'Amber in Accounting refuses to back down from a challenge. She refuses to accept mediocrity and that is what makes her such a great account manager. Did you hear her oldest son may go to jail for dealing drugs?' 'Lisa the Guest Service Manager is such a perfectionist. She works hard, gives 200% and often works fifty to sixty hours a week. That is probably why her oldest daughter is dating a married guy twice her age. What kind of Mother is she? '
Understanding co-workers' skills is imperative - knowing their personal business can be problematic.
It is wonderful to build relationships with your co-workers but we must respect personal boundaries. While it is difficult to control the line that separates professional and personal relationships boundaries must exist.
Whether you're an executive, a manager or an associate being aware of these boundaries will keep conversations with your co-workers from damaging a productive and positive working environment. Remember the best definition of a team is 'A group of people working together to make each other look good.'
If you are like the majority of people in the hospitality industry you have been a victim of a lack of workplace boundaries. So what do you do to help your staff recognize and respect professional and personal boundaries so each staff member will know where to 'draw the line' in workplace conversations? Here are just a few tips:
• Where it is wonderful to develop friendships at work you must also beware of too much informality. Especially when that informality could come back and 'bite' you or others on your team
• Understand that inappropriate conversations happen in places that feel informal, such as smoke breaks, hallways, bathrooms, etc. Remember you are not off duty...inappropriate is inappropriate no matter where it takes place
• Making an unsuitable remark damages your reputation even more than the subject of your remark
• Be courageous enough to end inappropriate conversations if you are on the receiving end by simply saying 'Let's not go there'. Or better yet say 'You know I have not heard that but I have heard'...and relay a positive story you have heard about the person
• Clarify to your team what is 'appropriate' at work conversational communication
• If you have a problem with a co-worker, address what you can do to solve it. Talk to the offending person directly and privately. Talking to other than the offending party will only exacerbate the problem
• Make your team aware of what topics are inappropriate
- Personal finances
- Physical appearance
- Family problems
- And of course topics that may be illegal (race, religion, sexual orientation, etc)
Until there is a medication created to reduce the desire to discuss the misfortunes of others, you will have to do it the old fashioned way. 'Just say...NO' There will always be an abundance of news perpetuated by the workplace 'grapevine' to delight the faithful listeners. It is one of the not so attractive traits of human nature. You do not have to participate. If you want to be a productive team member it is best to segregate yourself from the people in your organization who frequently violate personal and professional boundaries.
What works for me is to pretend that I am wearing a microphone and my conversations are being broadcast to the entire organization. Think about it. Would your conversations contain the same information or have the same tone if they were broadcast to the masses? Probably not...so stop, think, rephrase and then speak. Always remember to respect workplace boundaries and you will become part of building a successful team.
About the Author
Lizz Chambers conducts in-house training and training assistance for all properties managed by Newport Hospitality Group. She coordinates and conducts supervisory skills workshops to prepare supervisors to earn their certification through AH&LA's Educational Institute.
Lizz Chambers, CHA, CHE
Director of Human Resources and Training
Newport Hospitality Group, Inc.
4290 Newtown Avenue
Newport Hospitality Group, Inc. (NHG)
4290 New Town Avenue,
USA - Williamsburg, VA 23188
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