Doing the right thing.
Our industry sometimes lacks the ability to do the right thing — not for the customer but for its employees. We work in a field that takes us away from our families on holidays, nights and weekends. It’s not a 9-to-5 life.
Like the rest of the world, we’re so bottom-line-oriented that our focus is on the job, and we don’t always look beyond it when the situation demands.
In April a dedicated, and I mean dedicated, senior sales manager with 24 years’ experience at the Hilton Atlanta Downtown died after having cancer for five years. What happened next touched me so much because it’s so rare. I put down my scribe knife and fork for a month to applaud Jim Barto’s general manager because this GM did the right thing.
Jim was a lifetime Hilton Hotel Corp. employee. He loved working for Hilton and participated in every organization necessary to get the job done right. Everyone described him as the guy with the smile on his face, who would lend a hand to anyone in an industry of which he was proud.
What’s so amazing is that even as Jim’s health failed, the entire Hilton Atlanta team lovingly secured his dignity by letting him work as his health allowed. They didn’t push him out or have him work from home. It was important to Jim and his co-workers that he was able to continue doing what he loved, going to work whenever he could. This gave Jim a sense of dignity and fight even if it meant working a five-hour day instead of an eight-hour one.
When Jim did pass, and his wife was searching for a place to hold his memorial service, guess who stepped up? The Hilton Atlanta. Leaders there insisted they host Jim’s hospitality community, friends and family at what truly was the most appropriate place.
I went thinking they would cheap out on the service, because they were picking up the bill for more than 200 people. Not one ounce. It was sincerely their pleasure. There was a violinist at the doorway. The service was in a beautiful ballroom. The food was distributed among several stations in the plaza area. This was an emotional time for many of the employees, so it was important that everyone participate in making this final function perfect.
Doing the right thing didn’t stop there. The Hilton Atlanta named its exhibit hall after Jim. I’ve never heard of anyone doing something like this, but it’s important to this hotel that a favorite employee live on in spirit.
I realize I often write harsh columns about the challenges we face from venues. This experience was so appropriate though, it’s worth sharing. I hope it encourages other senior-level managers to follow suit should they find themselves in similar situations.
This is my story for now, and I’m sticking to it.