an ally to all of your coworkers. If you’ve already been working at a hotel or a restaurant for a while, your experience gives you the power to make a new coworker feel included.
Whether you’ve been formally assigned to train a new hire or not, you can still make an effort to teach them some of the smaller details that you’ve learned over time. Tell them about some of the staff’s tried-and-true tactics for turning around dissatisfied guests. If providing free coffee vouchers to unhappy guests changes their attitude for the better most of the time, share this with your less experienced colleague.
You can also help ease some of those awkward moments like going on breaks by just letting them know what the procedure is when they are ready to go and adding pointers such as “the coffee in the break room is always free” or which employee locker to avoid because the door sometimes sticks.
In short, make yourself an unofficial mentor.
The idea of being an ally is about more than social justice. You’re not an ally if you’re willing to be vociferous when you see someone being spoken to or treated unjustly, but are otherwise disinterested in that person.
Moreover, the hospitality industry is built upon the idea of making others feel warmly welcomed. So make an effort to show interest in your colleagues’ lives and interests, even if they are different from yours.
Asking a question like “what did you do on your day off?” and simply listening to the other person can go a long way in making someone feel valued and appreciated.
Also, don’t let the labels we put on each other distract you from the similarities you share with all of your coworkers. Chances are, you and your colleagues have similar professional backgrounds, and, working in hospitality, it’s also highly likely that you share a certain curiosity about the world and an interest in travel and good food.
So start a conversation by sharing what you like about hospitality and ask why they chose to work in the industry.