The hospitality industry, and life in general, can be a tricky space to negotiate, but Stephen Hickmore, who has worked in the industry for far too many years, is here to help. Got a question for Stephen? Send them to and we’ll seek the sage, unbiased advice of our Agony Uncle. Questions and answers to appear on Hospitality Marketplace, but we’ll keep it all anonymous. 

Each day I get asked many questions. Maybe it’s the white hair and longevity that makes people believe that I can be trusted with their concerns and dilemmas. Over the years I think I have heard it all, but no, I am surprised with new questions often. Part of the reason why I love this job. So, ask away, we will keep it confidential. Here are a few examples of questions I’ve been asked:

Dear Stephen,

I am a manager of a central reservations office and have noticed how much time my team spends on private phone calls, Facebook, e-mails and other items of personal business that eat into company time. I have had enough and want to tell them that I will take disciplinary action if any non-company business is conducted in company time. What do you think?

Times have changed. We all have cell phones that give others instant access to us at any time. Social media is a fact of life and working on a computer has a whole world of distractions attached. Set some rules but be flexible. The odd personal phone call is OK and attending to dentist appointments and school functions are unavoidable on occasion. Set a rule about social media, and perhaps block Facebook, Instagram and the like on work computers during certain hours. If personal life gets in the way of results and efficiencies, then have a meeting to discuss and set some stronger rules. But, don’t demotivate your team by being a total Grinch.


Dear Stephen,

We have a new co-worker. I know him from a previous business I worked for, I also know that he was fired for fraud at that company. Surely, our HR department checked references before they employed him? I am sure it’s none of my business, but should I tell HR the truth about him?


The simple answer is that yes, you must tell HR what you know. It is possible that HR are unaware of the previous transgressions. People who commit fraud are very convincing and good at covering their tracks, so it is possible that HR didn’t have all the information about this person. It is your duty to speak up. You wouldn’t want your employer to be defrauded – this could affect all members of the team. Also, if your company has a “fraud line”, a number you can call anonymously to report this person, go ahead and use it. Fraudsters have no place in business, jail is a far better place for them.


Dear Stephen,

I was taking a break in the restroom and overheard one of the executive managers saying that they intend to retrench my boss next month. I have a very good relationship with Judith (my boss) – how can I break this news to her? She will be devastated.


So, you heard a conversation that was not intended for your ears? I guess the Execs thought they were talking privately but, walls have ears eh?   Yes, if you told Judith she would be devasted, even more so because one of her employees knew before her. May I strongly suggest that you keep your mouth firmly shut and say nothing of this to anyone. Don’t even confide in a work colleague. You never know, the Execs may even change their mind about the retrenchment. All the same, all of this is none of your business. Sorry, I do empathise that this information is a real burden on you, but try and carry on as normal. If the retrenchment does happen then be there for Judith and be that supportive colleague. Save your energies for that moment, if it comes.

  • Stephen Hickmore
    Stephen Hickmore

    Stephen is a headhunter for the hospitality industry, and Co-founder of The Hospitality Solutions Company H.S.C. as well as Hickmore Recruitment. Stephen has a world of experience in hotels. He trained with Trusthouse Forte Hotels in the UK before moving to South Africa in the 80’s. After a 3 year period with Southern Sun Hotels, Stephen became a recruiter for the hospitality industry. Stephen presents and MC’s at many events and competitions. He has an insider view of the crazy world of hotels, and writes about anything from mad chefs to giving up the booze. His observations are at times educational, and at other times oblique.

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