Smiles and Jokes Help Good Managers Boost Hotel Staff Performance

Happy hotel manager

Hotel managers who share a smile and a joke with their teams are more likely to see staff ‘going the extra mile’ when engaging with customers, a new study reveals.

Using humour has the effect of raising team energy and prompting more positive staff behaviour towards guests – particularly among ‘less-traditional’ workers and employees who prefer to have different experiences.

An international team of researchers studied data collected from employees in teams across China’s hotel industry – discovering that ‘more-traditional’ staff members responded less well to humour from their leaders.

Publishing their findings in Tourism Management, the team notes that employees in the hospitality sector are typically under a great deal of stress and organisations must find effective ways to re-energise them, as their behaviour can determine customer satisfaction.

The researchers offer a range of practical suggestions to managers in hospitality organisations, including:

  • Use humour more when managing staff – helping employees to better engage with customers;
  • Hire managerial candidates who have a good sense of humour – building ‘humour questionnaires’ into the recruitment process;
  • Encourage co-workers to evaluate managers’ sense of humour as supporting information for promotions; and
  • Provide managers with training programmes that emphasise the importance of humour for an effective leader.

Co-author Dr Ahmed Shaalan, from the University of Birmingham Dubai commented: “We found a strong link between leader humour and hotel staff engaging positively with customers, as well as enhanced levels of energy among these employees – confirming that leader humour could enhance customer service.

“We would, therefore, recommend that managers should consider using humour when they engage with their staff. Given the hospitality sector’s significant contribution to the global economy, leader humour can make a valuable contribution to the performance of a key industry.”

As humour has a greater impact on less traditional employees, the researchers recommend that managers should adopt different strategies to ensure they interact appropriately with employees. This approach helps to re-energise each employee and motivate them to ensure a high level of work efficiency.

Co-author Dr Marwa Tourky, from Cranfield School of Management, commented: “We highlight how cultural values alter the effect of leader humour, by explaining how less traditional employees are more likely to accept leader humour as a form of communication.

“Employees who experience leader humour can obtain additional interpersonal and emotional resources via humorous interaction with their leaders. For example, sharing interesting stories or jokes by leaders can make employees feel relaxed, happy, and  give them more energy to fulfil customer needs and offer extra assistance not required by the organisation.”

The team notes that leader humour can make a valuable contribution to the performance of a key global industry, whose most distinctive feature is its ability to create enjoyment for customers by providing high-quality service and meeting the needs of customers.

Employees play an important role in this process, but the hospitality industry has a higher incidence of stress because of the work-related tasks involved. For example, employees are expected to smile and behave professionally even when dealing with uncivilized customers. In turn, this reduces their ability to perform at their best in the workplace and it becomes necessary to re-energise employees after serving such customers.

About the Study

When and how does leader humor promote customer-oriented organizational citizenship behavior in hotel employees?‘ – Cheng Bao; Dong Yun; Kong Yurou; Ahmed Shaalan; and Marwa Tourky is published by Tourism Management.

Participating institutions include the University of Birmingham Dubai; Southwestern University of Finance and Economics, Sichuan, China; The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, China; Xiamen University, Fujian, China; and Cranfield University, UK.

About the University of Birmingham

The University of Birmingham is ranked amongst the world’s top 100 institutions, its work brings people from across the world to Birmingham, including researchers and teachers and more than 8,000 international students from over 150 countries.

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