February 8, 2022

A Study on Hospitality Leadership Inclusion: Read the Executive Summary

Written by HFTP Publications

Research by: Michelle Russen, Ph.D. candidate

Workplace exclusion, otherwise known as ostracism, has been found to be related to several negative outcomes in hospitality, such as increased burnout, increased counterproductive work behaviors, reduced self-esteem, and decreased thriving at work. The goal of this study was to understand how to create more inclusive hospitality leadership teams. We additionally investigated the outcomes of a more inclusive environment when hospitality businesses address inclusion at three levels: individuals as managers, organizational policies and practices, and society’s influence on organization expectations.

Below, find an executive summary of the study's overall findings, including recommendations for hospitality leaders.


We collected data from current hospitality managers throughout the United States. A total of 302 responses were utilized for analysis. A special 'thank you' to the hospitality organizations, including HFTP members, who helped in this process.


Notably, 18 percent of our sample indicated having been the subject of discrimination at their current organization, which, although somewhat low, indicates a need for creating a more inclusive environment. Individual inclusion is defined by teamwork and transformational leadership style. Organizational inclusion is defined by diversity management practices and establishing an inclusive culture. Societal inclusion is defined by attitude toward women and minorities as managers and unintended exclusion. Individual, organizational, and societal inclusion predict employee engagement, job satisfaction, organizational justice perceptions, and manager intent to stay with the organization (retention).


The first place hospitality organizations need to start is to establish an inclusive culture and implement diversity management practices. To establish an inclusive culture, organizations should make it the norm to celebrate diversity and individual differences at all levels. It should become practice to talk openly about differences in culture, beliefs, backgrounds, experiences, and anything else that makes a person who they are, then begin celebrating these differences. An inclusive culture begins at the top of the organization, so top management, owners and the board of directors should all support diversity and encourage individuals to bring their unique perspectives to work.

Diversity management practices are formal procedures set in place about expectations of acceptance of diversity and the responsibility of a manager or set of managers to be held responsible for attracting, retaining and developing a multicultural staff. This could be changes in recruiting methods (i.e., posting on multiple sites) to attract a more diverse set of candidates, opting to wait to schedule interviews until there is a diverse pool of candidates, having a diverse panel of interviewers, and setting and maintaining goals toward diversity. Practices should also be about interactions among staff members such that all opinions should be welcomed and defining expectations of working with a diverse group of people within the organization.

Next, hospitality organizations should address inclusion at the individual level by providing expectations of leaders to enable and encourage teamwork among staff, value individual differences and celebrate them, offer training and development practices that is tailored to individual needs, and allowing managers and staff members to have a say in their schedule to accommodate individual needs. Flexibility is a necessity for hospitality workers, but it is also a necessity from leadership toward their staff to create the best pool of candidates.

Finally, society’s role cannot be ignored in the process of developing an inclusive environment. The culture in which our organizations reside influence norms, stereotypes, behaviors, and biases toward groups of people. To understand and accept that the way people think at work has more to do with the way we were raised than the organization because values are developed at a young age but may change over time. To address these biases, stereotypes and individual perceptions influenced by society, top hospitality leaders should hold training on potential biases and inform their staff that biases are natural, but we have to actively attempt to change our way of thinking to combat them. Top hospitality leaders should also ensure through all aforementioned training and development to include everyone in the process. To have an emphasis on diversity does not mean that we no longer value white men; it means that we appreciate all individuals, and everyone has an equal opportunity for employment, promotion and development within the company. Therefore, these leaders need to keep records of salary and bonuses, pay raises, promotion, training and development opportunities, and any other individualized attention given — and make annual or biannual comparisons to ensure everyone who wants to be is included and leaders’ own implicit biases are addressed and maintained.

Definition of Terms:

  • Job satisfaction: the overall feeling employees have about their job and the characteristics of their job.

  • Employee engagement: an active, positive mental, emotional and behavioral state at work.

  • Organizational justice: the perception of fairness in the organization.

  • Diversity management: the set of formal policies, practices and procedures that enable a multicultural environment to perform well together.

  • Inclusive culture: the shared assumptions, beliefs, norms and values that emphasize celebrating and readily involving a diverse workforce.

  • Intent to stay (retention): the indication whether managers plan to stay with their organization.

  • Attitude toward women and minorities as managers: the perception whether women and minorities are capable as leaders.

  • Unintended exclusion: the perception that society favors and gives special treatment to women and minorities over white men.

  • Teamwork: the perception that oneself fosters and values teamwork and cohesion.

  • Transformational leadership: the perception that oneself empowers, trusts and develops employees while providing a strategic vision for the future.

Michelle Russen is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Houston Conrad Hilton College of Hotel and Restaurant Management.

culture discrimination diversity education exclusion HFTP hospitality inclusion leadership recommendations research retention teams University of Houston