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. 

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 have recently been promoted to a senior management position and am the only woman on the executive team. My boss is in the habit of taking the other senior managers to the rugby periodically. I suspect these trips are a key part of the senior team bonding process, and possibly some important things get informally decided at the same time. A lot of beer is consumed and is signed to company expenses. Should I object to this or accept it as it is?

This is an example of the type of behaviour that is often present with male-dominated organisations. I would suggest that you call them out on this. Perhaps not in the boardroom but take the more moderate managers to one side and discuss your stance on this. The message should filter through: You are not passing judgement and perhaps you would like to be included on the guest list next time? However, if you can think of nothing worse than being around a group of beer-soaked rugby fans, a discussion on other more inclusive ways of socialising on the company budget could be suggested.

There are often day-to-day snippets of ‘lad culture’ that should not be allowed to creep into organisations. It’s hard to change work culture. Be strong – some men need to understand that toxic masculinity has no place in the modern workplace. In my experience, good men will change. If they don’t, then look for an organisation that values you as an individual.

***

Dear Stephen,

I am a sales executive for a small guest house and I am on the road a lot. Sometimes I go to watch my son’s swimming competitions on a Friday afternoon. I have never told my boss and somehow, I was seen at the school. She is furious that I did not let her know as this was in company time. I think she is being most unreasonable as my kid’s sport is important to me.

– 

Your boss is right and is not being unreasonable. You have some explaining to do! It’s understandable that you want to be present as a parent, but you should have spoken to your boss about this before assuming that it was OK.  Do not get defensive – apologise and ask if in future you could work out some flexibility to accommodate the sports events. It’s important that she trusts you as you are on the road and not clocking in every day.

***

Dear Stephen,

I have recently started as a Chef de Partie at a small restaurant. I love the cooking side of things and the vibe of a busy day. The problem is that my Exec Chef expects me to spend a shift a week on the pot wash until our sculler returns from sick leave. This is not in my job description. Can I refuse to help?

– 

Yes, you can refuse to help… if you want to limit your career prospects, that is! Job descriptions are largely a guideline, not a complete set of duties. You will have this type of dilemma often in your career, it is all part of the world of work to “muck in” when the going gets tough. Your job will not be sunshine and rose petals every day, chef! So, don’t be that guy – do the dishes.

  • 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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