Lack of Confidence Is A Challenge

What is your first thought when you see the word confidence?  Are you confident?  Are the people who work with you and for you confident?  Can they make decisions on their own or do they first need to make sure everyone agrees with them?

I sense a lack of confidence in the gaming industry.  People are afraid to make their own decisions.  When we do our training at casinos, it’s not unusual to hear employees say, “I can’t pick up a piece of paper without my manager telling me first that it’s OK.”  Before you call me an idiot, I already know casinos have a million and one rules.  I know that for the sake of security and integrity, casinos don’t want employees doing anything that could jeopardize any of that.  I know, so please stop yelling at me.

What I’m suggesting is that for some reason, front-line employees (and even some supervisors and managers) are so lacking in confidence that they won’t do anything without a letter of approval from the pope.  They must have a big A-OK carved in stone and handed down from on high.

Why is this happening?

One reason may be because of the way the “system” is organized.  After they are hired, casino employees endure an orientation that transitions from boring to downright threatening.  Each area of the property shows new hires 12 different ways they can be fired, written up or given points.  If employees don’t bolt for their cars after orientation, they are thrown, tossed or allowed to enter the casino where they mingle with the guests.  We all know guests are kind, supportive people who sometimes lose money and get frustrated.  Perhaps one’s confidence dips when you have guests yelling, swearing and doing the rest of the amazing things they do.

Maybe lack of confidence comes from a feeling of loneliness.  Employees have so many guests and such a large area to cover that they feel like they are doing it all on their own.  They feel as though no one has ever done what they are doing.  They have so many demands from the guests as well as from the casino itself.  They operate in fear of being fired or written up for what they did or didn’t do.

So what can casino leaders do to change this?

I know at least one casino executive who says properties should get rid of points so they can’t be waved over people’s heads like a club.  Wow, that is an amazing thought – that you can actually eliminate this weapon so employees can make decisions based on the situation and what is best for the guest and the casino.  For gaming, that is about as cutting edge as you can get. 

If you don’t think you can toss the points program out the window because it will create anarchy, how about crafting a system for building confidence?  You could take your employees from being timid mice to being advocates for your property.  Instead of catching people doing wrong, you could reward them for making good decisions that benefit both the guest and the casino.  

This is commonly known as positive reinforcement and my wife and I use it on our two young sons.  If we’re supportive and reward them for making good decisions, they tend to continue making good choices.  Of course, not all their decisions are good ones, but at least they try.  If we only point out their mistakes, they make more of them to get more attention.

What if you encouraged your people to make decisions and didn’t flog them with points or threats when their choices weren’t exactly the best?  Would they gain some confidence and start thinking and making decisions versus being an almost thoughtless machine?  I’m reminded of the 2006 NBA playoffs.  In one game, Steve Nash of the Phoenix Suns was stubbornly trying to sink a three-point shot.  He was 0 for 14 in his attempt.  That was stunning because he is a back-to-back Most Valuable Player in the NBA.  The announcers wondered if Nash had lost his confidence.  So did the coach pull him from the playoffs?  Was he written up for making poor shots?  According to media reports, the Suns coach told Nash to shoot more!  The coach supported Nash.  He believed Nash would be back in his game and contributing to the team effort as soon as he got that first three pointer from “downtown.”

The same is true with your employees.  They need to be supported in a variety of ways from all different levels.  The more support they get, the more confident they will be.  With confidence comes better decision making.  With good decisions and confidence comes advocacy.  Your front-line employees will go from viewing the casino as just a job to seeing it as a place where they can be an MVP.

Lack of confidence is not some warm and fuzzy human resources problem.  This is a major challenge that casinos face.  If it’s not addressed, casinos will be forced to keep bringing in new people to fill the spaces created by those who leave each week because they lost their confidence.

Martin R. Baird
Robinson & Associates, Inc.