Secret Concierge: The side effects of clustering roles

"I felt as if not only me but the entire team were pushed into the corner — take it, or you leave."

Is clustering always a viable solution?
Is clustering always a viable solution?

There isn’t a hospitality management firm in Dubai that is unfamiliar with clustering, especially these days when more and more hotels are making people redundant to cut costs or get rid of their most expensive assets to lighten the bottom line.

First, they give redundancy letters to the directors and department heads with three kids whose schooling has to be paid by the company, those with an AED180,000 annual live-out allowance, transportation allowances and other perks and bonuses.

Step two would be to cluster the remaining (cheaper) forces, which usually starts from commercial teams, procurement, and HR might go as far as clustering the hotels’ engineering and culinary teams. I’ve even heard the owners say: “Chefs can be at one property in the morning and at the other in the evening. We’ll transport food between the two hotels, no problem.” In writing, that might sound like a “no problem” scenario, and also on the P&L sheet it might look like a good idea at first… Until you actually put it into practice.

When I was first appointed in the role, a number of people from all possible departments, even people whom I had never met at the hotel before, came to congratulate me on the promotion, while on the sidelines always secretly expressing hints of jealousy on the tremendous salary increase that they assumed I had received.

In all fairness, before I was handed the offer letter (which in my vocabulary didn’t really qualify under an ‘offer’, as offer is supposed to be something that you’re able to negotiate with. A letter that just requires your signature is not an offer.) my expectations were indeed higher than the sky.

When your expectations are so high, falling hurts. And it hurt badly. I’d expected a minimum of a 40% salary increase, considering that I was going to be responsible for three giant well performing hotels. Doing the quick maths to realise the amount that the owner would be saving, the 10% increase on the basic salary was indeed a hit below the belt and felt beyond ridiculous. I felt as if not only me but the entire team were pushed into the corner – take it, or you leave. A few of us did leave, but the majority stayed for a good six months, and then started to look for other opportunities in the job market.

Little did I know back then how I would get stretched between three giant properties like pulled beef in a Subway sandwich. In a nutshell I have learned to manage my time in a way that enables me to focus on the priorities and simply delegate or push back the non-urgent tasks that come my way.
Management expects to receive the same results as if they had a team of six in every single property, but one person is physically unable to produce the same work for three hotels that they are able to for a single unit.

I didn’t choose to be in it. I was thrown in the deep end and asked to swim or leave. And when you’re no longer a single adventure-seeker or a fresh university graduate on your second year in Dubai, but instead married with family, you’re likely to go with the first option. Unless you’ve got a Plan B cooking, which I can imagine, most of us don’t.

And no, working on Christmas Eve until 9pm and getting home, having only the energy left to cry yourself to sleep, is not okay. It's not about the money, it’s about your mental health and realising when enough is enough.

Do you have something to say? To share your opinion anonymously, contact claudia.debrito@itp.com

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