Dealing with Difficult People and Negative Attitudes in the Hospitality Industry

Janice Davies – Attitude Specialist

Difficult people drive you nuts…they are negative, do not do what you would like them to, do not think like you and may even try to have you feeling you are in the wrong when you are not. You encounter them at work with your colleagues, customers and boss.

Then, there are the negative folk, the people who are unhappy with everyone and everything. They are your internal and external customers and can drive you nuts as well.

With the understanding you can not change anybody else except yourself, any positive outcome to a tricky situation you encounter, is up to you. Sometimes people are quite content being unhappy so your solutions are in your hands or rather your head. Whether it is customers face-to-face, via written communication or verbal over the phone, more than likely every person in the hospitality industry has encountered these situations at some time.

It may be the external customer who blames you for things that are not your fault. However as one of your paying customer it becomes your job to find a solution. Working in the hospitality industry is about providing service. Sometimes it is learning solutions to positively provide a memorable experience for your paying customers. If their food or coffee is cold and you are the waitress or waiter it can be as simple as replacing their order. Not your fault but you bear the brunt of their anger or nasty comments.

We already know that one bad experience gets repeated eleven times or more to customers’ friends and acquaintances and could damage the reputation of a hotel, restaurant or café. However, providing a quick solution can have the ‘unhappy customer’ becoming one of the best ‘word of mouth’ advertisers a business can have.

With your colleagues if you know your personality and the type of relationship you are encountering, it helps you understand the expected outcome of that association. It can also determine whether a skilled employee or manager can create a positive experience at work or not. Praise and appreciation will create good ‘vibes’ whereas constant criticism and negativity will have the opposite impact on relationships.

When people are treated as equals and respected then good work relationships will develop and employees are willing to ‘go the extra mile’ in the service industry. This is a win/win workplace relationship and the good feeling emanates from the employees and bubbles over to paying customers.

When people are bullied or undermine each other and not respected then negativity will be rife.

This is more easily determined with your colleagues and it will be a win/lose or lose/win type of relationship that is dysfunctional. This creates ill feelings and can also ‘flow’ through to your customers.

Consequently, it is in the best interest of managers to learn how to create good workplace relationships. Having these good associations takes knowledge. Giving appropriate feedback to help improve performance is another skill to be mastered. Telling someone in an angry voice is likely to get their hackles up on the back of their neck, like it would if you were on the receiving end. Instead learning to give feedback in a positive frame will empower people and is sharing responsibility by valuing and respecting an employee. This results into increased motivation and work commitment.

Consequently dealing with these difficult people, successfully requires knowledge, skills, understanding and confidence. The second half of your solution is having the tools to change your thoughts and behaviour to stop them affecting you if you are staying awake at night. Solutions are possible…it is about working on your people to create positive workplace environments where people have the skills to overcome the difficult and negative encounters that are experienced in the service industry.


Janice Davies is The Attitude Specialist, who teaches people to be positive and empower themselves. Janice has worked with hotels and airlines and a tutor in the travel and tourism, industry. Now working as a business trainer and motivational speaker Janice educates people at conferences and workshops.  Visit for more information.


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