The Portman Hotel

The Portman Hotel

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Some of the problems plaguing the Portman Hotel in its inception include a lack of harmony among the workers, a lack of effort by some of the personal valets, and a lack of discipline on the part of management. The following case study uses various theories to explain these issues.
The harmony problem involving the "floating" personal valets can be explained using the Fundamental Attribution Error Theory. This is when the behavior of an individual or a group is attributed too much to an internal factor, when in fact; an external factor is at play (Class Lecture, 9/21). It is where the actions of a person or a group are associated with the "kind" of person he or they may be, rather than associating the actions to an outside source (Fundamental Attribution Error). For instance, the floaters were looked upon as disloyal and careless. They were accused of wasting time and stealing tips. They were viewed as outsiders rather than members of the same group. However, in reality, they were just victims of their position. They weren't afforded the luxury of building strong relationships and familiarities with their coworkers nor the guests. The fact that their job required them to move around caused them to be seen as unstable. Besides, the floaters were an adaptation implemented by management. It wasn't their fault that the hotel capacity wasn't full enough to allow the 5-Star plan to work properly.
One way to determine if the situation is the source of the behavior instead of the personality of the individual is to observe how all the individuals behave in the same situation (Fundamental Attribution Error). If all of the floaters behave the same way, then perhaps the situation in which they are placed is to blame. Had the other personal valets and the supervisors looked at the floaters as someone sent to help rather than to carry the entire load, they might have been more appreciative of all the things the floaters actually did. They might have been more willing to part with some of the tips. After all, despite being termed a floater, they were still personal valets.
The next problem facing the hotel was the "shirking" behavior attributed to some of the personal valets. It can be explained using the Expectancy Theory.

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This theory suggests that a person will choose to behave in ways that will allow him to maximize pleasure and minimize pain (Victor Vroom). A simple mathematical formula is used in calculating the motivational force associated with maximizing pleasure and so forth [F = V (E x I)]. It combines "Valence", the value a person places on certain outcomes, with "Expectancy", the measure by which a person believes a task can be completed, and "Instrumentality", the realization that a person will actually produce a desired outcome (Victor Vroom). However, the motivation does not occur when any part of the formula breaks down (Class Lecture, 9/21). For example, Valence broke down in the case study when the personal valets did not receive the anticipated level of tips from the guests. The monetary reward was not high enough to keep the shirkers from shirking. Expectancy broke down when, from within the chaotic and decentralized hotel environment, it became difficult to locate the supervisors. Note also, according to the Gilbert Behavior Engineering Model, "descriptions of what is expected of performance" is part of the first step taken by management to ensure positive employee productivity (Class Handout, 9/7). Not being able to find a supervisor left expectations unclear. And finally, Instrumentality broke down in the case study when the personal valets spent more time cleaning than giving actual service to the guests. Less time serving the guests lowered the potential for building relationships of trust with them and thus lowered the potential for earning larger tips.
The Portman Hotel did have a system in place for disciplining the shirkers, or poor performers, but they chose not to use it. They believed that discipline was actually contrary to the hotel philosophy. Instead they opted to use Positive Reinforcement under the Operant Conditioning Theory as a means to motivate the poor performers. This theory focuses on learning behaviors by association (Operant Conditioning). For example, a whale might learn to jump over a pole by associating it with eating fish. In the case study Spencer Scott "tried to persuade" the poor performers to believe "that good performance had many rewards, such as good tips". Positive Reinforcement is but one aspect of the Operant Conditioning Theory. It also includes Negative Reinforcement, avoiding an unwanted stimulus; Positive Punishment; Negative Punishment; and Effective Punishment, punishment that is impersonal, immediate, strong, produced by employee actions, etc... (Class Lecture, 9/21).
In order to effectively resolve these issues, management needs to take another look at the expectations given and the level of feedback provided. While, they are on the right track with the "it's our fault if our people are not successful" mentality; they do fall short on the amount of support provided. The employment contract stipulated the right to quarterly performance reviews, but management should provide those reviews more often. The shirking personal valets might be more motivated to clean rooms if a weekly tally was made instead. Also, they should think about changing the rewards for the associate of the month and year. Money may not be the answer, and a week of vacation at work may not be appealing. It could be as simple as providing a special parking space for the associate of the month and as elaborate as offering a cruise around the Caribbean for the associate of the year.
In the meantime, Management should also consider spending a few days as a personal valet both on a set team and as a floater. By doing this, they will gain the workers trust, and it will give them the necessary outlook needed to distinguish which external factors are affecting the workers behavior. Once the outside factors are determined, the managers can take steps to adjusting them.
Another area that needs improvement is management's Moral Foundation. The idea of fairness needs to be measured. It isn't fair to the good performers to allow the poor performers to continue their weak routine. While some associates may respond well to Positive Reinforcement, others may react best to another aspect of Operant Conditioning. They went as far as training the personal valets how to recognize the difference between the guests who want to be "best friends" and those who prefer a more formal "Yes, sir" relationship; why shouldn't the associates be any different. Individual associates are likely to respond to their own unique type of stimulus. Using the contract stipulated discipline measures would be an effective method of Positive Punishment. The written warnings are intended to deter poor behavior. Not only that, actively implementing the disciplinary procedures will also show the associates that management is capable of keeping their promises.

References

Fundamental Attribution Error. Retrieved October 4, 2006, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fundamental_attribution_error

Victor Vroom. Retrieved October 2, 2006, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Victor_Vroom

Operant Conditioning. Retrived October 2, 2006, from http://genetics.biozentrum.uniwuerzburg.de/behavior//learning/operant.html

Gilbert Behavior Engineering Model. Handout from Class Lecture. Management 5043.
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