In theory it ought to be about planning the work for the day; about passing relevant information to the workers for the day, but in practice its very different. Although most resorts do not employ the procedure of morning briefings, some better managed resorts do. The idea is of course to focus the work. However it’s also the chance for the supervisors or middle managers to do a little bit of showing off and impress upon the workers who is the boss around. It maybe a side effect of bad upbringing or a sign of inferiority complex but it’s very prevalent in resort life. Maybe we need better talent up there where it counts.
We have had reports of supervisors doing briefing for a full hour in some resorts, just making it a long long rant going over the same thing. Also the general idea to conduct briefings does not somehow seems to be known by those who do that. In some such briefings the sequence goes like this
· Find fault with somebody and start attacking him/her.
· Inform tid bits of useful info to the work for the day
· Go a long rant about how he (supervisor/manager) came to this position.
It’s a sure way of demoralizing workers by these things while some senior managements are not aware of the drudgery their workers struggle with. Of course life has ups and downs but most resort workers are keeping up just with things like this on a daily basis to survive in the workplace.
When mentioned out sourcing the media would have most of us associate it with Microsoft, India, cheap labor etc.. However outsourcing is quite prevalent in our resorts although we do not seem to apply the name as such. There are both many benefits of this as well as questions about some aspects of it. Some examples we can easily identify are:
1.Diving school outsourcing. This is very common in resorts and seems to be the viable option as resorts trying to do this by themselves find themselves quite overwhelmed with the demands of running the whole show.
2.Guest shop. This is also one more trend that is catching up with the resorts as more and more shop companies are offering attractive proposals to resorts struggling with an unimaginative shop with an equally unimaginative concept to sell pricey nothings to wearied guests.
3.Guest relations. In some resorts there are dedicated tour guides or Guest Relations Officers (GROs) who are ordinary human beings less than a manager and a slight bit higher in position than the front office staff and are customarily required to be multilingual. However there is a growing trend to outsource this department to the water sports people.
4.Animators. This seems to be the domain of the fun loving Italians and they may hire this talent from guests as part of their package holiday deal.
5.Doctors. Although there are quite a few number of resorts with a doctor-in-house, some resorts did indeed outsource this job with an understanding with medical institutes, universities from where doctors arrive as guests and makes themselves available for service to other guests as well, in a discounted holiday deal.
6.Inspectors. Although most resorts do their own inspections with company big shots as the inspectors, some resorts send anonymous inspectors to the resorts as paid guests. These paid inspectors make detailed observations of all guest areas and guest services and submit their report to the person who commissioned the work after their departure and vanishes in to the thin air there after. This is very effective in keeping everyone including managers and the whole resort in its best form as nobody seems to know when the gestapo arrives.
7.Friday Imam. A local imam is hired and brought to resort for Friday sermon from nearby islands or from Male’ to lead the faithful in the Friday prayers. This is good public relations thing with the islands as people of the islands appreciate their usefulness to the otherwise useless nearby resort..
8.Supply department. This is one department resorts shall disown sooner than later for their own good. Local suppliers specializing in resort supplies are better able to do this because they have many advantages over resort employed supply personnel such as local market knowledge, the sense that their success depends on a satisfied resort etc etc. . The way to go about is to go gradually and to build on trust. Better still to equip a capable honest agent based in Male’ and to start a “supply relationship”.
9.Power house. This is also a trend that is there but does not seem to move fast enough. Part of the problem is the lack of capable engineering firms in Male’ or in the nearby vicinity of the island as the existing engineering firms are saturated with contracted commitments to service resorts for a nominal monthly fee. The terms of the commitment would include a nominal monthly fee regardless of whatever happens in the resort vis-avis the generator sets and special discounted terms to service yearly or biannual major overhauls of the systems etc.
10.Launch Section. Operating a “Launch section” is costly business and resorts are aware of this. It would involve a capable workshop to handle marine engines both inboard and outboard, the engineering people well versed in this special type of engineering as well as a sizable army of captains and crews, facilitators and a one more manager to the management elite group. Despite the costliness of this operation, several resorts have their own Launch Sections thanks to the few number of firms capable of catering for the constant but erratic travel needs of the resorts.
11.Insect and Pest Controllers. Some of our resorts fight the endless, thankless job of controlling the pests and other insects with sprayers, fog machines, traps and a range of chemicals and devices every day of the year all year round. Most resorts as of yet do a d.i.y (do it yourself) job of this as there are very few firms providing this service in resorts in Male’ or Maldives.
12.Fire fighting infrastructure. Fire fighting equipment and systems are not the domain of everyday people as they are subjected to stricter rules or the insurance companies will take a flight from responsibility when unfortunate things happens… A couple of firms are available to provide the required services in this field and resorts are having to do with whatever is available in the market and curb their demands. There is strong need for competition in this field.
13.Landscaping.. same as above. But landscaping is normally required at the beginning of a resorts life after which an army of homegrown professionals take over. 2 known companies provide this service.
The problem of delayed wages is common in some resorts in Maldives and its nothing but a nuisance. What would happen in the majority of the cases would be that the delays could be attributed the clumsiness of accounting department or that some or other manager whose signature is required on the payroll is somehow out of the country etc. There is no end to excuses of the like and yet regrettably in this age and time the problem still persists. The problem is more prevalent in some resorts such as those owned or managed by the resort owners who have had or who has some connections to the government (in some point of time) and who base their assumptions on murky deals and the likes hence the jittery finance affects the payroll and the negative publicity which ensues.
Taken one at a time, the case against accounts departments being clumsy, this is the easy way out for shirking responsibility and is a well known tactic by management when pressed for pay by rank and file workers. The accounts people normally very arithmetical by nature do thankless job entering information, editing and checking and poring over figures for trends etc and the monotony of the work never breaks as long as the resort is run. Interesting practices such as using standard calculators to get the grand total of a list displayed on an excel sheet is all too common in the average accounts department of many a resort in Maldives and is especially true of bespectacled expatriate accountants who had seen times before the advent of calculators. Even if the accounts dept are top notch whiz kids of computers, modern day nuisances such as computer viruses could play havoc with office computers and the payroll could be a work undone in a matter of seconds.
Authorization of payroll is no mean task and it’s always required that a person worthy of name be present to sign the many thousand of dollars which would be deposited to the staff’s accounts or given in cash. Even so hilarious episodes such as paying in dollars instead of rufiyaa to ordinary boat crews (3000$) and the cashiers racing to catch the lucky ones before they vanish to think air are all too memorable and makes working in tourism industry so much fun. The whole point is that the required signature authorizing the payroll is just a formality and yet this bane of a formality is many times the cause of much anguish as staff wait for their much awaited pay braving the many angry calls demanding money by angrier families back home. It’s all in a days work in resorts and it happens all too common.
It can safely be said that up to now no resort in Maldives had reported that they didn’t have money to pay for the staff. They have had and always had or there were ways to pay up and resolve the issues of wage but what gets a resort or an employer a bad reputation in this issue is nothing but irresponsibility and carelessness.
Reports of a local being stabbed by an Indian colleague has been received but the details are sketchy. The incident seems to have been about an argument between colleagues which somehow came to blows and inadvertently stabbing. The attack is not life threatening and the victim is said to be receiving health care and recuperating well. However the management is said to have taken sides in being sympathetic to the expatriate in true tradition of Universal Group policies which enraged the local staff who demanded that the attacker be handed over to police for questioning. The police were contacted by the staff while the management of the island did everything possible to prevent police from conducting their investigation by refusing approval for police boat to come ashore. However police was finally left with no choice but to come ashore despite the resort’s approval because some staff have threatened unspecified action if the attacker was let scott free. The police did conduct their investigation and the attacker is said to have been taken to Male’ for further questioning.
The main points in the whole episode in which the staff are voicing concern are:
That the resort is going miles in its way to protect the expatriate downplaying the offense while had the same action been attribute to a local staff he or she would have been behind bars in a matter of minutes.
That the management is highly abusive of the staff and this is not secret in Universal Group resorts. Standard greeting by manager of the resort to rank and file staff would consist of swearing or such street talk. Verbal abuse to staff is taken for granted in Kurumba and all Universal Group resorts. Talking politely or respectfully or courteously is obviously not Universal style.
That the resort is still relying on pulling strings in government to have things done their way irrespective of the legality of the actions. Here in this particular situation the resort has clearly hampered police work on an assault case which is nothing but obstruction of justice.
Universal Group resorts are not exactly new to controversies and it is not likely that their resorts would see much improvement in staff relationships as long as the owners of the resort fail to come out of the mindset of the abusive employer and embrace modern staff friendly management practices. The reason being that the cozy relationship that existed between the government and the Group was conducive for abuse and nothing seems to have changed.
There are no hard and fast rules about being promoted in resorts even though there are books and treatises written on this such as the famed dummy series books. The main points to remember should be:
1) Use your voice. Be assertive and aggressive where needs be. The underlying idea is to be heard above the crowd. Resort managers would love to see that trait in workers if not over done.
2) Remember to use correct form of salutation when addressing mangers or directors such as the all important “sir” or “madam” if the boss is Indian.
3) If working in front office or reservations be sure to know your facts. if pressed by a superior invent your facts!
4) Have a healthy dose of disdain for computers because most hotel managers and directors are not computer literate hence they will be suspicious of anyone competent in computer use.
5) Do not find fault with your food even if its unpalatable. Have your own supply of cup noodles and tuna tins and biscuits stock up for bad times. Because resorts managers have special dislike for employees complaining about food.
6) If working in maintenance department be sure to find work in or near areas of office and in office time. Make sure your work is noticed and make a big fuss about things if needs be. Never let them underestimate the dexterity or expertise required by your work.
7) Make a list of faults of your colleagues and and keep a note book and pen always. But don’t overdo in complaining. Because ultimately it will come back bouncing.
8 ) If you couldn’t convince them, confound them! This is applicable if you work in engineering or technical fields because most resort managers are not well versed in technical jargon. eg: use E=mc2 when calculating power but don’t get caught in the process!
9) Don’t ever forget Gm’s birthday or his family members birthdays if you are working in pastry. Make special birthday cakes for the occasion.
10) If working in housekeeping make sure GM’s or resort managers room is in perfect order and decorate with flowers. Be attentive to detail. Guests may not notice the fine print but GM will.
Strikes and demonstrations were indeed something of a novelty to the tourism industry in Maldives and in the past few weeks a series of strikes 6 resorts have left the industry bosses worried. They are worried (they say) because of the implications of the strikes in the middle of high season among other things. Granted that industrial strikes were a novelty and that they are not the best possible solution but there has to be admission that it was a necessary evil. Tourism industry has its ups and downs and tourism workers had their problems and worries which should have been given some thoughts from day one. But the standard answer to staff complaints from the majority of the resorts would be things like this…
• “If you are not happy with how things are going here then there is jetty…”
• “So you think you know some things we don’t?”
• “So you are saying that I am doing a bad job here… eh?”
• “Go on… go to complain… Go to ministry go to court or wherever…”
• “Why are you making all this fuss? Haven’t you been in cadet while in school? There is a rule in cadet that you are not to question why…but to do and die… remember?
• “I have noticed that the Maldivians here are the most trouble makers… they make all the trouble”
Etc Etc at al
Now if this is the kind of mentality the “managements” had then (which up to now they have) there is little reason to be optimistic that talks with “managements” will yield any results. Hence there were strikes. And there is likely to be more to follow. But what was the standard course of action before strikes began?
It was mainly futile “calls” to the tourism ministry and sometimes petitions and on a very few occasions court cases which needless to say failed most of the time. On average what would happen when a disgruntled staff or a group of staff would call the tourism ministry and lodge complaint is that they would listen and if the nature of the complaint is sufficiently convincing they would send some nobody from the ministry to the resort in question. The “nobody” will of course meet the managers and scribble some “nothings” on his clip folder and take some pics of the staff area and have lunches or dinner with the human recourses boss in the restaurant and be gone in the next departure boat. That would possibly be the end of the matter and the “management” out of courtesy or whatever might say a few soothing words to the angry staff and possibly that would be the end of the matter.
Letters and petitions to the ministry would yield much less and nobody in the tourism industry could recall any written answers the ministries or offices sent them answering or even acknowledging receipts of the complaint.
Now as to what would have happened to the staff who might have lodged a complaint to high offices, he or she would certainly be dismissed one way or another and even signing on a petition would be like signing one’s own dismissal forms. He or she would fall in the categories of “insubordination” or something similar and would be on a black list from the moment.
This is not something’s which happened in a long distant past but is happening even right now. What that has changed is that there is new government which came to power using people to demonstrate on the streets against injustices hence an understanding of a novelty use of a form of protest. What the protesters rely on is a hastily passed labor law by the then government for their own political scores rather than genuine empathy for resort staff. What is understood from the strikes is that the all powerful business elites would have to think about reforms and treat resort staff as human beings.