Smiles Help Managers Boost Hotel Staff Performance, Notes Study

By Dave Simpson
Smiles Help Managers Boost Hotel Staff Performance, Notes Study

Hotel managers who share a smile and a joke with their teams are more likely to see staff ‘going the extra mile’ when engaging with customers, a new study reveals.


Using humour has the effect of raising team energy and prompting more positive staff behaviour towards guests, particularly among ‘less traditional’ workers and employees, who prefer to have different experiences.

An international team of researchers studied data collected from employees in teams across China’s hotel industry, discovering that ‘more traditional’ staff members responded less favourably to humour from their leaders.

Publishing the findings in Tourism Management, the team notes that employees in the hospitality sector are typically under a great deal of stress, and organisations must find effective ways to re-energise them, as their behaviour can determine customer satisfaction.


The researchers offer a range of practical suggestions to managers in hospitality organisations, including:

  • using humour more often when managing staff, helping employees to better engage with customers;
  • hiring managerial candidates who have a good sense of humour, building ‘humour questionnaires’ into the recruitment process;
  • encouraging co-workers to evaluate managers’ sense of humour as supporting information for promotions; and
  • providing managers with training programmes that emphasise the importance of humour for effective leadership.

Co-author Dr Ahmed Shaalan, from the University of Birmingham Dubai, commented, “We found a strong link between leader humour and hotel staff engaging positively with customers, as well as enhanced levels of energy among these employees, confirming that leader humour could enhance customer service.

“We would therefore recommend that managers should consider using humour when they engage with their staff. Given the hospitality sector’s significant contribution to the global economy, leader humour can make a valuable contribution to the performance of a key industry.”

As humour has a greater impact on less-traditional employees, the researchers recommend that managers should adopt different strategies, to ensure that they interact appropriately with employees. This approach helps to re-energise each employee and motivate him/her, to ensure a high level of work efficiency.

Co-author Dr Marwa Tourky, from the Cranfield School of Management, commented, “We highlight how cultural values alter the effect of leader humour by explaining how less-traditional employees are more likely to accept leader humour as a form of communication.


“Employees who experience leader humour can obtain additional interpersonal and emotional resources via humorous interaction with their leaders. For example, sharing interesting stories or jokes by leaders can make employees feel relaxed, happy, and give them more energy to fulfil customer needs and offer extra assistance not required by the organisation.”

Additional Information

The team notes that leader humour can make a valuable contribution to the performance of a key global industry, whose most distinctive feature is its ability to create enjoyment for customers by providing high-quality service and meeting their needs.

Employees play an important role in this process, but the hospitality industry has a higher incidence of stress because of the work-related tasks involved. For example, employees are expected to smile and behave professionally, even when dealing with uncivilised customers. In turn, this reduces their ability to perform at their best in the workplace, and it becomes necessary to re-energise employees after serving such customers.

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