The Tripartite Alliance for Fair and Progressive Employment Practices (TAFEP) in Singapore promotes the adoption of fair, responsible and progressive employment practices among employers, employees and the general public. People with disabilities (PWDs) are often perceived to be less productive in the workplace and require more nurturing and training time as compared to employees without disabilities (Tripartite Alliance for Fair and Progressive Employment Practices, 2011).
PWDs face discrimination and barriers in integrating into the society on an equal basis with others every day. The PWDs too can achieve self-reliance if given equal opportunities for employment and are well-trained in relevant service skills. Intellectual disability is specifically characterised by significant limitations in both intellectual functioning (reasoning, learning, problem-solving) and in adaptive behaviour, covering a range of everyday social and practical skills (American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, n.d.).
Holiday Inn Singapore Orchard City Centre (HISOCC) is one of the hotels in Singapore who actively employed PWDs, comprising more than 15 percent of their workforce. Another example is Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts, with a total headcount of 1.6 percent of permanent PWDs. With more hotels hiring PWDs, there is a need to create a higher level of awareness by integrating colleagues with intellectual disabilities and other team members within the organisation. People with intellectual disabilities within the hotels will be specifically discussed in the context of this report.
PWDs face several interpersonal communication challenges which affect their daily interactions with others. They may have delayed or incomprehensible responses during the process in both verbal and nonverbal communications (Vanderbilt Kennedy Center, n.d.) and can often cause further misunderstanding and miscommunication. The extent of communication barrier depends on the severity of the individual’s intellectual disability, leading to improper social etiquette. In severe cases, PWD may be incapable of understanding and using symbolic forms of communications such as speech, signs and pictorial representations, hence are dependent on others to anticipate their needs and interpret their vocal, facial and body expressions (Boardman, Bernal, & Hollins, 2014).
People with intellectual disabilities at HISOCC are often placed in the stewarding and housekeeping department as the employees, in general, has the least interaction with guests. Several interpersonal communication scenarios which are common in the workplace are harassment, constant staring, and sudden mood swings. The organisation has thus introduced a buddy system was introduced to help the PWDs to adapt the work environment and respective roles, as well as increasing interaction with other employees. In addition, it is essential for the organisation to share with the other team members on foresee scenarios when working with PWDs and the possible measures to be taken.
Objective of Study
The main objective of our study is to educate and prepare future potential hotel managers on the hiring of PWDs. It is important for hotel managers to be aware of the various interpersonal communication issue that may arise from the PWDs. Hence, possible solutions can be proposed to overcome the interpersonal challenges identified. Aside from that, raising awareness with regards to having an all-inclusive environment will help change the perception on team members’ view of PWDs in a more positive manner. The lack of understanding of the term “intellectual disability” led to stereotyped thinking and misconceptions. People with intellectual disabilities are often labelled with terms such as “mental retardation” and “stupidity”. This group of people are viewed as people who are incapable of having personal opinions, actions, living their lives as others do and therefore is dependent on the people looking after them (Owen & Downer, 2016). Such stereotyped thinking and misconceptions denied them of being treated as equals in the society and face discrimination as well as alienation. Many may not be aware that each individual with intellectual disability has different needs and despite having difficulty in expressing themselves clearly, they have feelings just like those without disabilities.
All employees should always remain calm and compose when faced with these situations. The importance of showing empathy and giving undivided attention to colleagues with intellectual disabilities is needful. Acknowledging their presence, lending them a listening ear and having patience while hearing them out are some of the ways to handle these colleagues (Mulroy, n.d.). By treating colleagues with intellectual disabilities with the necessary care, concern and love through effective communication and responding to them on the discussed common topics would avoid potential tension from arising. Most of the times, colleagues with intellectual disabilities words and actions mean no harm or danger. However, employees faced with continuous harassment or threatening from colleagues with intellectual disabilities should approach the HR immediately, safeguarding employees who may face potential severe issues.
The human resources (HR) department in the hotel industry plays an essential role in integrating colleagues with intellectual disabilities with all other employees as the hotel industry requires a high level of teamwork to deliver service excellence to existing and potential guests. HR personnel may also wish to educate onboarding employees and potential managers on practical ways in managing people with disabilities before embarking the hotel so as to better prepare and be more aware of such situations. Through success support system implementation, hotel employees will respect and work hand in hand with one another, enabling to run the hotel daily operations together as a family.
The study comprises of both primary and secondary research. Secondary research was done through academic journals, official websites as well as papers on PWDs to better understand the current issues that people with intellectual disabilities faced while working in the hotel industry. The data collected serves as the foundation of primary research. The primary research consists of data collected from both observations and interactions by two of our team members through the internship experiences at HISOCC between May and August 2016.
Communication is the base of any relationship and it takes a lot of dedication and effort to achieve effective interpersonal communication (HelpGuide, n.d). Singaporeans today as well as the hotel industry has been more accepting towards PWDs as part of the community, workplace and everyday life (Pandey, 2015).
To achieve a successful integration between people with intellectual disabilities and employees working in the hotel industry, the respective department managers should also work closely with the HR team to provide excellent care and support to all employees. Managers should not forsake the importance of conducting meetings and briefings as this creates an opportunity for the team to recognise, communicate and engage with one another before moving into the daily operations.
The hotel industry indeed requires high levels of communication, commitment and involvement. A deeper understanding of colleagues with intellectual disabilities would enhance the overall work experience among one another. Thus, fostering an all-inclusive environment as well as creating a sustainable relationship between both employees and colleagues with intellectual disabilities in the hotel industry to work towards achieving long-term goals of the organisation.
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