Significant Stat: Impression Recovery

Workplace Challenge

People require more evidence to perceive improvement in someone’s moral character than to perceive a decline. (source)

The Ritz-Carlton Leadership Center Perspective

Impressions, good or bad, form as quickly as one can read the word “impressions.” While both organizations and the individuals who power it must ensure that they are representing themselves positively at all times, it would be foolish to assume everyone is always on their “best behavior.” A recent study out of the University of Chicago Booth School of Business highlights an important consequence of a negative impression– it is difficult to recover. Assistant Professor of Behavioral Science Ed O’Brien and post-doctoral scholar Nadav Klein found that their participants were much quicker to view a person more negatively after bad behavior versus viewing them positively after good behavior. The fictional person whom the participants were asked to evaluate had to perform many more good actions to improve her rapport with the participants than she did bad actions to deteriorate it.

From the perspective of a Lady or Gentleman at The Ritz-Carlton, we understand that when guests experience defects or anything else that violates their expectations of us, we run the risk of those negative pieces being the most memorable part of their time with us. It is up to us to salvage that guest’s impression of us and get them back to being engaged with our brand. There are a number of factors to getting this right, but among them are ensuring that we get the basics right (ex. cleanliness), fulfilling guests’ expressed wishes (ex. providing foam pillows when asked) and then going a step (or more, ideally) further to deliver a unique, personalized experience that is more memorable than that which preceded it. 

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? 

Teachable Moment: “Calm Down”


A grandmother was flying home to see her daughter and grandkids for a long weekend. She left early for the airport, but hit traffic, waited over half an hour for the parking shuttle and was stuck in an extra-long security line. When she finally reached her gate, she was told she had just missed her flight. Exhausted and frustrated from the effort to get there and sad that she would inconvenience her daughter and grandkids, the grandmother burst into tears. The desk agent responded by repeatedly telling her to “calm down.”


  • Telling the grandmother to “calm down” did not validate her feelings—which often makes people fight harder for their emotions. Rather than shutting down the grandmother’s reaction, the desk agent could have offered a more empathetic and reassuring reply such as: “Missing a plane is disappointing. However, we can get you on another flight in an hour.”
  • Because the phrase “calm down“ is a command, the grandmother might have seen the front desk agent as patronizing. She was most likely feeling vulnerable and powerless after missing her flight. Rather than issuing an order, the front desk agent could have adopted a more helpful and encouraging approach such as: “I’m here to help you, and we will work this out together.”
  • The Credo of The Ritz-Carlton states that “the genuine care and comfort of our guests is our highest mission.” When a customer is crying—that customer is in need of some genuine care. The phrase “calm down” feels more like indifference than genuine care. Airline front desk agents probably deal with a lot of frustrated and tired customers, and yet, each customer deserves and hopes to be treated with kindness and care. 

Etiquette & Engagement: Resilient

Imagine if every person acted like a lady or gentleman…..

Etiquette Tip: Ladies and Gentlemen are resilient when working as part of a team.

Teamwork drives many of today’s workplaces regardless of setting or industry, which is why it’s critical to make sure it’s done in the most effective way possible. A key competency of an effective team is the ability to move together in the same direction without being sidetracked by obstacles. Showing resilience while working with others will help your team make more effective decisions and make progress at an appropriate rate. As an individual, you must ensure that you are open to exploring others’ ideas and action plans and not work only to advance your own agenda. Although you may think what you’ve presented is the best idea or strategy, it’s important to be resilient in the event that your contributions are ultimately not put in place. Staying fluid in this context will allow you to refocus quickly and find ways that you can support next steps and show your team that you are ready to continue providing your insights and energy going forward. The whole team must also be able to bounce back from any setbacks and have the perseverance to find new ways around obstacles. Expressing resilience will ultimately save you and your colleagues a lot of energy, which can then be rechanneled into producing the best product and services you can provide.

The motto of The Ritz-Carlton is “We are Ladies and Gentlemen serving Ladies and Gentlemen.” This motto sets a tone of goodwill and grace for all.

Etiquette & Engagement: Restrained

Imagine if every person acted like a lady or gentleman…..

Etiquette Tip: Ladies and gentlemen are restrained when communicating by email.

Stop before you click send on that half-baked email you’ve got started in another window—is it really necessary to send this email? Could the message you are trying to convey be better delivered over a phone call or a quick trip down the hall? Sending email has become such a knee-jerk solution to sharing information, but it’s not always the best solution. This is especially true if you are problem solving or brainstorming. If your message is not the beginning of a conversation and can be conveyed in a single email, then email is probably your best form of communications. However, if you anticipate that the message you’re sending will be the first of a thread of 20 or more messages that eventually includes a group of people, think twice about beginning an email conversation. This might be a good time to use a more collaborative software tool or application. Or perhaps a meeting is a better choice. Good old-fashioned conversation can help you clarify what other parties are saying and is often a more time-efficient way to resolve issues. In addition, when you’re responding to clients, it’s often a WOW and more personal for them to receive a phone call from you rather than a generic email. At The Ritz-Carlton, our employees—known as our Ladies and Gentlemen—know that effective communication is critical to serving our guests. By giving an extra second to thinking about whether an email is the best way to reach out, we can respect each other’s time by streamlining communication.

The motto of The Ritz-Carlton is “We are Ladies and Gentlemen serving Ladies and Gentlemen.” This motto sets a tone of goodwill and grace for all.

Etiquette & Engagement: Civil

Imagine if every person acted like a lady or gentleman…..

Etiquette Tip: Ladies and gentlemen are civil when being served by others.

You order your food and wait in hungry anticipation. The server delivers the food to the tables all around you—who ordered after you—and when your food finally arrives, it is cold. Or, let’s say you need to change your cable plan, and the company puts you on hold repeatedly, transferring you from one department to the next before someone is finally able to help you. It’s difficult to stay calm and polite when the service you receive is inadequate and frustrating. However, it’s important to remember that even though you may have valid reasons to be upset, you are interacting with people. People deserve to be treated with kindness. The person you end up speaking to after you have been transferred four times is not responsible for your poor treatment and that person did not create the process that makes customers feel powerless and angry. In addition, there is most likely little that person can do to change the process. Yelling at that person may relieve some of your tension, but it is misdirected anger. Even if the person serving you is the one that made the mistake—perhaps your server forgot to place your order and that’s why your food was delayed—you should strive to remain gracious and never belittle anyone. At The Ritz-Carlton, one of our Service Values stipulates that we are proud of our professional behavior. Our employees—known as our Ladies and Gentlemen—understand that professional behavior means remaining calm—even under trying circumstances. Poor service is definitely a trying circumstance, but as ladies and gentlemen, we can all strive to be civil and respond courteously. 

The motto of The Ritz-Carlton is “We are Ladies and Gentlemen serving Ladies and Gentlemen.” This motto sets a tone of goodwill and grace for all.

Etiquette & Engagement: Thoughtful

Imagine if every person acted like a lady or gentleman…..

Etiquette Tip: Ladies and gentlemen are thoughtful when communicating by email.

According to an email statistics report, the number of emails sent and received per day in 2015 totaled over 205 billion. Perhaps this explains why so many people feel as if they are drowning in email. It also points to the need to be more thoughtful in our email communication. Sending an email is free and easy. Therefore, you may be tempted to send email without thinking about the impact it has on someone else’s time. Before pressing send, you should determine whether the content of your email is of value to all of your recipients. This is particularly true when beginning a conversation with multiple colleagues over email. Being thoughtful of your co-workers’ time is always appreciated. You should make an effort to not only copy the right people on the email, but also take people off an email conversation when their participation is no longer needed. The employees at The Ritz-Carlton—known as our Ladies and Gentlemen—are committed to creating “a work environment of teamwork and lateral service.” In order to be a respectful team member, you must strive to keep your teammates informed but remain mindful of your colleagues’ workload. Ladies and gentlemen practice thoughtful communication by eliminating extraneous messages. 

Our Enrichment Courses immerse clients in The Ritz-Carlton ambience while offering philosophical and tactical service excellence knowledge. Please visit our Course Calendar to learn more about our upcoming courses and to register. 

Etiquette & Engagement: Alert

Imagine if every person acted like a lady or gentleman…..

Etiquette Tip: Ladies and gentlemen are alert when listening to others.

Listening is not a passive activity. To be a good listener, you must pay attention, ask clarifying questions and respond appropriately. Giving your full attention to someone means that you are not thinking about what you might say in response—or even worse, wondering what you might make for dinner. A good listener is alert and listening for verbal clues throughout the conversation. This is an especially important skill if you work in customer service. Your customers are sharing information that can help you engage and create memorable experiences. Perhaps your customers mention a recent birthday celebration, their passion for volunteering or their favorite sports team. A trained customer service professional can use this information to create a “wow” moment or to genuinely bond with a customer. One of the Service Values at The Ritz-Carlton ensures that our employees—known as our Ladies and Gentlemen—are “responsive to the expressed and unexpressed wishes and needs of our guests.” Ladies and Gentlemen must be alert and listen in order to detect a guest’s unexpressed wishes. When you are an alert listener, your customers, colleagues and friends will appreciate your attentiveness and feel more valued. 

Our Enrichment Courses immerse clients in The Ritz-Carlton ambience while offering philosophical and tactical service excellence knowledge. Please visit our Course Calendar to learn more about our upcoming courses and to register. 

DOs and DON’Ts of Workplace Friendships

Friendships at work may seem like a potential distraction to productivity, but research from Gallup points out that employees who find a best friend at work “are seven times as likely to be engaged in their jobs, are better at engaging customers, produce higher quality work, have higher well-being, and are less likely to get injured on the job.” Workplace friendships clearly have a lot of bonuses. However, when you are the boss, workplace friendships are more complicated. You may consider yourself friends with your employees, but friendships cannot eclipse your responsibilities as a boss. The following list of DO’s and DON’Ts will help leaders navigate workplace relationships.

DO express interest in your staff

It’s important to be professional at work, but professional does not mean cold and distant. Leaders who remain aloof and detached will have a hard time building trust with their employees. Global Officer, Worldwide Operations at The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, L.L.C., Bob Kharazmi, notes, “Leadership is about effectiveness, and effectiveness comes when you create relationships with your team. Your influence is dependent upon the relationship you have with your team.” When you take the time to get to know a little about your employees—find out what their hobbies are, the names of their pets, their favorite sports team—you are showing you care. Consequently, your staff will feel recognized and more valued.

DON’T show favoritism

Pretend you have 10 people reporting to you. Chances are that you will connect with one or two of your employees better than the others. You may be tempted to spend more time with the employees you enjoy most, or give more attention to the employees you feel are doing the best job. However, when one employee appears to be receiving perks due to a friendship, colleagues can become jealous and employee morale suffers. According to the article “The Dangers of Playing Favorites at Work,” even “subtle indications of favoritism … can be … frustrating to employees and detrimental to company culture.” The article also states that, “at extremes, favoritism can lead to lawsuits.” As a leader, you must strive to treat all of your employees with the same amount of care and appreciation.

DO respect your employees’ privacy

One of the Service Values at The Ritz-Carlton vows to “protect the privacy” of fellow employees. Your employees may share confidential information with you from time to time. Regardless of whether they are telling you as a friend or as a boss, your role is to practice discretion and honor their trust in you. You must also be understanding—and not take it personally—if employees choose not to connect with you over social media. Some of your staff may prefer to keep their work life and personal life separate.

DON’T forget to ask about challenges

If an employee has shared a personal crisis with you, be sure to follow up and check in with that employee. Expressing concern by asking, “How are you?” can be a great first step, but avoid asking too many questions. You don’t want to seem as if you’re spying or prying. Be sure your employee is aware of any services your organization offers that could be helpful—such as counseling or legal help. According to research from Bensinger, DuPont & Associates, 47% of all employees reported that the stress from a personal problem impacts their work performance. Expressing compassion is important and right. However, since you and/or your team will possibly be taking on extra work to support this employee, you have to ensure that you don’t over-extend your staff for the sake of a friendship.

DO remember that you are the boss

Because you are the boss, you have a significant impact on your employees’ careers. Most likely, you are giving them performance reviews, recommending them for promotions and even deciding if they should lose their jobs. It’s important for employees to be in your good graces, and this means that their praise may not always be completely genuine. While some employees may blatantly “kiss up” to a boss, others may be more covert in their insincerity. You may feel an employee’s friendship is not motivated by ambition or selfishness—yet in hindsight, you may discover that it was self-serving all along. Leaders can be particularly susceptible to disingenuousness. The “Field Guide to the Social Climber” cites a study that shows, “when you are the object of effusiveness, you fail to recognize the brown-nosing not out of vanity but rather from a desire to be liked and admired.”

DON’T let friendship get in the way of hard conversations

Being a leader means that you need to give feedback, select whom to promote or demote and possibly even lay off or fire an employee. When you become friends with your employees, these difficult conversations become even more challenging. The article, “One Out of Every Two Managers is Terrible at Accountability,” claims that “by far and away the single-most shirked responsibility of executives is holding people accountable.” Adding friendship to a work relationship can make accountability more difficult. Leaders who try to sidestep confrontation may dread disciplining friends, and no one wants to be in the position of deciding whether to lay off their friends.

Importance of Relationships

One of the Service Values at The Ritz-Carlton begins, “I build strong relationships….” This includes relationships with customers and colleagues. You can determine the parameters of these relationships. In other words, you may not want to invite employees over for dinner parties. However, it is important to talk and connect with your employees. Building strong relationships at work will create an atmosphere of care, respect and appreciation and will help everyone work together more effectively. 

Our Enrichment Courses immerse clients in The Ritz-Carlton ambience while offering philosophical and tactical service excellence knowledge. Please visit our Course Calendar to learn more about our upcoming courses and to register. 

Etiquette & Engagement: Professional

Imagine if every person acted like a lady or gentleman…..

Etiquette Tip: Ladies and gentlemen are professional when communicating by email.

Although your co-workers might have a good sense of humor, it’s important to remember that there are limitations to what is appropriate. This is especially important when considering email, as your colleagues are using this medium to maintain important information and client relationships. With that in mind, think twice before sharing a video or article you think is amusing since not everyone finds the same things funny. You want to ensure everything you put in writing or share online is respectful of different cultures, family types, etc. Political messages can be particularly polarizing, so avoiding this area altogether is advised. You may feel passionately about an issue, but your propaganda should not enter the workplace. There might be opportunities to spend time with your colleagues and engage in discussion on topics beyond the scope of your work; however, work email is not the place to do that. Ladies and gentlemen are always cognizant of how they carry themselves in person and e-decorum should match. 

Our Enrichment Courses immerse clients in The Ritz-Carlton ambience while offering philosophical and tactical service excellence knowledge. Please visit our Course Calendar to learn more about our upcoming courses and to register.