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When mediocrity rules GETTING BY WITH WHAT IS “GOOD ENOUGH”, JUST TO GET THE WORK OUT OF THE WAY, IS A HABIT AT SEVERAL HOTELS AND IT CARRIES A HEAVY PRICE ne of the most revolting things I hear all too often from hotel managers in Macau is that the quality of service at their hotels is “good enough”. “Good enough” is an acknowledgment that things could be better and a polite way to disguise mediocrity. People should set their standards high, especially in the luxury hospitality business, and expect everyone else to live up to those requirements, not just settle for “good enough”. Striving for improvement starts with accepting one’s flaws. There is no shame in this. It is often the first step towards better performance. Note that I am not particularly advocating perfection. Rather, I am endorsing the view that every member of staff should complete his or her assigned tasks to the best of his or her ability, every time. You may question my disdain for “good enough”, arguing that at least it gets the job done to a minimum standard. Allow me to explain. Mediocrity gives way to free-riding. High-performers, in turn, become less likely to contribute fully to a team’s performance if they feel other members of the team are slacking. This is a vicious cycle. Eventually teams will spare only the minimum amount of effort required to get by within the minimum acceptable standards. While some high-performers may never settle for less than all-out effort in order to achieve something they are proud of, the burden is often too heavy for an individual to carry. A new culture is created from mediocrity – a “yes” culture. If we take mediocrity as a standard, the chances are that you will get people who are quick to pay compliments but who would rather bite their tongues than point out that something could have been done better. Having one’s views challenged is not necessarily a bad thing. It is a basic step on the road to improvement. If one’s opinions are not questioned regularly, sooner or later one’s ego and self-importance will get in the way and performance will suffer.


Just take it... Take a stroll around any of Macau’s five-star hotels. You see it all around you, day in and day out. Mediocrity is everywhere, from the poor leadership down to the uncaring responses of those whose job it is to serve the customers. Getting by with what is “good enough”, just to get the work out of the way, is a habit in many hotels. If people find themselves in such a working environment, it is easy to slack off and do the same, and even get some pats

on the back for being able to accomplish a task with minimal effort. That should not be the way. Hospitality staff in particular and all workers in general should not lose sight of what is important and should always do their best. To do that, workers must take risks, even if it means failing miserably. Failing when you try your best teaches you valuable lessons. Failing when you have opted for what is just “good enough” will always leave you wondering if the outcome could have been different with a little more personal effort. It gives me an uneasy feeling seeing mediocre service being rendered at most of Macau’s hotels when the potential to achieve excellence is right around the corner. It is just a matter of changing mentalities.

...or leave it It is true that there are obstacles that hamper the performance of hospitality workers here, including time pressure, budget constraints, leadership shortcomings and customer demands. But neither members of staff nor managers should hide behind these obstacles in an attempt to justify their tendency simply to get the work out of the way without giving a hoot about the quality of their service. Problems arising from the “good enough” habit usually go unnoticed at first. On the surface it does look as though things are actually getting done. The deficiencies in quality are labelled “acceptable”, in view of the high level of productivity that hotels require. Worrying signs gradually emerge but managers continue to think the end justifies the means. Instead of trying to stop the decline in the quality of service, they accept the “good enough” habit as “the way we do things here”. Customer satisfaction takes a hit but workers just carry on with the same routines, like automatons. Those members of staff that question the habit are forced to conform or risk the criticism of the majority. Hospitality workers must go beyond this mindset. They must strive for better and have a broader vision of their role. Rejecting mediocrity does not necessarily mean giving up financial security for personal integrity. The two can live side by side. Of course, mediocre members of staff do not like this way of thinking. They do not like whistleblowers that remind society they are underperforming. Likewise, they will not like this column. Unfortunately, the onus is with the “doers”, those who strive to do their best. They are a minority in Macau’s hospitality sector. I wish them the best of luck in changing the industry. It is not going to be easy.

MAY 2012

When Mediocrity Rules  

Mediocrity in the workplace

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