The last time traveling highlighted for me examples of managing by delegation. One example was with checking in, and the other was in getting another copy of my room key. In both examples I was led to believe that my requests would lead to action and instead, both examples led to disruption and stress for those involved.
Walking in to the hotel lobby I observed a line with about 3 people waiting. There were 4 people behind the desk working fastidiously. It seemed I wouldn’t have to wait long. The Manager on Duty (MOD) was greeting people in front of the desk and asking what he could do for them. I was in a very relaxed, patient mood and the MOD’s frenetic I NEED TO HELP YOU!!! attitude as he greeted arrivals was distracting. I tried to avoid him as I took my place in the line, bags at my feet. Alas, the desk people were slow enough that he reached me before I reached them.
Giving me a WELCOME and a hand shake and nervous laughter he demanded to know how he could be of help. I said, “Well, you could check me in.” and he said, “I cannot do that for you, is there anything else you need?” and I muttered, “I just want to check in…”. When traveling by plane I try to enter a near-meditative, relaxed state to help with how long the day will be. Even on short flights, I find the door-to-door commute usually takes no less than 6 hours and typically takes 8 or 9 before I truly reach my destination.
The manager’s attitude and behavior was definitely starting to wind me up. He actually interrupted one of the check in people and told her that I needed to check in and to get to me as soon as possible. So now we were all flummoxed and she was stressed even more and rushing and the atmosphere in the lobby went from relaxing to… PANIC! We need to get people checked in! AAAAUUUGH!!! DO YOUR JOB! His meddling just made everyone tense and actually elongated the process.
A couple nights later I had left my room without the key. I was at the very far end of the building, about 2 city blocks away from the front. So I began the excursion to the front desk. I stopped and resupplied at the vending machine and continued on my way. I finally got to the desk and there was one person behind the desk helping someone and one person waiting for help. A different MOD came up and asked if he could help with anything. I said, “Apparently not.”.
“What does that mean?”, he asked fairly enough.
Thinking of my last experience with the MOD I said, “I guess managers here are only allowed to tell others what to do, but not actually do anything themselves.”.
He expressed a bit of outrage and insisted, “I take that as a challenge and promise to help you. What can I do for you?”.
Standing in gym clothes, pocket-less and nearly late for my workout class I asked, “Can you get me a key? I’ve locked myself out”.
His reaction did not surprise me. “Oh, I can’t do that, but this young woman will be glad to help.” turning to her and interrupting her service of another customer, “this gentleman needs a key, can you get one to him as soon as possible?”.
She looked at me and we rolled our eyes at each other. It was the same person who checked me in and and I muttered, “How empowering! Please, take your time.”, being a little self-conscious of looking arrogant to the customer being helped, and to the staff. She was helpful and I got my key in enough time to make my class.
These situations remind me so much of how traditional managers behave, and how upsetting it can be for everyone involved. Do both these people have the same management style and personality? Were they trained the same? Is it a point of privilege not to do anything as a manger? Is it the people, or the system?
I would love to know your thoughts. If you have some answers or questions of your own, I invite you to leave a comment.