Tackling the Stigma-Comfort’s Cry
Just to make sure we are all ‘on the same page’, that is, that we have a common understanding of what ‘stigma’ is, I picked up the following explanations:
a strong feeling of disapproval that most people in a society have about something, especially when this is unfair
Retrieved from: https://www.google.com/search?client=firefox-b-ab&q=stigma+meaning
a mark of disgrace associated with a particular circumstance, quality, or person.
Retrieved from: https://www.google.c/search?client=firefox-b-abq=stigma+meaning.
A stigma is therefore a negative attitude; it is held by a society and it discredits a person or a group linked to an attribute or a situation or conditions.
Generally, society labels different professions with unique tags and some are negative(stigma). Think about the Police or the Army, or other professions; what negative practices are they associated with? This usually forms the basis of the stigma. Note therefore that the hospitality/hotel industry is not the only sector which isstigmatized. Naturally, for those of us in the industry, we can feel the pinch but we must learn how to manage it.
A successful entrepreneur who did carpentry is quoted to have said,“A lot of people were wondering why I wanted to do it, because I was getting really good marks in school, and everybody thought I should be a doctor or an engineer. That just didn’t align with my passion.”
It has generally been observed that students from low income families are incorrectly steered toward technical careers, while wealthier children get a push toward four-year degrees.Some students from wealthier communities who could have very fulfilling careers aligned to their interests will just not pursue those options because their parents fear the stigma of ‘blue collar jobs’. Indeed, it is disturbing to see many young people wasting their talents because of the stigma attached to vocational and technical courses.
There seems to be a built-in bias against applied careers.The stigma attached to technical careers therefore remains, even where Polytechnics have been renamed ‘Technical Universities’.
Competency based training expected to be introduced in our technical institutions is yet to be effectively carried through. Skilled jobs are unfilled because no one is trained or willing to do them. Meanwhile unemployment among university graduates is very high, and the majority of those graduates with jobs are not even working in their fields of study.
This post intends to address ‘Comfort’s cry of stigmatization’ in the hotel industry, so permit me to get back to it; however, it is critical that we realize that stigmatization is not limited to the hotel
To allow the stigma to influence you, results in an internalized stigma.These are ‘the Comforts’ in the industry, one of whom I met recently. I empathize with them.
My first ever night shift was in a big hotel here in Ghana. I got the shock of my life when I saw females in attires I could never have imagined any ‘decent lady’ wearing (those days). What I learnt about them later made me feel truly ashamed. Existingstigma in the hotel industry include:
- ladies who work in the hotel industry have low morals
- the hospitality industry is for ‘drop outs’
- cleaning hotel rooms does not requiring training
If a stigma is not corrected or managed well by an individual, it will destroy the one’s dignity; diminish the chances of the stigmatized person achieving her full potential and it will seriously hamper job satisfaction if the individual should continue in the job.
The hotel industry employs many people in myriad disciplines. General requirements include:
- administration and customer service skills.
- IT skills to work with computerized booking and payment systems.
- excellent written and spoken communication skills.
- a friendly and professional telephone manner.
- patience and tact.
- the ability to stay calm under pressure and look after several things at once.
Here in Ghana, one may not be able to pick and choose a preferred hotel to work with, but its important to know that there are different categories of hotels ranging from budget to 5 star, independently managed hotels and chain hotels, small hotels with a minimum of 10 rooms and large (by Ghanaian standards) of close to 300 rooms. Each attracts different ‘markets’/guests.
One can get a job in different departments; Front Office, Housekeeping, Food and Beverage Service and Food Production according to ones skill, knowledge and interest.There are also the support areas such as Finance and Administration, Marketing and Sales, Human Resource and Security.
It takes hard work and self motivation to develop yourself in the hotel industry in general. Since it demands a lot from its personnel, it is easy to loose track of time and ‘march time’ (be in the same position for too long).
It is good to think in the line of management, motivate oneself and pursue higher responsibilities. I find this enhances the individual’s own maturity. This is the ‘chorus I sing’ for those in the industry.
I started as a front desk clerk(receptionist) and I ceased opportunities to work in housekeeping, food and beverage service and the kitchen respectively at different hospitality establishments. I later became a trainer designing training programs. This opened doors to carry out assessment on personnel and design tailor made programs for specific hotels. Many other doors opened (that is for another time).
There is a need to inform and enlighten the public to see the promising careers the hotel industry offers.
When it comes to a career choice hospitality(accommodation/hotel and food and beverage service) is often overlooked. It is up to us who have contributed our lot, along with career advisers, parents, teachers and others, to showcase the industry’s strengths and inspire the youth to see their potentials in it.
When the public and families get better informed, these and other stigmas will hopefully disappear as time passes.