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. 

Role-Modeling Leadership

The Ritz-Carlton Perspective

Leaders set the tone. When leaders are grumpy and disengaged, how can they expect their employees not to be as well?

DOs and DON’Ts of Role-Modeling Leadership

  • DO be visible. Leaders who spend all their time sitting in an office are not effective role models. In order to emulate the behavior of leaders, you have to see them in action.
  • DON’T forget people are watching you. Everyone is entitled to “blow off a little steam” or “let your hair down” once in a while, but when you are in a leadership role, you should always act with dignity and grace—even in your emails.
  • DO interact and communicate. Leaders who are approachable and willing to mentor and connect with employees have a greater impact on the people around them.
  • DON’T make disparaging remarks. Talking openly and negatively about employees’ shortcomings can set a bad example and lead to rude behavior in the workplace.
  • DO project confidence and positivity. When leaders seem agitated and nervous, employees will begin to panic as well. Leaders need to be the calm, steadying force that keep everyone feeling secure—no matter what obstacles your organization is facing.
  • DON’T neglect yourself. Leaders who take time to relax, sleep and rejuvenate are less likely to become exhausted and face burnout. More importantly, they’re demonstrating to employees that taking care of oneself is a priority. 

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. 

Transparent Leadership

The Ritz-Carlton Perspective

Transparent leaders with no hidden agendas and who regularly share appropriate company information are very engaging.

DOs and DON’Ts of Transparent Leadership

  • DO establish effective communication systems that allow for a consistent flow of information.
  • DON’T conduct all business behind closed doors. Excluding employees from all business conversations will make them less invested in your organization and less invested in helping you succeed.
  • DO take notice of the rumor mill. Rumors and gossip distract from day-to-day work and are often an indication that employees have concerns and are in need of more communication.
  • DON’T overlook the value of employee input. At The Ritz-Carlton, one of our Service Values states, “I am involved in the planning of the work that affects me.”
  • DO consider sharing financial information, especially financial goals. When employees know the goals of an organization, they can better understand how their work can impact the overall success, and they can become more accountable and engaged.
  • DON’T think that every business decision needs to be a consensus. Transparent leadership does not necessarily mean democratic leadership. Transparent means you have clear processes, and you are willing and open to sharing information with employees. 

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. 

Teachable Moment: Seeking Directions


Two ladies dressed in golf attire approach the clubhouse near the edge of the course. Although they are dressed for the part, they are guests at the club and do not know their way around. They ask a young employee for directions to the driving range. Despite the newcomer-type question, the employee references other locations in the club’s property to get to the range, which is somewhat far away from the clubhouse. The ladies drive off in a cart only to return to the same area by the clubhouse seeking directions again. A manager approaches them and then provides a map and much more digestible directions. She apologizes to the ladies, “I don’t know what’s going on with him– his head is in the clouds today!” in reference to her junior colleague.


  • Never make assumptions about your customers. Regardless of how someone looks or acts, s/he may not be familiar at all with your business or how it works. If the customer is repeat, of course one should acknowledge that; however, it is particularly important to be thorough with new customers to form a positive first impression. If you’re not sure, spend time with the customer(s) and determine their level of familiarity.
  • No one likes to feel lost. When answering a question about directions, it’s always best to take the customer to his/her destination yourself. If this is not possible for whatever reason, ensure that the directions are very clear and appropriate for someone who does not know the lay of the land at all. Your customers are smart people, but clarity is of paramount importance.
  • Always show solidarity with your colleagues. Never, ever throw anyone “under the bus.” Not even in the context of a joke. Customers are impressed when employees work together in sync– something that the Ladies and Gentlemen of The Ritz-Carlton do everyday. You’re all on the same team– apologize to the customer, yes, but coach your colleague in private. 

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.

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.”