Hotels and restaurants continue to lag in filling positions in the post-pandemic recovery, and new research suggests that it’s anger — rather than fear, laziness, pay disputes, or another factor — that’s a critical component creating the worker shortfall.

Many skilled hospitality workers who were furloughed or laid off during the pandemic remain angry about how the sector had treated them, according to just-published research by academics at the University of Houston Conrad N. Hilton College of Global Hospitality Leadership.

During the worst of the pandemic, many lodging and restaurant owners had to slash their workforces. Today the hospitality industry continues to lag in filling jobs relative to other U.S. sectors. Employment in hospitality hasn’t returned to 2019 levels according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, even though data shows that workers are receiving wages that are higher on average than 2019 levels.

Four researchers reviewed more than 325 online surveys and more than 100 responses to a scenario-based study of current, former, and aspiring hospitality industry professionals. They found that trust had been broken with many workers.

“Contingency plans such as offering employees continuing benefits, alternative work arrangements, and/or training programs, may go along way towards attenuating negative emotions towards the organization and hospitality industry,” the researchers wrote in the study.

They concluded that it’s critical for organizations to find ways to communicate that they value their employees and are prepared to protect employee interests in the face of future hardships.

“It’s important that organizations understand this anger among workers and build better communication with them,” said teaching fellow Iuliana Popa. “If there’s another crisis in the industry, they’ll want to know there’s a plan in place and that they’ll be protected, financially, emotionally and physically.”

Find the study “Losing talent due to COVID-19: The roles of anger and fear on industry turnover intentions” in the Journal of Hospitality and Tourism Management.

Tags: coronavirus recovery, labor, news blog