How Hospitality Professionals Can Overcome Unconscious Bias
Hcareers / JANUARY 11 2021

The Black Lives Matter movement ignited an important national conversation about diversity and inclusion. Unconscious or implicit bias, are unfair predispositions for or against a particular group, individual, or thing, has quickly become a significant part of that dialogue.

While it’s easy to think of unconscious bias solely in terms of racial discrimination, it unfortunately also lends itself to religion, gender, sexual identity, age, physical abilities, and even weight. So many aspects of our lives are affected by unconscious bias, both those prejudices that we unwittingly hold toward other people as well as the biased lens that others view us through.

Becoming more aware of unconscious bias and learning strategies to address and reduce it in the workplace is essential to anyone in the hospitality industry, where we work side-by-side with and welcome people from all walks of life, every day. Overcoming unconscious bias can make for a more positive and productive work environment while also allowing staff to deliver still better service to guests. 

Unconscious Bias Training

Many hospitality businesses and organizations have begun to develop training programs in order to combat unconscious bias in the workplace. For example, the American Hotel & Lodging Educational Institute, in conjunction with the Multicultural Foodservice & Hospitality Alliance, offers “Understanding Unconscious Bias,” a training suite for employees and managers in the foodservice and hotel industries.  

Another foodservice-specific edition, “Understanding Unconscious Bias in Restaurants,” offers 30-minute training modules for both manages and employees. 

Both the hospitality and the restaurant course include 30-minute training modules for managers and staff, using industry-specific scenarios as teaching tools that illustrate how exactly unconscious bias affects us at work and how we can build a better culture of respect and inclusion among staff and guests.  

So be sure to ask your employer if such a program is available to staff. 

Awareness & Understanding

But even if your employer doesn’t offer unconscious bias training, you can still take steps to recognize and overcome your own predispositions toward others. First, understand what unconscious bias is and accept that all of us have them. Then give some deeper thought to what unconscious biases you may have and how they could negatively affect your colleagues and guests. 

This can be a difficult exercise to go at alone. So look for some online tools that may help you in this journey. For example, the Google video “Making the Unconscious Conscious” really makes clear how stereotypes affect a professional environment and why we should want to overcome them. 

The video series “Blind Spots” by global consulting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) can also be helpful in understanding and challenging your own implicit biases. The series is broken down into several short videos such as “Broaden Perspectives” and “Enhance Objectivity.” 

Expand Your Horizons

Most of us tend to develop a social circle –even at work—and then limit our interactions with others to mainly that group. But if you’re truly committed to overcoming your own implicit bias, expand your network at work. 

Make a point of engaging with people that you haven’t spent a lot of time with. Have lunch with them. Ask how long they’ve been with the company, where they worked before, and what their plans are for upcoming time off. 

You may be surprised at how much you can learn about someone by showing some interest. Likely, these conversations will strengthen your professional relationships with colleagues. 

Reconsider Your Approach to Guest Service

It can be easier to build a rapport with coworkers with who you may not have engaged much in the past because you spend more time with them in the long-term. The time spent with guests is finite. 

Nevertheless, you’ll want to ask yourself if you’re treating all guests equally or if there are certain guests with whom you try to minimize interactions. If so, ask yourself why and remember that every guest patronizing the hotel or restaurant expect an exceptional experience. 

Are you naturally inclined to converse more with certain guests over others? Are you more likely to offer assistance to some guests, but not others? 

Think about the ways in which you go the extra mile for some guests. Then consider how you can replicate that behavior across the board. 

It isn’t simply about morals and ethics. Offering consistent guest service excellence is essential to every job function in the hospitality industry.