Making Work Meaningful

The Ritz-Carlton Perspective

How much time are you spending each week speaking to your employees about passion and the purpose of their work?

DOs and DON’Ts of Making Work Meaningful

  • DO emphasize purpose. Employees who only see the day-to-day tasks of their jobs can begin to feel unsatisfied and disengaged. On the other hand, employees who feel connected to a greater purpose within the organization tend to bring more passion to the workplace.
  • DON’T let employees get isolated and siloed. Employees who never have the opportunity to connect with others—customers or colleagues—may feel lonely at work. Employees who are isolated may feel trapped in a seemingly dead-end job.
  • DO empower employees. Empowered employees have more autonomy and feel like their decisions and actions can make a difference.
  • DON’T let employees become stagnant. Give employees opportunities to grow, develop and learn new skills.
  • DO point out to employees how their work is impacting others. Employees may not always see the fruits of their labors and hearing how their efforts led to achievements and success will reinforce their importance within the organization.
  • DON’T neglect gratitude—and fun! Employees who feel appreciated and have their work recognized generally feel happier at work. 


Handling Employees’ Mistakes

The Ritz-Carlton Perspective

The best leaders teach employees to take ownership for their mistakes. Everyone makes mistakes, and everyone can learn from them.

DOs and DON’Ts of Handling Employees’ Mistakes

  • DO let employees know that making mistakes is part of the job. Give them a safe place to fail and learn.
  • DON’T tell employees that you’re disappointed or angry when they make a mistake. Employees may try to hide mistakes if they think their bosses will have a negative reaction.
  • DO include the employee in the solution. Ask leading questions such as, “How would you change the process in the future?” or, “Are there other resources you could have used?”
  • DON’T make it personal. Try to focus on the mistake and possible solutions rather than underscoring the employee’s shortcomings.
  • DO show your support by offering additional training for the employee if needed.
  • DON’T hold a grudge or continually remind the employee of past mistakes. Give employees the opportunity to have a fresh start. 

Giving Employee Feedback

The Ritz-Carlton Perspective

When your employees receive consistent feedback throughout the year, they will not be surprised or blindsided at their annual reviews.

DOs and DON’Ts of Giving Employee Feedback

  • DO be clear and direct when giving feedback. Commenting on an employee’s work performance is not always easy, but if you sugarcoat your comments too much the employee may not hear your main point.
  • DON’T be offensive or rude. Never insult or belittle an employee as you’re giving feedback, or you’ll risk demoralizing your employee. Take a positive approach by treating shortcomings as opportunities for training and improvement.
  • DO give your employee a chance to talk. Your employee might have valuable insight into an existing problem. Also, your employee may be grateful for the opportunity to discuss possible solutions.
  • DON’T give negative feedback in public. It is better to praise in public and share constructive criticism in private. Hearing feedback is often embarrassing and challenging for employees, and they will feel less vulnerable if their peers aren’t witnessing the conversation.
  • DO focus on facts. Sharing your feelings can be perceived as subjective and unfair, but if you focus on the issues, then it becomes less personal and more about the situation. For example, instead of saying, “I feel you’re not working as hard as you could,” you could say, “You didn’t meet your quota/deadline.”
  • DON’T give feedback when you’re angry or frustrated. When you’re upset, you may say things you’ll regret later. Wait until you are calm and levelheaded to have a professional conversation. 

Navigating Professional Disagreements

The Ritz-Carlton Perspective

Real professionals can vehemently disagree with each other’s point of view and yet, remain respectful.

DOs and DON’Ts of Professional Disagreement

  • DO genuinely listen. You may have an opposite point-of-view, but if you dismiss your colleague’s ideas without listening, you will seem intractable, disrespectful and uncooperative.
  • DON’T belittle or yell at your colleague. Raising your voice does not make you more right. Professionals are able to control their emotions and remain calm no matter the circumstances.
  • DO consider stopping an impassioned discussion and resuming the conversation after you’ve both had time to think or do further research.
  • DON’T continuously interrupt your colleague. If your co-worker isn’t giving you the opportunity to speak, you may need to cut him or her off. However, you should also give your colleague the opportunity to finish a sentence.
  • DO consider consulting a third party. If you are truly at a stalemate, a mediator or neutral co-worker can help you arrive at a resolution.
  • DON’T hold a grudge if your point-of-view ends up being overridden. Do your best to support the final decision and show your colleagues that you are a team player—even when it’s someone else’s idea. 

Significant Stat: Genuine Fundraising

Workplace Challenge

“Fundraisers who are paid to raise money for a charity they care about may be less effective than those that volunteer.” (source)

From The Ritz-Carlton Leadership Center:

Salespeople are often motivated by financial incentives in order to make a sale. However, when it comes to fundraising, offering solicitors financial incentives may end up decreasing donation levels. A recent study found that donors tend to perceive solicitors who have financial incentives as “less sincere” and consequently, donors “contribute less as a result.” At The Ritz-Carlton, our employees—known as our Ladies and Gentlemen—strive to express “genuine care” for our customers. The word “genuine” is significant because customers will only engage and trust your organization when interactions feel “genuine.” Employees cannot go through the motions—force a smile, ask questions without listening to customers’ answers, or follow a carefully worded script—and expect to earn customer loyalty. Whether fundraising or crafting a memorable experience, sincerity will make a greater impact on your donors and customers.

Significant Stat: Measuring Activities

Workplace Challenge

Measuring activity prompts us to do more be more productive, but it can make us enjoy activities less. (source)

The Ritz-Carlton Leadership Center Perspective

Many high-performing organizations pride themselves on being data-driven. While data is extremely valuable in determining metrics like customer and employee engagement, regularly tracking individual activities can negatively affect an otherwise enjoyable employee experience. Professor Jordan Etkin of Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business understands the draw to measuring activities; however, she also concluded that “rather than merely drawing attention away from an enjoyable activity, measurement also draws attention towards output, which undermines motivation and overall happiness” (Fuqua School of Business). At The Ritz-Carlton, we are committed to continuously learning and innovating, which is often informed by data we collect. At the same time, as leaders we are cognizant of ensuring that we do not make our Ladies and Gentlemen feel like they are under a microscope. Our Gold Standards have clear statements regarding our employees’ empowerment as well as our value of trust in the workplace. It is everyone’s responsibility to support each other in being as efficient as possible while also supporting each other’s happiness.

Significant Stat: Employee Engagement Strategy

Workplace Challenge

Job engagement is not only heavily influenced by a worker’s current circumstances, but also by his or her expectations for the future. (source)

The Ritz-Carlton Leadership Center Perspective

“Keep your eye on the ball!” Whether you’re a little leaguer at the plate or figuratively at bat and charged with leading others in your workplace, how are you focusing? You don’t plan to swing based on how the pitch looks from 20 yards away, you keep tracking it to ensure you’re set up correctly for when the ball enters the plane above home plate. The same goes for employee engagement– you have to plan ahead. Hernandez and Guarana, a professor and postdoctoral research associate, respectively, at Darden School of Business, state that “current experiences, although important and significant predictors of job engagement, are episodes within the larger scope of an employee’s career.” The engagement of employees surveyed was also affected by how confident they felt about having access to resources to do their work as well as how they felt about what that work would yield.

What does that mean for an organization’s employee engagement strategy? If one feels secure and engaged today, that is great; however, that does not mean that their level of engagement will remain high for any length of time. Why? The structures an organization may have in place to support their employees today may not fulfill their employees’ future needs. The best solution to this problem is for organizations to be proactive. As the researchers put it, “organizations that attend to not only the current but also the expected future needs and rewards of their employees will be well positioned to build job engagement.” At The Ritz-Carlton, we continuously seek opportunities to innovate and improve The Ritz-Carlton experience– only for guests, but also for employees. Our employee engagement survey can help us get to the root of a problem and provide the impetus for an action plan that will help us hit a home run in engagement next year. Even our Gold Standards have evolved over the years to ensure that our Ladies and Gentlemen of today, tomorrow and beyond feel supported and ready to provide world-class service. 

Significant Stat: Engaged Salespeople

Workplace Challenge

“Highly engaged sales reps are more likely to successfully upsell their customers—and leave their customers more satisfied.” (source)

The Ritz-Carlton Perspective

When researchers at the Yale School of Management took a closer look at the connection between employee engagement and sales performance (Khwaja and Yang 2016), they found that highly engaged salespeople had a stronger performance—especially when upselling their clients. Salespeople that are truly engaged and excited about the work they do are naturally more enthusiastic. Their passion and positivity may impress your customers and produce greater sales. Your customers will also appreciate the genuine care engaged employees deliver. At The Ritz-Carlton, we acknowledge that our “Ladies and Gentlemen are our most valuable resource in our service commitment to our guests” in our Employee Promise. Although creating and maintaining a desirable work environment takes some effort, the payout is undeniable.

Teachable Moment: Engaging Interview


A bright, young, talented job candidate comes to an office for a job interview. She meets with the employees who would be her immediate team members and supervisors, and she makes genuine connections.  Everyone seems to feel positively about the interview process. Finally, it is time to meet with the CEO. She is unapologetically late, self-centered and keeps responding to messages on her phone during the interaction. In other words, the CEO fails to engage the candidate at all or answer her questions.


Teamwork is always important, and particularly so in the context of recruiting and hiring great talent. The CEO failed to contribute positively to her employees’ hiring process and in fact left a negative last impression on the candidate.

Technology is a wonderful thing; however, it can be distracting. Do not make the people in front of you feel like they are not a priority by constantly texting or emailing someone elsewhere.

The Employee Promise of The Ritz-Carlton states, “we nurture and maximize talent to the benefit of each individual and the company.” As the senior leader, the CEO missed a huge opportunity to show interest in the young employee and show her how she could grow with her company.

If you were this employee, would you take the job even if the offer was good? 

Significant Stat: Benevolence

Workplace Challenge

“Managers naturally tend to emphasize their competence while downplaying benevolence.” (source)

From The Ritz-Carlton Leadership Center:

Benevolence is one of the key components of trust. Kent Grayson, an associate professor of marketing at the Kellogg School of Management and faculty coordinator of The Trust Project at Northwestern University, defines benevolence as the belief that a person or entity “has your best interests at heart and cares about you.” Employees will not trust managers who are clearly out for themselves. In order to engage employees and earn their trust, leaders must genuinely care about their staff. The Credo of The Ritz-Carlton includes the words “genuine care.” If employees do not feel truly cared for, it is unlikely that they will genuinely care about your customers or your organization. When managers act benevolently, they build trust with employees. Grayson notes, “Trust, after all, is a powerful force: it can win customers and deepen important relationships.”