Defining yourself as a hostel manager

As I have just launched my new series hostel management tips, I thought that it would be fitting to start the series with a talk about defining yourself as the manager of a hostel. I’ve learned a ton of things about managing a business over the last two months. I’ve been exposed to both fantastic and terrible people. I’ve had sleepless nights and those with meaningful and pleasant rest. I’ve made some mistakes, but I’ve also made many positive changes to the hostel. I came into a less than ideal situation that  would have tried the adaptability of many.

I knew from the beginning that I’d have to define myself as a person and as the authority figure. It is the struggle that every new manager goes through. In fact, defining yourself as the manager of anything is important as it is how you will be remembered and how you will be treated/respected along the way. Although, I’d definitely been in leadership roles before, I’d never had the task of completely running a business by myself. A new challenge, but one that I openly welcomed.

My approach to management was simple. I know what I stand for and I knew how I was going to manage. I can be a fun person, but I want to make sure that everyone does what they are supposed to be doing. There is a balance in management that every manager will have to come to grips with at some point. One needs to be accommodating and understanding, but also realize that being too lenient sets the wrong tone for the business atmosphere.

Therefore, I have come up with a list of things that I think are important for defining yourself as the manager of a hostel. They are as follows.


1.) Be straight forward. It took me a few days to get things straight once I took over, but I quickly defined my terms with the employees. I made a list of all the things that I wanted to talk about in addition to taking some time to reflect on how I wanted my role to be viewed. I knew how I wanted to lead and how I wanted things to work. As I told them, I put everything forward so that they can know what my expectations are. There is no guessing.

Tips: Make a list of what you want to talk about by topic. In the list, expand on each of the ideas elaborating on points that you feel are necessary and essential. For example, having a strict no-late policy. Employees must show up to do their work on time. This is a simple example, but something that they need to know. 


2.) Reinforcement. You need to be consistent in reinforcing what you say. This is both positive and negative. For positive reinforcement, you need to congratulate your employees when they do something well and explain why things done incorrectly are so.

Tips: I learned that giving reason behind rules and regulation helps a lot. Giving reason helps employees to understand the why. They don’t always need to know, but it gives them a reason to feel the need to enforce it. Without the why, they may feel that a rule is stupid. For example, I told the staff not to let people to change beds in dorm rooms. The reason that I gave was because it makes cleaning difficult as you do not know which beds to change. After working a few cleaning shifts, they understood more clearly. 


3.) Reaction. You need to react quickly to issues as they come. The longer you let time pass, the less effective they will be. For example, if something unacceptable happens address it immediately.

Tips: I was told by a friend recently that I needed to allow the staff to make more mistakes in order for me to react to their actions and teach them. This can be good and bad and should be exercised cautiously as you don’t want to over react. 


4.) Reiterate yourself as necessary. Don’t hesitate to go over rules and regulations multiple times until your staff understands them wholeheartedly. As the manager, you bear the burden of explanation. You cannot fault staff doing something wrong when they do not have the right directions and resources.

Tips: Sometimes it takes more than one or two times for people to learn something. Guide them through it as needed, patiently. 


5.) Be wary of exceptions. As you begin to define yourself as a hostel manager, make sure that you are not making too many exceptions to the rules, especially if they only benefit you. Once you have defined rules in your own way, it is important to show that you mean them and that they are to be taken seriously. Employees will be watching you.

Tips: It is important to note that as a hostel manager, (as any manager) your employees will be looking to you to set the standard for business practice. You must remember that any exceptions you make could set a bad example and make an even worse precedent. Occasionally, exceptions may be necessary, but make sure that they are worthwhile. 


It is important to note that no two hostels are the same. Well, no two private hostels at least. Some of the chain hostels have some more rigid rules, regulations, and management protocols. In a private hostel you have to manage for the hostel. That means adapting your style of management to fit the hostel. Certain ideals and approaches will transfer directly, but there are always things that will change depending on the hostel. These ideals above are things that I have found helpful in defining myself as a hostel manager.

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More hostel reading

If you are interested in hostels, you may like some of these articles.

How to find a hostel job – Tips and suggestions for landing that job while you are traveling.

Hostel Etiquette – How to not be a that guy in a hostel.

Why Hostels are so great – My reasoning for why I like hostels so much

9 cool things about working in a hostel – Read them to see!

Other hosteliscious articles here.


This article has been a part of the hostel management series. Read them all here.

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