Bullying is still a problem in hospitality, so let's do all we can to support Hospitality Action's latest charity event, says Peter Hancock
It is very rare for me to find fault with colleagues in this great industry, since I admire almost everyone who puts in the graft or has the personality to keep customers happy in all circumstances, no matter what their role may be.
Unfortunately, there is a fly in the ointment; a dirty secret that caterers have yet to fully confront and eradicate. I refer, of course, to bullying and harassment, usually but not exclusively of junior staff by managers, which can at the very least make life uncomfortable for the victim and at worst drive him or her out of their employment for good, tarnishing the perception of careers in hospitality into the bargain.
You will not be surprised to learn that much of this unacceptable behaviour occurs in the kitchen, where perpetrators are usually shielded from the eyes and ears of customers or other colleagues and where a nasty minority of chefs reckon the best way to motivate underlings is by shouting and threatening them.
However, help is at hand in the form of Hospitality Action's Employee Assistance Programme, which costs just £5 a year per employee and has been enthusiastically taken up by hundreds of wise directors at hotel and catering businesses around the UK.
It offers a confidential helpline manned by experienced call handlers 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Space prevents me relating the many success stories here but I have heard enough to convince me of its value.
Last year Hospitality Action recorded a 16% rise in the number of calls for help, with a similar rise in the numbers referred for counselling. Of all the concerns mentioned, bullying and harassment accounted for over one fifth of calls and the relevant fact sheet was the most viewed of all by subscribers to the programme.
Related topics such as stress and anxiety, low mood and depression, tiredness, sleep and mental health problems accounted for a further 17% of all factsheet views. These statistics paint a bleak picture and remind us why we still need the charity 180 years since it was formed.
In the hope that your own business is blissfully free of these problems you may nonetheless like to help Hospitality Action with its fundraising efforts while being served by a brigade made up of senior hoteliers.
Back To The Floor will take place at The Grosvenor House, a JW Marriott Hotel in London on 7 April. Hopefully the only raised voices you will hear on the night are the squeals of delight as bidders secure ridiculously over-priced items in the auction I'll be running or the cries of joy from our ‘waiters' when they see how generously you have tipped them. All proceeds to the charity, of course.
For tickets see visit www.hospitalityaction.org.uk/get-involved/events