Butler Ethics

Butlers in the hospitality industry and hotel employees strive to provide optimal and professional services to their guests. However, in practice they also regularly encounter situations in which it is not easy to do their work. 

Because they have to choose between two courses of action, both of which have advantages, but also disadvantages. For example: an employee who indicates that he is often verbally abused by his manager. A female employee who says that she is regularly groped by a regular guest. An employee who reports witnessing a too young girl being delivered to the hotel to spend the night with a guest. A manager observed an employee purchasing drugs and handing them to a guest at the resort where drug possession is prohibited. In such a situation there is a moral dilemma; how to act? There is no ready-made answer or solution: after all, there is always ‘damage’. 

Such moral dilemmas can have a significant impact on butlers and other hotel employees. We know that employees, but also (hotel) managers, struggle with these types of situations in the profession. With all possible consequences. People look the other way or eventually leave the profession. 

‘The International Butler Training Institute’ believes it is important to pay attention to the impact that daily work in this area can have on employees in its training offering for upper and middle management. During the training sessions (during… half days) space is made to learn how to discuss this with each other and with your own employees in the workplace and to learn from these types of difficult moral situations. 

There is a ‘Professional Butler code of Ethics’ (see appendix) that is used in some hospitality companies. This code provides a (moral) framework; for example, it talks about striving for appropriate relationships within all aspects of the service. That discrimination based on age, gender, sexual orientation, race, nationality or origin must be avoided. However, the code does not provide guidance on how signals (whether or not obtained through a complaints procedure or confidential counselor) can be handled. ‘The International Butler Training Institute’ has therefore explicitly included this component in its curriculum. She uses the expertise of Mrs. Maria van Gessel, a certified first-degree teacher and also trained within the International School of Philosophy in the field of ethics and moral judgment. 

We use Moral Deliberation as a method: a structured conversation in a group (of a maximum of 12 people) in which we jointly investigate what the right thing to do is based on a true situation. That situation is introduced by one of the participants. In a moral deliberation, the moment of doubt and the process of learning together are central. This can be done very well in a multidisciplinary manner, because the more differences we encounter, the richer the yield! 

During this part of the education/training we practice conversation rules and a fairly strict conversation protocol under the guidance of a discussion leader. This way we ensure that no important matters are overlooked or that a gut feeling is used. We teach people to make nuanced considerations together and at the same time strengthen the collegial connection. We know that regular attention to this ‘moral judgment’ contributes to (mutual) support. Because colleagues will visit each other, share doubts with each other and ask each other questions instead of convincing each other. This demonstrably benefits the working atmosphere. 

Moral judgment is about values. Values are simply the things that deeply drive us in our personal lives and therefore also in the practice of our profession. For example, how important are the following words for professionals in hospitality: collegiality, responsibility, trust, safety, loyalty, efficiency, friendliness. One will notice that in every dilemma one or two such values are under pressure. And that is exactly what causes people to have doubts about what to do. 

In a moral deliberation, people talk to each other on an equal footing. People listen thoroughly, ask many questions, investigate. All answers and opinions are left out: that only comes at the end. First take a look at what exactly is going on, and only then decide together what the right thing to do is. This means that one postpones one’s own judgment and is prepared to think along with others. This creates space for nuanced thoughts and, by extension, new actions. 

Using this method, we and managers go beyond the practical, daily questions and look further. So that they can learn lessons for future, similar situations. Or can provide building blocks for change or 

For The International Butler Training Institute, it is very important that butler students understand the importance of butler ethics during their training and later in their butler job. 

Because we find this subject so important, we, The International Butler Training Institute, have an open structure regarding any complaints or disagreements, which is independent of our trainers and management. For this purpose, we have an experienced certified and independent confidential counselor who can handle any complaints and disagreements that arise during the training.