B.C. ASKS ...
“I’m a banquet captain at a large convention
property in the Southwest. On a recent slow
day, we had a fire drill for the entire staff of
several hundred people. I watched as everyone
went through the motions, laughed, and
took their time in evacuating the building.
The person leading the drill, who is a senior
manager, was laughing and joking as well, and
it bothered me. What if we had a full house of
guests—perhaps a banquet in progress—and
a real disaster happened? I’m certain our staff
wouldn’t know what to do, and there would be
panic. I brought this up to the emergency team
leader, and he said I’m “worrying too much.”
Since this senior manager doesn’t seem to care,
should I go to human resources, with the goal
of having this person removed as the emergency
team leader? Obviously, he could make
my job more difficult or perhaps even have me
fired if he finds out.
THE STAFFING DOCTOR ANSWERS ...
Did the hijinks start right off the bat, or did
the merriment begin after the alarm was
confirmed to be a drill? You might argue that
anytime you’re at work it is serious business,
but the hospitality industry is made better by
sparkling personalities, and quelling them
on a perceived bonus break will always be an
uphill climb. You might have to travel far and
wide to find a hospitality crew lined up at attention
in a parking lot.
The right thing to do, of course, is to have
any fire drill training treated with proper
awareness and respect. Any fire can go from
bad to worse in the space of a few heartbeats.
An uncontrolled fire is a wickedly bad problem,
and all precautions and measures (including
fire drills) should be undertaken with
professionalism to prepare for an emergency
of this nature.
But let’s be honest—people become
complacent with rote routines. The mundane
becomes boring, and these days, chasing
attention spans is taxing, like sprinting after
a dine-and-dasher. If this is the status quo at
your hotel, then this is certainly a case where
crowd-sourced wisdom will lead everyone
astray. Personally, I am a follower of the “how
you practice is how you play” school of hard
knocks. In most business settings, the leaders
with the most followers (boss or not) are
those who model the desired behaviors prior
to attempting to teach the desired behaviors,
thereby avoiding potential mixed messages.
If, as you say, bringing to light legitimate
concerns could result in retaliation, then there
is a raft of other potential problems at this
property. All enlightened operators have an
open door policy where there is some mechanism
in place for feedback to reach the folks
that do care and can change things.
B.C., you must weigh out your personal
values and survey the culture that surrounds
you. It is for you to decide if direct action
is worth the risk. You could also choose to
turn this problem into an opportunity by
navigating the situation rather than meeting
it head-on. Most of the folks you work for are
looking for problem solvers, not just problem
identifiers. Rather than dump this problem on
somebody else, why not think through how
you can contribute your talents, commitment,
and passion toward the results you seek?
Could you execute ways to enliven or engage
your compadres and get everyone’s competitive
juices flowing? A safety contest perhaps
(fire drills included), where rewards, worked
out in trade with the hotel, are doled out to
the top performing teams?
The only limit is your imagination when it
comes to problem solving. This will give you
something constructive to work on and might
take care of your issue. Who knows—you may
even get a little career boost by showing that
problem solving resides in your wheelhouse.
Chase LeBlanc is the founder and CEO
of Leadagers, LLC, and is a hospitality
management performance coach with
more than 25 years of experience in
the industry. He is also the author of
High Impact Hospitality: Upgrade Your
Purpose, Performance and Profits!