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 sarah@augmentcreative.com 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. We promise.

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 three of the questions I’ve been asked in the past:

Dear Stephen,

A supplier has rewarded me with an all-expenses paid trip to Italy in October. This is the trip of a lifetime. Should I let my boss know?

– Bum in the butter?

The short answer is yes, tell your boss immediately. Any gift received or offered by a supplier should be reported to your boss or through the channels set out in the relevant company policy. Of course, nothing stops a supplier from offering gifts and mostly it is with the best intentions. But, be careful, this could be construed as an incentive to favour this business over another. So, tell your boss about the trip to Italy and get his approval in writing before accepting the invitation. Company policy may not allow the acceptance of gifts over a certain value so prepare yourself for possible disappointment. This level of incentive is not common these days because businesses are very aware of the potential conflict of interests. Also, suppliers know that this type of gift could become a ‘perverse incentive’ which have unintended negative consequences. Best to keep things tidy eh?

***

Dear Stephen,

This question is hard for me to ask – I’m at my wit’s end. I have a work colleague who started off being friendly but now sends me messages on WhatsApp late at night. He ensures that he is rostered on the same shifts as me. Lately, he has been telling me inappropriate jokes and making suggestive comments. I have told him to “back off” but this has no effect. What am I doing to deserve this? Should I just resign so that I can get away from his advances?

– He won’t leave me alone

Thank you for asking this – this type of situation is far too common in the hospitality industry. I assure you that you have done nothing to deserve this, and should not resign. Any unwanted attention that makes you feel uncomfortable and affects your employment, including rude jokes, suggestive language, and inappropriate messages, could be sexual harassment.

Unwelcome sexual advances, other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature do constitute sexual harassment when this conduct explicitly or implicitly affects your employment, unreasonably interferes with your work performance, or creates an intimidating, hostile environment.

You need to speak to your HR department about their code of conduct for sexual harassment. Or confide in a trusted senior member of management regarding the specific events and incidents as soon as possible. I would suggest that you do not delete any messages that have been sent to you, and keep a diary of any inappropriate behaviour by this work colleague. It is best not to involve your fellow workers, unless they have been witness to any harassment. You will need the evidence at a later stage. You may raise a grievance with the trusted senior manager or HR Manager who must follow the correct procedures to rectify the situation. If the harassment is proven, the offender could be dismissed from his position.  I wish you strength, you are not alone. Sadly, many have to deal with similar situations in the workplace

***

Dear Stephen,

I recently graduated and have started my first position in a 5 star hotel. It is the job of my dreams. But, Is it fair that I have to work more than a 9 hour shift?

– Long Day

I am so pleased to hear that you have been able to find the ‘job of your dreams’ so early in your career. You have elected to join an industry that is as unpredictable as it is exciting, so hours can be long. The hospitality industry is not unusual for its unsociable hours. If you are to be successful at anything, you need to plan your priorities and push hard at your career. If you don’t, all that hard studying could be a waste. Believe me, your ambitious buddies who are working as newly qualified lawyers, accountants and IT specialists are burning the midnight oil. And hey! If you love your job then you won’t mind putting in the extra. I promise you, you will reap the benefits as your career grows.

  • 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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