Changing the Narrative: How to Start Tough Conversations to Retain Your Best Talent

Written by Mel Miller

We all know that the hospitality industry has had a turbulent 2 years when we think about how our lives changed in March of 2020. Between hotels, restaurants, air travel, and everything in-between, businesses had to break their norms for survival mode. By breaking this norm, a lot was asked and expected of team members of every level. Many felt that by taking on more work and responsibilities, their jobs were secure and companies would survive. While that is true and it was necessary, we are now seeing “The Great Resignation” because companies refuse to acknowledge that this “new normal” isn’t normal.

So, how do we change the narrative? How do we start the conversations with leadership about how teams and individuals can’t go on like this much longer? The need to wear multiple hats was sustainable during a time of crisis, but as we see cases dropping and travel reopening across the world, how do we advocate for ourselves and fellow team members that it’s time to start making some changes to job functions and responsibilities?

While it is much easier said than done, we have to rip off the band aid and the first step is taking some time to assess where you are in your career and where the business is as we recover. Whether you’re a front desk agent just stepping into a new team or a member of the C-Suite trying to figure out next steps in a company strategy, it is important to stop and reflect. Being a team player is important and admirable, but also taking a step for your personal growth and journey helps you become a better leader for others down the road. 

I recently learned in Castell from some amazing women that there is something called “The Productivity Trap.” This trap is something that many women find themselves in when they hit certain peaks in their career and it creates an unhealthy way of thinking that “if I am ready and willing to take on anything that comes my way, that makes me irreplaceable and unstoppable.” While I personally think it’s important for women to think about, I also think we are in a time where it is important for everyone to think about. This way of thinking also stops us from thinking about the bigger picture, and then we become stuck. Are we being a team player if we politely say “no” to something? Are we doing what is best for the company if we miss a meeting because we have other deadlines to make? These questions haunt us as we all try to prove that we can do it all when the reality is, we really can’t!

So the question remains…how do we change the narrative? As someone who is passionate about the marriage between company and personal branding and with the power of some of my experiences over the past 2 years, I’ve found quite a few tools that can help start these tough conversations. 

  1. Reflect – Take some time to think about those “hats” you agreed to take on when the world was hit with COVID-19 and make a tangible list of tasks that have you in the productivity trap.
  2. Set Time – Set some time with your direct leader and come prepared to be honest and respectful. You can position this as a check-in and create a safe place where you can lay out what you’re doing and what your needs are.
  3. Have A Plan – When you look at that list of tasks, what are teachable opportunities for other team members? Do you have the bandwidth to train someone else so that you have support instead of feeling siloed? Is now the time to start talking about adding to the team since business is coming back? 
  4. Be Honest With Yourself – It is crucial that as we have these honest conversations with others, we are also honest and good to ourselves in the process. Are you tiptoeing around the truth because you’re afraid of getting in trouble? Are you worried if you tell your boss you are on the brink of burn out that you might get fired? If the answer is yes, then the honest truth to yourself is that maybe it is time to start looking elsewhere for your next opportunity. It is OK to make decisions for yourself that are going to benefit you first, since taking care of yourself helps you better take care of those around you.

In the business of hospitality, it is our job to cater to others. We provide services everyday that create unforgettable experiences, so how do we start changing our organizations? If you ask most leaders in any industry right now what their biggest fear is, it is losing amazing talent. Our industry needs us at our best and there are many excellent resources out there that can help! Talk to your boss about finding you a leadership program. Maybe it’s time to utilize a career coach to give you the tools to feel confident. Is it time to dust off the resume and see what else is out there? 

Big changes happen with small actions. Our industry is strong and our hearts are filled with the right intentions when it comes to taking care of the guests. So, I think it is time we start treating ourselves like guests and we can see true and lasting change that will benefit our organizations for the better.

*Inspiration from this piece came from leaders at Pathfinder Hospitality, Castell BUILD, and fellow networking partners.

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