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Is Your Hotel Staff Trigger-Proof?

By: Gay Lynn Williamson-Grigas, March 2010
CEO of Grigas Consulting and a Psychologist and Internationally Published Author and Speaker 
If you are in hospitality and guest services, you probably consider yourself a “people person” who likes working with others and, hopefully, solving problems so that everyone is satisfied. But dealing with unhappy guest’s day in and day and trying to please your superiors can get the best of you.  Everyone has buttons and when they get “pushed” we become “triggered.” 
What do I mean by “being triggered”? Everyone has different triggers, which are as varied as our personalities, but our responses are much the same. For example a guest or co-worker blames us for something and we automatically become defensive. Defensiveness indicates we have been triggered. As adrenaline hits our system our hearts beat faster, our faces flush, and our bodies tense. It’s difficult to mask strong reactions like these with fake smiles and appropriately scripted phrases. When someone can push our buttons or trigger us they potentially own us—which means they control us.  Whether we are aware of it or not, we have given them power to do so. Now we need to know what our unique buttons are and how do we defuse ourselves and regain our power?  By regaining our power we respond from a place of power; we maintain our own self-control.     
Behavior Is an Inside Job 
At this point you might be saying, “The problem is not with me, but with the crazy irate guests and co-workers I have to deal with all day. I get blamed by them, then my boss—now are you saying that my behavior is the real issue, that I am to blame?” Not at all! It’s simply a matter of insight and awareness. The working principle is that when we understand ourselves, it is much easier to understand and deal comfortably with others. That is why Trigger-Proof focuses on working on the inside, where behavior begins.  Remember the old saying “as within so without.”  In other words what is happening inside me will eventually find its way out into my world and my relationships.  
Hotel Scenario: Tight Lipped Tom at the Front Desk 
Here is a scenario dealing with what we internally expect and anticipate.  Tom works at the front desk at a hotel and has been at the job for several months now; long enough to have experienced his fair share of “difficult” guests.  All this has made Tom a bit cynical when he comes to work each day.  Because he expects guests to go off on him he usually looks very tight lipped and a bit angry.  He is a good worker but guests are offended by his seemingly hostile demeanor.  He justifies it by saying “It’s just me, this is who I am. It’s not personal.”  But guests take his harsh exterior and tight lipped attitude as a slap in the face and complain over and over, which is now triggering his boss Sandy.  Sandy has talked to Tom about this on a few occasions, which has produced more tension and little change in Tom, who was just recently named in a bad review posted by a guest on TripAdvisor. 
Tom doesn’t see how he is triggering guests by expecting and anticipating the worst in them and giving them the tight lipped non-verbal communication.  His expectation of crazy, irate guests helps create an atmosphere favorable for manifesting even crazier, more irate guests. What he anticipates usually comes straight for him, which in his mind further justifies his harsh demeanor.  He is caught in a loop of hostility and upset of his own creation and doesn’t even see it or recognize the part that he plays in it. 
Mastering Responses 
What is Sandy to do as his manager?  Obviously her approach hasn’t worked so far and more of the same will probably lead to terminating another associate, then the need to interview, hire, and train a replacement.  Or she could try showing Tom a new way to program his responses to negative interactions with guests and his co-workers too.  Associates like Tom can learn to improve guest relationships by mastering their responses to situations or people who trigger them.    
Our Thinking and Perceptions Can Cause Us to Be Triggered   
Some perceptions that we come to believe are true can produce internal conflict and upset, causing us to be triggered.  We need to mange our own perceptions, thoughts, feelings and actions.   
An early skill to master in preparation to becoming Trigger-Proof is the ability to be self- reflective to become consciously aware of what we are thinking.  Most people are not taught to think about what they are thinking about.  
Our perceptions are uniquely ours, we created them, we are reacting to them, and we may be letting them trigger us.  These are our lenses of perceptions like eye glasses that we see through.  Some lenses may be quite distorted and cause us upset and frustration, others may be exaggerating and magnifying small problems and making them larger than they really are.  This alters our thinking process. 
The process goes like this: 
My perception of an action or event at work—triggering … 
My Thought about the action or event at work—triggering . . . 
My Feelings about the action or event at work—triggering . . . 
My Responses at work—triggering . . . 

Another action or reaction at work -- causing additional frustration or trigger for myself. 

And then the process may repeat itself. 
Mastering and Overcoming  Thought Patterns that are Habitual 
Most importantly some of our thoughts and feelings and responses may be habits, bad habits of negative thought patterns. We have repeated them so many times our responses have become a habit, like the default mode on a computer.  The negative thought patterns have worn groves in our brains.  We default to a lower level of functioning when we get negatively triggered.  
We can break the old negative triggers to certain stimulation or events by first becoming aware of them.  We can create new groves in the brain and new habits of thoughts that are more desirable in the workplace.  When we are in intense conflict we are triggered into a “fight or flight” mode and we lose touch with our ability to process rationally.  We are then in irrational negative reaction mode which is the worst trigger of all.   
We learn to pay attention to the thoughts but not react to them negatively.  We can choose to reprogram our thinking and feelings to a higher level of functioning instead of the habitual lower level of functioning.  We can choose not to over- dramatize our thoughts and emotions and or disconnect completely and refuse to feed into the negativity.  
We need to know how much of our own thinking may be pushing us over the edge and getting us triggered.  
We can improve guest and co-worker relationships by mastering our responses to situations or people who trigger us.  When we realize how we are triggered, we can prepare ourselves internally to respond more appropriately externally the next time these situations occur.    

When we do so, we become more skilled at building dynamic working relationships with those we serve. The better we understand our strengths and weaknesses, the more effective we become at altering our responses to uncomfortable situations. But the affect doesn’t stop there. 
When we are comfortable within ourself, we are more conscious of others’ comfort levels, and their strengths and weaknesses. Self-knowledge leads to knowing others as well. This translates into more cooperation, less drama at work; more mutual empowerment and less demoralization and splitting between hostile workers; more sales generated with truly satisfied guests and less static about crazy, irate guests and anticipating the worst.  And truly satisfied guests will be repeat guests and tell others on their social networking and guest review websites what a great time they had in your hotel.     

Gay Lynn Williamson-Grigas, CEO of Grigas Consulting and author of Trigger-Proof Your Way to Success: 12 Tools to Keep Your Cool and Confidence in the Workplace, a corporate trainer and psychologist. Email  Visit  For training or speaking engagements in the Hospitality Industry contact Kennedy Training Network a trusted training provider in the industry for over 20 years at 954-981-7689 or 

Doug Kennedy
Kennedy Training Network, Inc.
1926 Hollywood Boulevard, Suite 203
Hollywood, FL  33020
Office: 954.981.7689
Mobile: 954.558.4777



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