Dr. Keneika A. Rowe, CHE, CHIA
Are Managers Doing Enough To Mitigate Microaggressions in the Travel and Tourism Industry?
The Travel and Tourism Industry has grown exponentially over the years. The World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) has highlighted the Travel and Tourism Industry as the world's largest economic sectors, which support one in ten jobs worldwide, which is approximately 319 million employees. The Travel and Tourism Industry depends on a diverse workforce to serve the traveling public. This means that there are employees of various backgrounds, experiences, races, religions, and the like in these organizations. So, why is Microaggression a topic that is still of discussion? Microaggressions are those insensitive and insulting behaviors that we say to others sometimes in the most derogatory way. It is usually more prevalent among people of color or other ethnic backgrounds. Dr. Jussim mentioned in his article "that not all microaggressions are acts of racism." While I want to agree to this, it depends on the person who is being affected. As a Black African American Professional these are the behaviors that I face on a regular basis especially in the most professional settings such as the workplace, conferences, conventions, and meetings. As an Educator of the hospitality and tourism industry, it is my responsibility to educate students on the importance of diversity and inclusion. It is crucial for individuals to understand the impact their words and behaviors have on others. Dr. Agarwal said it best " it is important to recognize that jokes about anyone's race, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation are never ok."
Examples of Microaggressions
Some of my personal experiences with microaggression were when someone and not necessarily someone from a different race asked the following:
1. So, how did you arrive in the United States?
2. You speak English very well, did you say you were from the Caribbean?
3. A Professor? Really? You look so young.
4. One of my most memorable experiences is when a Caucasian customer in a restaurant asked to touch my hair, and before I could respond, her hand was in my hair, and then she nudged her friend who was standing next to her and said: "It is soft." I was shocked and disturbed by her comment, but held my composure.
It is evident that there is a lack of knowledge on microaggression, and there needs to be more awareness so everyone, such as employees, vendors, customers, etc., give more thoughts in their behaviors in the workplace.
What is the Culture in Your Workplace?
The travel and tourism industry is susceptible to microaggression because of the growing need for diversity and inclusion in the workforce. Managers must ensure that their organizational culture represents zero tolerance to microaggression. The majority of the workforce will be populated with Millennials and Generation Z (Gen Z) in the years to come, and they will most likely face these behaviors from seasoned employees and even guests. The workplace should be an environment that is safe, free from hostility, discrimination, and harassment. Your background, race, sexual orientation, or religion, should not be the topics of discussion in the workplace.
Tips to Overcome Microaggressions
1. Educate employees on the various behaviors that could be insulting and offensive to others.
2. Remind employees of the company's values and policies.
3. Provide posters in employees' lunch rooms and locker rooms.
4. Encourage public awareness by educating the communities in which you operate.
5. Provide a good socialization program that will teach new employees about cultural awareness.
6. Develop programs to focus on sensitivity and diversity training.
Microaggression is sometimes unintentional. Individuals must be corrected if they said something to hurt someone's feelings and must provide that person with an immediate apology. Other times people are just ignorant, and when there is a lack of awareness, employees can become depressed and lack productivity in the workplace.
Through continuous training, managers will be able to promote diversity and inclusion, which will ultimately mitigate conflicts in social interactions. In addition, The American Hotel and Lodging Education Institution (AHLEI) rolled out a new training program that all managers and employees of the hospitality and tourism industry should take. It is called Understanding Unconscious Bias. It was designed to provide awareness of unconscious bias between managers and employees as well as their interactions between guests and coworkers. Everyone should be more cautious of the things they say, their actions and way of being in the workforce. It is these unfortunate incidents that could be one of the many reasons there is a high turnover rate of employees in the travel and tourism industry. Bringing awareness to employees, guests, and the public will go a long way if businesses promote zero tolerance to unconscious bias and microaggression in supporting diversity and inclusion.
We encourage knowledge sharing on our platform and would love to hear from you. What are some microaggressions you have experienced in the travel and tourism industry? What practices have you implemented in your organization to mitigate microaggressions in the workplace? Please share your responses in the comment section below.
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