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By David Lund

In my career, I have seen both. Lots of appreciation for hard work and a challenging workplace. On the flip side a horror story of the blame for “mistakes” and lack of preparedness.

Blame is the easy one to master. Management by embarrassment as I like to refer to it. One of my past hotels was a classic blame game hotel. After a much-publicized error or screw up or service interruption the GM would warmly ask, “Where is my victim?” or state, “Bring me the victim.” What usually followed was paramount to a public flogging. Everyone got their turn and the others would just watch in stunned disbelief only being thankful that it was not his or her turn today.

The weekly department head meeting was always somewhat entertaining and horrific at the same time. Each week someone would be singled out. Always at least one victim and sometimes more than one would get the wrath of our GM and quite often for the simplest, seemingly meaningless, things. No one escaped without a turn in the hot seat. Many times there were tears and many people cited it as the reason for moving on and finding a new job.

In one instance I remember vividly a sales manager was asked about the pickup report from the previous day. She had the numbers right and it was a slow day.

Our GM asked her, “Do you know how to sell?”

She answered, “Yes...,” with heavy hesitation in her voice. She knew it was her turn. The oxygen was now being removed from the room as we collectively gasped and all looked around the table at one another in horror. She was innocent—her only crime was being in sales today. Nonetheless, it was her turn to take it on the chin.

“Sell me this pencil,” he said to her. Her words were garbled at best as we all sat in silence. He continued, “Find out what kind of pencil I want, you moron! Then tell me why your pencil is exactly the one I need.” She was quickly reduced to tears in the ensuing silence and left the room. This was the typical result. With the carnage complete the agenda continued.

Right after this meeting I had a meeting scheduled with him and asked, “Why do you pick on people and single them out, embarrassing them in front of their peers?”

“I’m an actor doing my job," he smiled and said, “It’s my job to hold these people accountable and maintain control.”

I told him there are other ways to do that. He said he knew that but it’s not as much fun.

Old habits die hard. About a month later our executive team went on a retreat and the facilitator did an exercise where we went around the table and each person took turns as all other members, about ten of us, told each other what we liked and did not like about the way we worked.

Our GM was last. I was first in the rotation to tell him what I liked and did not like. I told him I really appreciated his passion and creativity. Now the hard part: “We spoke about this before one-on-one,” I told him, “Your habit of singling a person out at the weekly meeting is shameful and in my opinion, it’s the biggest problem that could be easiest solved—just stop doing it.”

Silence…… You could have heard a pin drop. He simply nodded his head and my turn was over. Well, one after one, the next nine executives told him the exact same thing, “Stop being such a bully.” The rules were simple for this exercise: We were to listen, say nothing and acknowledge.

In that moment, I learned a lot. Bullies are not only found on the playground and people can change.

Appreciation for the people you work with and a commitment to being fair and reasonable are the attributes you want to possess. Create and nurture. It does not mean you are a softy or a pushover but putting oneself in another’s shoes and actually wearing them is not easy, especially when there are a few hundred pairs of feet all around you.

The best thing you can do when everyone else is losing his or her head is to keep yours. 

About David Lund

David Lund is The Hotel Financial Coach, an international hospitality financial leadership pioneer. He has held positions as a Regional Financial Controller, Corporate Director and Hotel Manager with Fairmont Hotels for over 30 years.  

He authored an award-winning workshop on Hospitality Financial Leadership and has delivered it to hundreds of hotel managers and leaders. David coach’s hospitality executives and delivers his Financial Leadership Workshops throughout the world, helping hotels, owners and brands increase profits and build financially engaged leadership teams.  

David speaks at hospitality company meetings, associations and he has had several financial leadership articles published in hotel trade magazines and he is the author of two books on Hospitality Financial Leadership. David is a Certified Hotel Accounting Executive through HFTP and a Certified Professional Coach with CTI.   

Contact: David Lund / (415) 696-9593

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