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Hospitality Workers On The Frontline Of Social Trauma

The shortage in hospitality staff may be more a symptom of unwillingness to work in a sector suffering unprecedented levels of rude and intolerant customers.

Former bar owner and now personal transformation strategist and CEO of Genius You, Simone-Ellen Keller, said it is unlikely that unfavourable working conditions like low pay, demanding working conditions, and even a drop in immigration, are solely to blame for growing staff shortages in the hospitality sector because those conditions have always existed and did not deter people in the past.

"Hospitality staff shortages is a global issue and even countries that pay well or don't rely on immigrants are struggling. In my experience, people who work in hospitality are often gregarious and they're there for the party as much as anything else. Working in hospitality is fun—the magic made up for the negatives.”

However, Keller said, growing trends in rudeness and intolerance from the public are taking the fun out of it.

"I think we're focusing on the wrong things when it comes to addressing staff shortages. I think the workforce that is coming through, your Generations Ys, expect to be treated better but rude and abusive customers are now a constant occurrence.

“If we want to continue to enjoy good service from great bars, pubs and restaurants then we the public need to be better and make sure the environment is safe for the people serving us."

Keller said one reason for a rude and stressed public is because reality has invaded the hospitality space.

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"We go out to unwind and get away from it all. Hospitality staff love the work they do because they get to be performers and the public gets to feel special and important. However, months of Covid restrictions, the cost-of-living crisis, and the terrible mauling that hospitality businesses took over the pandemic means customers are more stressed, money is tighter and hospitality managers are struggling to make ends meet. The pressure of it all causes resentment.

"Everybody is running around with shortened fuses and frontline staff are the meat in the sandwich."

Keller said more training, higher salaries and better work conditions won't necessarily fix what has moved from a frontline staffing position to a battle line position.

“The only variable in the relationship is us, the customers. We need to check our behaviour.”

1. Staff, own your truth

Keller said that hospitality staff are taught to 'never take it personal,' but that isn't practical.

"When another person is nasty to you, it is personal. In that kind of situation, you want to make sure you are safe and when you are, retreat to your truth. Whatever the truth is for you, it is truth--unlike the words getting thrown at you.

"Your truth may be, 'I am a professional and I do a great job,' or 'for every bad customer I have ten awesome ones'."

2. Managers, back your staff

Keller said it is tempting for managers to take the side of customers in the new climate because they need the business, but good staff are what will make or break a business.

"Let your staff express themselves; let them shine. Hospitality (and even retail) is about the atmosphere and the fun and that's when the magic happens. Your business will be better for it.

"Without the support of management and their team members, hospitality staff will simply not cope in this tense atmosphere we are living in. If you want to keep and attract good people, make sure you are worthy of their loyalty."

3. All of us, rudeness begets rudeness

Keller said a culture of rudeness damages society.

"If you are a customer and somebody spoils your fantasy because they were slow or surly or the food was cold and the coffee bitter, remember that rudeness begets rudeness.

“Rudeness will come right back at you and your future experiences will be worse because an increasingly rude public is driving the true professionals out the industry—that means the next time you go out the customer service may well be even worse because they are understaffed and all the professionals who loved their jobs have left."

More information here: https://www.geniusyou.co.nz/

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