What is the project about?
– We will investigate how students in the Hotel and Tourism Program and the Restaurant and Food Program think about sexual harassment that can occur from customers and guests in hotels and restaurants. The goal is to facilitate the work of future employees and thereby contribute to both social sustainability and financial profitability for companies.
Is this not already included in the training of vocational programs?
– Many training programs are good at addressing the problem, but the issue has a built-in dilemma. Students must gain early knowledge of and be prepared for this while not wanting to discourage them from future work at hotels and restaurants.
Why is this important for the hospitality industry?
– Sexual harassment is widespread and a serious problem in working life, the hospitality industry has unfortunately proved to be particularly vulnerable. This leads to dissatisfaction and increased ill health for the employees who are exposed, and to increased costs for the companies.
Is there previous research on this?
– The area is poorly researched, even internationally. The research that exists often focuses on harassment from colleagues or managers. I do not want to downplay the significance of that, but when it comes to harassment from guests, it becomes a bit of a dilemma. Vocational training is mainly focused on the customer’s and guests’ needs. Students are trained to be service staff and to be service-minded. When a customer is unpleasant and tries to take advantage of a situation, it can be difficult to handle.
What are you going to do?
– We carry out the project in collaboration with several vocational training programs within the hotel and restaurant industry. We will conduct focus group interviews with adult students who are in their third year of vocational programs. They are conducted in small groups of three to seven people and will be about their thoughts on sexual harassment. We will use the image bidding method, which means that students get to see images that depict sexual harassment from third parties. It is suitable for focusing on the phenomenon and not on specific people.
What are your challenges?
– A challenge is that these are sensitive issues, but we still believe that there is an interest in being interviewed and getting to speak. We think it has been good that the discussion about Metoo has been going on in society for a fairly long time, no one will say that I have never heard of that.
What benefit can the hospitality industry have from your research results?
– We will produce advice and suggestions for solutions and measures. We hope that they can serve as a basis and be used in the schools’ and the industry’s work against sexual harassment. Hopefully, this in turn can help people feel better at work and have an easier time dealing with this type of problem. Both the industry and the training programs work and have worked a lot with the issue, but it is difficult. We are happy if we can contribute.
About the researchers
Maria Hedlin is a professor and Eva Klope is a senior lecturer, both in pedagogy at Linnaeus University.