Troubles in Cambodia Raise Interesting Issues
|By Mark Keith, HOTEL Asia Pacific - August 2004
The recent termination of 300 staff in Cambodia by Raffles International will, no doubt, become part of local hotel lore. It is not our aim here to point fingers or determine who is right and who is wrong in this particular dispute, but the case does raise some interesting general issues about hotel management/staff relationships.
[Editor's note: the following points are in no way referring to Raffles or its Cambodian properties, but are observations about the industry in general.]
Most parts of Asia have not, generally, been exposed to the tactics of the sophisticated unions of North America and Europe. In the Philippines, or other Asian countries where unions are active, it is relatively easy to negotiate, as the unions lack the muscle and political savvy of their Western counterparts.
However, these negotiations come at a price - one that has a direct influence on front-line service staff who carry the bags, serve the food, check-in the guests and ultimately create the experience that will carry huge word-of-mouth influence.
The simple truth is that service is a direct consequence of how employees are treated - and that, ultimately, depends on the example set by their employers.
People, unlike marble or fabrics, cannot be rejected because of flaws. The service jobs are often filled by staff who have received limited education, and whose previous employment experience, if any, might have been in farming, fishing, construction or manufacturing.
Many service staff have virtually no reference point on how to behave in a hotel. The journey from their rural homes to the luxurious and opulent "palace" is a see-saw, cross-cultural journey lined with cultural shocks.
They are eager and impressionable, but the lessons from their parents or previous teachers have no relevance in this luxurious new setting. Their dress code, grooming values and interpersonal behaviour will largely be shaped by the examples set by their managers. And, in the end, this "modelling" will determine the service that the guests experience.
If only it were that simple.
Service perfection cannot be achieved or maintained like a building project - it is the culmination of a number of complex and delicate inter-linked relationships.
The front-level staff member has a relationship with his/her peers, his/her supervisor and his/her supervisor's manager. Depending on the complexity of the organisational structure, there may be several other layers of management that also have an influence on staff members.
But, in a region with an ingrained respect for authority and power, individual managers can wield influence like that of feudal barons, and they have an overpowering influence on establishing the "norms" of behaviour.
If those in power act with indifference and arrogance, then that abuse of power will be replicated when it comes to interacting with the guests.
We all know how easy it is to get through to a hotel guest - just spell the name, and you will be put through immediately. Try, on the other hand, to reach a hotel's manager or a department head, and you will usually find layers of telephonists and secretaries, or recorded messages.
Hoteliers susceptible to unchecked "ego obesity" often begin to believe that they are mini celebrities, but this kind of power projection can be damaging to vulnerable egos who must answer to them. Their behaviour is observed and often subconsciously absorbed and copied by staff.
The level of service at any hotel is determined by a complicated set of factors, including the way individual staff feel they are managed - including the training they receive, how they feel about themselves, their job and the company.
The relationships that culminate in the staff/customer relationship are complex. It normally starts with the relationship between the owner and the GM or management company.
Every member of staff has an opinion and a perception of this relationship, and this is the most influential relationship in the hotel.
Add to that an owner's influence over the finance or purchasing department, which can have a deep influence on front-line staff member who have to deliver the service.
It's also not uncommon for an owner to have a relative or "special friend" embedded in the organisation, who exercise their ego-centric power to influence the culture.
This undermines the legitimate authority structure and creates a culture of favour and privilege - which is totally at odds with service excellence.
But the final determining factor on any given day is what their manager/supervisor did or didn't do to spark their staff's desire to achieve excellence.
For many front-line people, it's just a case of turning up for work, getting ignored and letting their default behaviour kick in.
[* Editor's note: Raffles defended the dismissals at its two hotels in Cambodia, explaining that when a strike by the workers - over service-charge payments - had been declared illegal by two Cambodian courts, the workers had 48 hours to return to their jobs. When they failed to do so, they were considered to have committed an act of gross misconduct, which resulted in their dismissals. The workers claimed they tried to return to their jobs but were turned away. Raffles said it did everything in compliance with the laws of Cambodia.]
First appeared in HOTEL Asia Pacific
Hotel Asia Pacific
158 Wong Uk Tsuen
Tel: +852 2882-7352
Fax: +852 2882-2461
|Also See||Jerk Alert: Gung-ho Sales People Trying to Sell their Gadgets or Services to a Hotel / HOTEL Asia Pacific / July 2004|
|Le Meridien's First Art+Tech Property in Asia Aims to Raise the Benchmark; Typical Reception Desk has Been Banished / HOTEL Asia Pacific / July 2004|
|Le Meridien Revs Up the Momentum; Obtains New Long-term Partnerships with Several High-profile/ HOTEL Asia Pacific Asia Pacific Hotel Owners as Recapitalisation Strategy Continues / June 2004|
|Chef In a Suit; Christian Abell explains why he hung up his chef's whites and put on a suit and tie to take over as F&B director at the JW Marriott Hong Kong / HOTEL Asia Pacific / February 2004|
|Asia Pacific Hotel Leaders Michael Issenberg, Miguel Ko, Patrick Imbardelli and Koos Klein Look at What Lies Ahead; The Greatest Challenge is Uncertainty / HOTEL Asia Pacific / January 2004|
|Senior Hotel Executives Are Scratching Their Heads Over an Annual Dilemma: What, if Any, Adjustments Should They Make to Next Yearís Payroll? / HOTEL Asia Pacific / December 2003|
|Why Indian Hotelier Jagsish Rai Sood Chose to Partner with Shangri-La to Operate His Latest Property in New Delhi / HOTEL Asia Pacific / December 2003|
|The World's Biggest Hotel Chains Planning Major Expansion in Asia; China Hotel Industry is the Certain Winner / HOTEL Asia Pacific / December 2003|
|K.P. Ho, Chairman of Asian-based Banyan Tree Hotels & Resorts, Discusses the Strategy Behind the Award Winning Brand; Building Banyan as Told to HOTEL Asia Pacific / November 2003|
|Patrick Imbardelli, InterContinental Hotel Groupís Managing Director for Asia Pacific, is ĎDivorcingí Owners Who Donít Fit In with the Groupís Values / Steve Shellum HOTEL Asia Pacific / November 2003|
|HOFEX Organisers Faced a Tough Choice When SARS Devastated Their Plans; Rescheduled Event Poised to Bounce Back in Hong Kong / November 2003|
|Terrorism: Whoís Liable? The Legal Status of Hotel Owners and Management Companies / Andrew MacGeogh, HOTEL Asia Pacific / October 2003|
|The Inside Story on How InterContinental Hong Kong Managing Director Jennifer Fox Teamed Up with Michelin Chef Alain Ducasse to Create a/ HOTEL Asia Pacific New Benchmark for Hotel Restaurants in Asia / Steve Shellum, HOTEL Asia Pacific / October 2003|
|Preview of the Wonderful and Wacky World of the W Seoul; Aiming to Break the Mould of Asia's Traditional Hotels / Steve Shellum, HOTEL Asia Pacific / October 2003|
|Chiller Replacement Project; How The Grand Hyatt Singapore Applied a Holistic Commercial View / HOTEL Asia Pacific / October 2003|
|Assessing Hotel Security; HOTEL Asia Pacific Magazine / Pertlink Re-Issue Hotel Security Checklist / August 2003|
|Pressure Cooking: Florian Trento, Executive Chef at the Peninsula Hong Kong, Explains How He and His Team Coped During the Bleakest Days of the SARs Crisis / HOTEL Asia Pacific / June 2003|
|Crisis Management: Could You Cope if the Unthinkable Happened / HOTEL Asia Pacific / June 2003|
|Back to Normal After SARS? Letís Hope Not.../ HOTEL Asia Pacific / June 2003|
|Fighting Spirits! Rank-and-file Staff at Bali InterContinental Resort Talk About Their Hopes, Fears, Dreams / HOTEL Asia Pacific / April 2003|
|On the Chopping Block; Are You Prepared If You Get Your Marching Orders?/ HOTEL Asia Pacific / April 2003|
|Trevor Bilney, Executive Chef at the Bali InterContinental Resort, Fights Hard Since Last October 12; Keeps Morale Up and Costs Down / HOTEL Asia Pacific / March 2003|
|Hotels Stepping Up Security; Learning to Live with the Threat of Terrorism as Part of Conducting Everyday Business / HOTEL Asia Pacific Survey / March 2003|
|50% of Hoteliers Have Not Increased Investment in Security Ė More than a Year After the September 11 Attacks / HOTEL Asia Pacific Survey / December 2002|
|Security: Something No Hotel Can Ignore / Geoff Griswold / Summer 2002|
|Biometrics Lend a Hand to Hotel Security / Feb 2002|
|Hotels Near Airports Provide Better Safety and Security Features According to The Center for Hospitality Research - Cornell Hotel School / Dec 2002|