Inside-Out Hospitality – Time for Change

Last summer, I read an article in the Irish Times about Dr. Deirdre Curran’s research, Inside-Out Hospitality: The Study of Working Conditions in the Hospitality Sector in Ireland that will be featured in this week’s RevenueHACKS. Dr. Curran’s findings evoked many emotions. I’ve worked in the hospitality industry nearly all of my life and believe that these challenges are globally relevant. As Dr. Curran explains, “The people working in this sector are related to many of us. They are people we care about.” In hospitality, we have a close connection with our colleagues and team. We work long hours under stressful conditions and are a personal part of our colleagues’ and guests’ lives. If managed well, the results are seen as more than just the bottom line. 

Dr. Curran’s findings provide shocking statistics that indicate many hospitality employees are unaware of their rights and are exposed to some form of harassment and/or abuse. Looking deeper into Dr. Curran’s research, her results indicated nearly 77% of participants had experienced verbal abuse sometimes or often, and nearly 64% had experienced psychological abuse sometimes or often. Reading through the testimonials, I am reminded of our industry and how immune I have nearly grown to it. Like some of the participants mentioned, ill treatment is tolerated and to be expected in the hospitality industry, whether it’s from egoistic managers or demanding guests. Why do we treat hospitality workers badly if these are people we care about?

Dr. Curran’s research reminded me of what we stand for at RaizUp as a global community. She mentions at the beginning of her report that she chose to publish these findings for two reasons; firstly, she felt that she had a duty to the participants to have their voice heard. Secondly, it also included excellent suggestions for a long-due change in our industry. We believe at RaizUp that empowering individuals to speak up and have their voice heard will inspire and empower others to do likewise, and in turn lead to a change in the industry. The testimonials in Dr. Curran’s research are similar to those in Monika Hilm’s book, “Put Your People First and the Rest Will Follow“. I spoke to Monika earlier this year and she mentioned how inspired she was of the next generation of hoteliers because “They don’t take it”. I believe this too.  Hoteliers need to stop sweeping this under the rug. It’s destroying our industry because the next generation will not tolerate it and instead will go elsewhere. This is currently demonstrated clearly in the current shortage of workforce in the hospitality sector. Will this continue as part of our new normal within our sector?

Hotel schools and universities play a key role. Often hospitality students that work on placement schemes are seen as cheap labour and maybe victims of ill treatment and abuse. Work placements are communicated in such a way that the students feel that they should be grateful to gain experience at luxury brands, and that failure to complete their work placements would result in failure of their degree. This is a huge mental pressure on students who may not know who to turn to or, as illustrated in Dr. Curran’s research, are not even aware of their employment rights in situations like this. It may also potentially start a vicious circle of “T-Rex” managers. I hope that this research will empower hotel schools and universities to make a stand against hotels who treat students like this. Instead I hope that they support students who find themselves in these difficult situations. 

As Dr. Curran mentions, this research represents a “litmus test” of the hospitality sector in Ireland. I’m delighted to see that some international brands are taking a stand to prioritise and protect their people as a change is needed in our industry towards a sustainable future. 

This week, the no nonsense crew at RevenueHACKS will be talking to Dr. Deirdre Curran about her findings and The Real Human Behind Hospitality. Don’t miss it!

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