How to Reduce Staff Tension in a Busy Hospitality Business

Management 7 minute read 5th October 2020

Research suggests that three out of 10 hospitality workers leave their roles within a year. Unsociable hours, low pay and poor career prospects were the top three reasons cited for the 30% staff turnover rate.

That paints a rather bleak picture of an industry which is the third biggest employer in the UK, and we think that’s a little unfair.

If you’ve worked in hospitality, you’ll know it can be hugely rewarding and full of positive experiences that stay with you for a lifetime.

Unfortunately, it can also be very stressful, and if you’re currently in charge of a team that feels tense to the point of being unproductive, the following tips should help.

Speak to them

In a fast-paced hospitality environment, it’s easy to get lost in service or feel like you’re constantly chasing your tail. As a result, HR duties may not get the attention they deserve.

The first step to fixing a team broken by tension is to speak to the people within it. You can do this in a group setting or individually (or both, ideally), but however you decide to address the tense atmosphere, make sure you do so before things get out of hand.

Approach such meetings in a non-accusatory, relaxed fashion and start by asking each team member what they enjoy and dislike about their job. The latter is where you should get to the nub of the problem.

Identify and eradicate communication errors

Poor - or a complete lack of - communication is one of the primary reasons teams fall out.

An email that should have been communicated verbally or a message that’s not passed on are just two examples of bad communication that will raise tensions within the team.

For a team to work effectively together, communication needs to be of a high standard. If a decision is made by the management that directly impacts an element of service, it’s vital everyone is made aware of the decision and the reasons behind it.

Likewise, if you have more than one manager, they need to work in harmony. Imagine a scenario where two hotel managers inadvertently start working to different standards. Manager A tells the reception team that they can respond to TripAdvisor reviews but neglects to inform Manager B of that decision, thus when the review responses start rolling out, Manager B feels undermined.

Bad communication can be easily fixed, so find where it lies within your organisation - fast - and make changes to eradicate.

Look beyond core skills when recruiting

Recruitment is tough, but it’s a lot easier when you know how to look for the right people. And, when it comes to building teams that work without tension, it all starts with the hiring process.

Core skills are vital in hospitality, but so too is personality, desire and emotional intelligence. If you recruit solely based on experience and the contents of a CV, you might inadvertently end up with a team that consists of skilled individuals who don’t gel.

Obtaining a reference from previous employers is always a good shout, but it’s important to spend more time sussing out the person behind the CV than it is on their list of previous roles and responsibilities.

People with short work histories and limited experience in hospitality might turn out to be your best employees, while those who have been in the game longer might be jaded and militant once in place.

Clearly, you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, therefore the opposite might be true in both circumstances, but that proves the point; look beyond core skills and CVs when building your team.

Avoid the front and back-of-house divide

If there’s one element of hospitality that’s likely to elicit a battle for power like that seen in Game of Thrones (minus the hand-to-hand battles and dragons), it’s the front- and back-of-house divide.

Most people who have worked in hospitality for a decent period of time will have experienced this famous division at some stage, but what might start as harmless banter can quickly become a significant problem for the business.

Discrepancies in pay and differing working patterns can lead to tensions between two core elements of the business that should work in harmony. To bridge this divide, it’s important to regularly have full team gatherings and encourage face-to-face communication (there’s that word again!).

Make sure you check in with staff regularly, too, in order to ensure there aren’t any underlying tensions between departments that are causing grief. If things are particularly bad, you’ll find at least one or two employees who will be willing to tell you why both teams aren’t getting on.

Wrapping up

Mutual respect, great communication and a solid recruitment strategy will ensure you avoid high tensions within a hospitality team.

Like so many things in this sector, it’s a balancing act, but businesses are all about people. The best teams know how to work together and the right people will collaborate without falling out and with a common goal in sight.

Trust your gut; if you think something isn’t right within your team, use our tips above to sniff out the root cause and fix it before rising tensions directly impact the customer experience.

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