Attack to Taj 2008 – Analyzing the Staff Behaviour

Attack to Taj 2008 – Analyzing the Staff Behaviour

What happened in Taj Mahal Hotel and in its vicinity in Mumbai in 2008 shocked the whole world. Things went bad, but in retrospect one can say that it could have been worse. Much talk has been circling around the subject of the acts of valour and courage of the Taj Mahal employees during the terrorist attack. Reasonable choices were made by the staff, the quests were properly instructed to wait patiently for the help that would arrive the next morning. As a result the Unilever banquet-party left the hotel unharmed. Why did the employees act how they acted? In this post I bring forth my own opinions about what happened.

The actions of the Taj employees during the attack were not prescribed in any manuals. They responded to the crisis with the proper self-coordination and managed to improvise in a very difficult situation. Although the appropriateness of the actions of the employees in the Banquet room cannot be questioned, it can be questioned whether the cause of these successful acts and decisions was the unusual hiring, training, and incentive systems of the Taj as hypothesised in article “The Ordinary Heroes Of the Taj”.

In my opinion the basic human nature and the use of logic and brainpower can account for the actions made by the staff of the hotel.

Due to the facts of the banquet room being a closed room with no exits apart from the main hallway and the room being on second floor, the people in the room were trapped as the terrorists entered the building. The logical solution was to wait quietly and hope nobody would come bursting through the doors. Even though the shooting must have stopped for a while at some point the people in the room were sure to realize that the situation was not over. If it was over, the rescuers would scour the building for survivors and find the people in the banquet-room. Thus the terrorists were still inside of the hotel, since the help did not arrive. Again, the logical thing to do would be to wait inside the room and not go to the terrorist-controlled areas outside the banquet-room. The wait paid off and the help eventually arrived

What comes to the persistent customer service attitude the personnel exhibited during the attack, one could just say that they were real professionals with excellent training and with a good team spirit. The familiar surroundings of the hotel and the old colleagues around kept the personnel calm enough to be able to still operate in a difficult situation as that. The obvious thing to do with the customers would be to keep them calm as well to prevent them from running off and alerting the terrorists. Hence the staff continued on their posts and in their mentalities as employees and managed to keep the customers from overreacting.

In my opinion one should not make over-reaching conclusions from the Taj incident. One should not go as far as to say that what happened was unique and a clear effect from the good practices in the Taj. I believe it was human nature coupled with people using their brains.

Workplace Motivation

In this blog post I wonder where the working-life motivation comes from and how it relates to the most common of all motivators – money.

For every employee in every job their motivation is the key. It is something that drives people forward and enables them to perform well. Without motivation one’s pursuits are often characterized by a lack of enthusiasm resulting in a worse-than-optimal outcome. This is why companies and employers should incentivize their personnel. The thing is the chosen incentive is often not working too well.

I believe many employers use external motivators i.e. “carrots” that do not successfully translate to internal motivation for the employees. One of these unsuccessful external motivators is money. Money itself is very useful, it makes life easier and makes it possible for us to pursue the lifestyle we want. The problem is that if we have some, we do not need it as much as if we didn’t have any. In other words money has a diminishing utility. Having more of money increases one’s utility but at a diminishing rate. The studies also say that after a certain threshold money does not seem to increase our happiness. In some cases money can even be harmful.

It was pointed out by Dan Pink that using money as a motivator in simple tasks increases one’s efficiency, but if used in more complex activities the results actually seem to get worse. The reason being that having money as the “goal” narrows one’s focus, in which case the complexity of the problem cannot be adequately addressed. Thus if we also assume that the complex jobs get paid more, and the bonuses and perks are paid in monetary terms, we got a situation where extra-money brings only slightly utility, narrow’s your focus and does not work well as a motivator.

Personally I have found that my motivation mainly comes from the team-spirit, competitiveness and sense of belonging in the working place. I need to be able to evaluate my performance with those of my peers to see how I am doing. I have to be able to trust those I work with and I need to feel like belonging to the “team” which ultimately has the same goal. Additionally if the tasks are more demanding and diverse my motivation-level tends to be higher. I think the last point is just to avoid getting bored at the job which eventually demotivates you by a great deal.

I think the optimal solution to make people motivated would be something like the following. Pay people well enough to make the job appealing, but do not use the money as the main reward. Instead, focus on providing a dynamic, competitive but still a strongly team-spirited workplace where one does not get bored and one feels like he is part of something greater.

By Lauri Henrik Mustonen