Jul 7

By Elizabeth Johnson

Fighting Bias in Your Hotel Starts with Awareness

How do you change your biases if you’re not aware of them?

The simple answer is to become aware of them.

The more complex answer is to recognize that you, and everyone else, have unconscious biases and to commit to discovering them. Once you are aware of them, they are no longer unconscious and you are able to tackle them and ensure you don’t act upon them in the workplace in ways that are bad for you, your employees, your property, and your guests.

You’re probably aware of some biases—not hiring a woman because you think the best maintenance employees are men or not assigning a person of color to be a front desk representative because you think customers won’t be comfortable with him greeting them.

But would you find yourself in the following situations?

Miranda the Bell Attendant

Miranda is the most experienced, hardworking bell attendant at your hotel and has been there for many years, but lately the front desk manager has been assigning her to less desirable shifts and sending her on non-tip assignments. When talking to her one day, she lets slip that Miranda doesn’t look as hale and hearty as the younger bell attendants and she thinks Miranda can’t project the best image for the hotel.

Jonas the Sales Rep

You happen to overhear Jonas, one of your sales reps, giving a tour to a Hispanic couple you know is considering the hotel for an anniversary party. You later ask him why he didn’t offer them a group discount on a block of rooms. He shrugs, “Those people just pile into a few rooms anyway. I didn’t think it worth our time to try to sell them a room block.”

Gilbert and Theresa

You’re putting together a team of employees to participate in an annual community service event. Several of your employees have applied because it is a fun event that is paid and provides community recognition. Gilbert has asked to join for the first time this year and you’d like to reward him because he’s been putting in a lot of extra hours when you needed him. But you’ve already told Theresa she can be on the team. You know she attends a conservative church and you’re not sure how well she’ll cooperate with Gilbert, who is a transgender man.

You and the rooms director are reviewing applicants for night auditors. He glances at one résumé and tosses it aside, saying, “She’ll insist on wearing that head scarf thingy rather than the standard uniform. It’s not worth the hassle.”

Maids with Tattoos

You greet a guest as she is checking out to ask her how her stay was. She gives you a dirty look and says, “The standards here have really gone downhill. Can’t you find any maids who aren’t covered in tattoos?”

Some of these can be tricky situations and all of them can be uncomfortable. Being able to recognize bias—and knowing what to do about it—has become an ever-more important skill for hospitality managers.

The National Restaurant Association has teamed up with the Multicultural Foodservice & Hospitality Alliance to create training to help support you in handling these difficult situations and helping your employees become more aware of how bias affects their work performance. Understanding Unconscious Bias, an online training suite that is part of ServSafe Workplace, is designed to help you grow in your awareness and deepen the cultural intelligence of your entire team.