Morals and Management

by Ken Vincent, Featured Contributor

I have been asked to speak further about a theory I advanced in my book.  The essence of that was that if you have strong moral issues regarding smoking, strong drink, and sex out of the marriage bed then perhaps you should consider the seminary.

ethicsWhile there is some overlap between personal morals and ethics they are not the same.  I see morals as the definition of how one chooses to live his/her personal life.  Ethics are how you deal with other people and situations.

Being a strong moral person is an essential plank in any leadership platform.  You must be considered a  “good person” as a basis for earning respect.

However, a manager, particularly in the hotel industry, must be careful to not thrust his moral beliefs on his employees or guests.  They won’t comply and your really can’t enforce it.

If part of your moral standard is against strong drink, then how do you rationalize selling and serving it to others?  If you consider drinking as a moral sin then why are you contributing to your guests downfall?

If you are adamantly against sex out of the realm of traditional marriage are you going to demand a marriage certificate from every couple that checks into your hotel?  I can guarantee that not every couple that checks into your hotel are married, or at least not to each other.

If you are against smoking, do you make your facility non-smoking?  This issue is a hot topic these days and raises many questions.

If local law prohibits smoking in a hotel, or more commonly in a restaurant, then you have some legal basis for enforcing a smoking ban.  However, without that you may find yourself in some difficulty.

What do you do if a guest smokes in his hotel room?  Some hotels levy a surcharge for that.  But, if the guest refuses to pay it what do you do?  Are you prepared to take it to small claims court?  Do you call the police and toss him out?  Can you afford to lose some 25% of the population (much higher is some regions) that chooses to smoke?  If law permits, maybe a better solution is to set aside 25% of your rooms as smoking rooms.  The questions of second hand smoke isn’t really an issue as most guest rooms today have efficient self contained HVAC systems so that argument doesn’t have a lot of traction.

Of course it is a fact that a small percent of smokers will leave burn holes in their wake.  So you charge a premium rate for those rooms.  Without a smoking floor or wing you are telling some of your guests that they must go outside to smoke.  Hospitality?

So, how do you rationalize your personal moral code with your job as a manager?

Ken Vincent
KEN is a 46 year veteran hotelier and entrepreneur. Formerly owned two hotels, an advertising agency, a wholesale tour company, a POS company, a leasing company, and a hotel management company. The hotels included chain owned, franchises, and independents. They ranged in type from small luxury inns, to limited service properties, to large convention hotels and resorts. After retiring he authored a book, “So Many Hotels, So Little Time” in which he relates what life is like behind the scenes for a hotel manager. Ken operated more that 100 hotels and resorts in the US and Caribbean and formed eight companies. He is a firm believer that senior management should share their knowledge and experience with the next generation of management.


  1. “I see morals as the definition of how one chooses to live his/her personal life. Ethics are how you deal with other people and situations.”

    Redefining words so that the terms are used differently than the English language does not make your article stronger. The Merriam Webster dictionary defines those words as synonyms without the distinction you make.

    What would George Orwell say?

  2. I agree with your thinking, Stephen. How can we argue that we serve the public when we rule out large blocks of people by telling them they can’t bring their pets, or they can’t smoke, or any other “can’t”?

    Shouldn’t we instead be finding ways to accommodate their needs? Isn’t that what hospitality is about?

  3. I could not agree more. We spend so much time on how to increase occupancy by 1 or 2 points and then tell 20-25% of the population (smokers) we don’t want their business.It has never made sense to me. I am Managing Director of a resort outside the States and my occupancy is over 10 points higher than my competition, which discriminates against smokers.
    My personal opinion of guests legal choices are irrelevant.I now have 30% of my rooms for smokers. Great guests, in part because they’re so happy not to be treated like pariah. I hope all of my competition bans smokers, I enjoy the smoke translating to the bottom line!

  4. I like the distinction between morality and ethics. Anti-smoking laws generally exist to respect the health and comfort of others. Morality laws existed because the general population didn’t like a certain behavior. We now accept people who are gay and rightly so however in the past that behavior was outlawed. Laws against cannabis are interesting because the establishment presented them was protecting our health while it was in fact associated with groups that the general population disliked.
    It seems like in some ways we’ve entered a new age of enlightenment.
    Generally what happens in people’s private rooms is their business as long as it doesn’t adversely affect others or seriously harm them. It’s all about judgement since it often is decided by the situation; sex in the room-ok; sex in the hallway-problem.



🔀 SALON 360° 🔀 "Where Shift Happens"

It's time for more walkin'/less talkin'. It's time to change how we operate and how we cooperate. It's time for "shift" to happen.

Must Read