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Taking responsibility R

esponsibility is the state or fact of being accountable for something. But where does one’s responsibility start and end? Let us look at a simple but common example. You get up for work as usual, leave your house and go to

the bus stop. The bus is behind schedule and you arrive late for work. Of course, your boss is angry because you missed that important meeting, scheduled a long time ago. Who is responsible for your late arrival? The vast majority of

employees I have spoken to respond that it is not the worker’s fault; the bus was late and he had no control over that. Do you think this way too? Consider the topic in a little more depth. If the worker

declares he is not responsible for his late arrival, automatically he claims he was a victim of the bus driver. The driver was responsible for the delay. Making yourself a victim of life’s circumstances takes power

from you. It means you are not in control. In this case, the worker’s power now belongs to the bus driver. The driver had the power to make him arrive late for work. Does that scenario sound a little ridiculous to you? In fact,

it is ridiculous. But it is how many people live their lives, every single day. A habit that goes hand-in-hand with this is to keep complaining about unexpected events: “Look at what happened to me: the bus is late and my boss now is blaming me. But I had nothing to do with it.”

Be a bellwether Let’s play another game. Think for a second about the possibility of the worker actually being responsible for arriving late to work. He knew a long time ago that there would be an important meeting but he just did what he does every day. He got up, had breakfast, got ready and went to work without taking into account the possibility of an unpleasant, last-minute surprise. Should he not have been more conscious of the importance

of the meeting and the need to be on time? Leaving home a bit earlier could have averted a lot of trouble. Who is really responsible for the worker’s lateness; the

driver or the worker? Taking responsibility means not blaming others. It is about

taking ownership of all of your actions, even those that, at a  rst glance, you cannot control directly. In other words, if you arrive late for work, it is easy to

blame the bus driver. Truly responsible employees look inside themselves to see how they could have averted such an outcome. Of course, one cannot control all the variables affecting

one’s life. But if you see yourself as responsible for your actions, you gain greater power to control them. Taking

What can hotels do to promote a culture of responsibility among their employees? First they can create a work environment where workers are stimulated to “wear the company T-shirt”, if only metaphorically


responsibility is moving forward. If you are responsible, you are not interested in earning credit or blaming others; you are interested in improving yourself.

No sir, yes sir How does this affect the hospitality industry? There are

two kinds of responsibilities when you work in this sector: the hotel’s responsibilities and the responsibilities of its employees – the ones who actually deliver the service. Hotels no longer sell just rooms. They promise customer

satisfaction and comfort. Employees have the task of keeping such promises. Take these two examples. In the  rst, a hotel employee

responds to a complaint or a request by saying: “Sorry, sir, there’s nothing I can do”. He then walks away. In the second example, a hotel employee responds to a complaint or request by saying: “I’m sorry for your inconvenience, sir. I’m not able to respond to your complaint or request but if you give me one second, I will  nd someone who can solve this problem.” It is hard these days to  nd a hotel employee in Macau who

will give the second answer. Why? Because employees do not take responsibility for the service they are supposed to give. If it is not their direct task, they leave it to someone else to do. What can hotels do to promote a culture of responsibility

among their employees? First they can create a work environment where workers are

stimulated to “wear the company T-shirt”, if only metaphorically. In other words, employees should feel they are also stakeholders. If well used, this is a powerful way of motivating staff.

Three bags full, sir I know this from personal experience. More than 20 years ago, I was a cashier at the Disney-MGM theme park in Florida. I was there eight hours a day, six days a week, attending to thousands of tourists speaking different languages and with an array of different needs, including the need to know where the nearest bathrooms were. My duty was only to be a cashier, not to man an information

kiosk. But my work environment happened to be a place where people were on vacation with their families – in many cases, their dream vacation. My work philosophy was to “wear the company T-shirt”. The

company’s customers were my customers. I should be a vivid representation of the brand. This is what most guests expect when they stay in a luxury

hotel. They pay and they want to be given what the hotel brand promises them. Every single employee is instrumental in giving it to them. For hotel chains with premises other than in Macau, guests

will expect no less than the same standard of service that they had previously experienced in their hotels in other locations. Note that buildings are not what make the big difference in

the hospitality industry – employees are. If employees regard themselves as stakeholders, they will more easily assume full responsibility for their actions. If that happens, they will start seeing everything from a

different perspective and may soon discover that anticipating and ful lling a guest’s needs is not as hard as they thought, regardless of whether it is their direct task or not. At the end of the day, that makes them more satis ed employees too.

JULY 2011

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