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When Credibility Goes Up In Smoke

For this year's annual shopping expedition to Chicago, we booked a room at the Westin Hotel on Michigan Avenue. We could have stayed anywhere, but we purposely chose the Westin to support the company's bold decision late last year to ban smoking from all of its hotels and resorts. We're zealous nonsmokers, so we wanted to patronize the first completely smoke-free hotel chain.

Imagine our disappointment when we entered the lobby and encountered the stench of secondhand smoke. As it turns out, there's an independently owned bar adjacent to the Westin with a wide-open door that leads into the hotel's lobby. The bar's access is immediately next to the hotel's main entrance and only a few feet away from where Westin guests line up to check in; therefore, secondhand smoke greets you every time you enter or leave through the lobby.

By declaring its hotels smoke free, Westin's leaders asserted that the chain values the health and well-being of its guests and employees. But unavoidable exposure to secondhand smoke left us wondering if they really care, feeling foolish about our reason for choosing their hotel, and vowing to steer clear of Westin hotels in the future.

Too many organizations fail to reinforce their values, resulting not only in customer attrition but employee turnover, too. Consistency between an organization's stated values and its leaders' actual behavior is critical to . But when there is discrepancy between what the company says and what its leaders do, customers stop coming back, and so do employees.
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