I Want To Speak To Your Supervisor!

“I want to speak to your supervisor”.  That sentence has got to be at the top of the ‘worst things you can hear when working’ List?


I want to speak to your supervisor – Employee View

It’s perfectly normal, in such situations, to have an emotional reaction.

You may feel upset, or affronted. Devalued or disrespected.  You may even feel angry. You may take it personally.

You can be left feeling that:-

  • You haven’t helped them
  • You are the reason behind their need to speak to your supervisor
  • You have provided such shockingly bad service they want a supervisor to know all about it
  • They think that you are incapable of helping them, because you’re not experienced/senior enough
  • You don’t deserve the opportunity to help them because you are “only an employee” 

And you will most likely be left feeling bad about it for quite a while afterwards.

Some guests can be incredibly rude about it.  Especially those who fall into the number 4 or 5 category above.   They may feel that they are more important than you, and therefore their issues must be addressed by someone of a higher standing than you.

Have you ever heard the expression:

“I want to speak to the Organ Grinder, not the monkey”?

Organ Grinder and Monkey. Article I Want To Speak To Your Supervisor by MY RANGGO Hospitality Magazine
I want to speak to the Organ Grinder Not the monkey!


“Karen” (a term coined in the Restaurant Industry, although it started as “Sharon”) for people who act rudely and in an entitled manner from the outset.

Both these terms describe just that; people who think you are not important enough to help them. Or to even talk to you in a respectful way.

Most occurrences of the number 4 or 5 customer behavior involves the line, “I want to speak to your supervisor” before a complaint situation has even been identified.

Even before the guest has told you there is a problem. Or what the problem is!

In such situations, try not to take it personally.

Yes, you would dearly love the chance to apply some exceptional service, and turn the situation around for the guest.  But they are unlikely to let you.  It may be worth attempting to assist or help, but sometimes that will just add to the guests frustration, anger or entitled behaviour.

Sometimes, the guests “need” to speak to the manager, may be partly your fault. Maybe you forgot to do something, you had told the guest you would do.  Or maybe you didn’t prioritize their request, when that is what they expected of you.

Angry Guest talking to a hotelier in a hotel lobby. I Want To Speak To Your Supervisor

Maybe you were upset about, or distracted by, something.  And this showed. Maybe because of your tone of voice, or because your face showed a reaction the guest didn’t like.

Suck it up! And learn from it.


I want to speak to your supervisor – Management View

When I worked for a large corporation, we used to say to employees,

“Leave your problems at the loading dock, on your way in to work.

Because at work you are on stage!”

Hotel Employee walking towards the staff entrance, and away from a box labelled Problems. Article I Want to Speak To Your Supervisor By MY RANGGO Hospitality Magazine
Leave Your Problems At The Loading Dock

Years later, I know this to be pretty useless advice.  It is not always realistic to expect employees to put aside their worries.

We all have real concerns about childcare, health, finances, relationships, health, or transportation.  And sometimes it is impossible to place these burdens in a “box” outside the hotel, and collect them back up on the way home.

How can Managers and Supervisors best support employees, when customers react negatively to something that has occurred?  This is an important question.  The reality is that we, as human beings, are emotional creatures.

Sometimes, it is the customer who is emotional. They vent into the ear, face or inbox of an employee who is not directly responsible for the offense.

Sometimes it is the employee who is emotional. Because of personal difficulties outside of work.

A good way to assist employees is to listen to their concerns.  And make resources available to help them to address their problems. Or eliminate them altogether.


Avatar of John Savage Hospitality TrainerBut let us go back to the scenario in question.

What do we instruct our employees to do when they hear “I want to speak to your supervisor!”?

That’s right!

We have trained them to avoid escalating calls and, instead, remedy the situation themselves.

Unfortunately, not all employees are sufficiently experienced or trained to remedy the situation themselves.

As a result, customers receive frustrating responses from employees such as, “There’s no supervisor here at this time (even when there is)” or “Sir, they’re just going to tell you the same thing.”

These responses are sure to fan the flames, and further agitate disappointed customers.

My suggested Remedy

Encourage your employees to escalate calls to a supervisor when it is requested by guests.

After all, unless your company has promoted an ill-prepared employee to a Management or Supervisor level position, they should be better equipped to address the guest’s concerns.  This approach also demonstrates support for the frontline employees.  And it will alleviate much of the stress associated with contentious interactions with guests.

Is your immediate response to this:

“John, if our employees escalate every disgruntled customer call to a supervisor,

then that’s all these supervisors will be doing all day!

There won’t be any time left for them to focus on important things

like improving customer service.”

Have you spotted the flaw in this argument?

If your hotel’s Guests are frustrated, or complaining, to such a point that it will overwhelm supervisory-level staff, you have bigger problems!

This should indicate to you, as a Manager, that there is a larger, more systemic problem. And that is ultimately beyond the control of your frontline staff. So why should they bare the brunt of such complaints?!

With Complaints comes stress, so don’t leave without checking my Stress Buster Steps

What do you think?

Written by John Savage

John H V Savage, is the Executive Director of International Hospitality & Tourism Educational Programs (IHTEP Asia) has spent over 55 years in the International Hospitality Industry and worked in over 45 different countries for Multi-National, National & private owners.

John is a highly entertaining motivational lecturer, as well as a TV star in China for his 5Star Butler Course. John is also the author of the What They Can Never Teach You At Hotel School eBook series

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