I Quit! Managing Macau’s New Generation of ‘Spoiled’ Casino Employees
by Desmond Lam

By Desmond Lam

Two years ago, I wrote an article entitled ‘Pride and Prejudice in Macau’. It was generally about the lack of job pride among Macau’s croupiers. I cited a number of work-related issues facing croupiers back then, which included frequent complaints about failed communication from the top, cultural insensitivity, etc. Things have changed. Let’s now examine this issue from the casino employers’ perspective.

Recently, I had lunch with a few expatriate friends working in Macau’s striving gaming industry. One of the topics that we covered was about the way Macanese croupiers and junior casino executives are behaving these days. In fact, there is now increasing ‘noise’ in Macau’s casino gaming industry about how our young croupiers and newly-promoted casino executives are ‘spoiled’, ‘unproductive’, ‘inefficient’, ‘ineffective’, and/or have poor work attitude. ‘They just leave when they are unhappy’ said one expatriate friend. He added, ‘They have such poor work attitude! It’s hard to manage them.”

Nowadays, people that I know talk about the lack of competition in Macau’s tight job market. The Macau government has imposed strict restriction on imported foreign labor. On the gaming floor, in particular, croupiers have to be Macau residents. “A lack of competition ‘spoils’ the local casino employees,” said an executive that I met. They become complacent. Some think their casino employers need them more than they do. They become arrogant and demand higher pay, if not faster promotion. They think they can choose to leave as and when they want to, simply because there are always casino job openings somewhere else in Macau. With the impending opening of Galaxy Macau, staff movement has become a problem yet again. Actually, it has always been a headache.

For those Macanese who are newly promoted, they are often still young and inexperienced. An invited guest speaker from the casino gaming industry came to the university recently. He commented on the local graduates, ‘They simply demand to be a manager (somehow) in 2 years!”. He added, “We want to hire more down-to-earth people these days. But it is increasingly hard to find such people in Macau now.” In other countries, a progressive promotion from dealer to pit manager typically takes more than a few good years. During my working life in the banking industry, two years of work experience used to be a pre-requisite for any new executive hire. Even then, someone with a ‘two-year’ work experience was still considered a junior or green horn. In Macau, some croupiers actually expect to be promoted to pit manager position in just 2-4 years!

Another person that I spoke to cited that (earning) money is simply too easy for the local people. Rapid promotion has led to an increase in salary and wealth among local casino employees. Savvy employees punted the local property market. They flip real estate properties and make a fortune from foreign property investors. One flip often earns them enough to buy a luxury BMW 3 series car. ‘No wonder there are so many luxury cars in Macau!’ I thought. Porsche, Rolls Royce, BMW, Audi, and Mercedes Benz, you name it! Others who were lucky enough to buy a few property units during the early boom time have made so much by now that they no longer need to work. One example is a student of mine, who used to work in a casino four years back. He claims he now retires with four property units. For some locals, life is simply too good to be true.

Such opportunities in Macau’s tiny marketplace have made some of our croupiers and casino executives cocky and complacent. Some people believe that low unemployment rate, lack of competition from foreign labor, and the explosive increase in wealth are partly to be blame for this phenomenon. A combination of poor work attitude and wide employment choices reduces work productivity and add costs to the casino employers. Local employees are now in a better position to challenge their expatriate superiors. According to a source who described a heated exchange between a group of croupiers and their expatriate superior, the locals screamed in Chinese using phrases like “You are in Macau!”, “You don’t know the Chinese!”, “No us, no you!”, and “If I don’t work here, I can work in another place.”

Some foreign expatriates said it is due to poor upbringing and a lack of world-class education. Others proclaimed that Macau is still a village. Its people do not yet have the international outlook and are in a period of transition. I do not believe so. I have taught a number of excellent students at the university, who joined the casino industry a few years back and now holding managerial positions in various casinos. Looking at their personality and work attitude, I certainly think they deserve to be where they are now. Macau provides an excellent platform for talented people to excel in the casino industry. Whatever the reasons or claims that others made, I feel that young croupiers and casino executives in Macau’s casino industry need to be carefully supervised, led, and nurtured.

For local casino executives with managerial role, their management and leadership skills take time to groom. For me, there is simply no shortcut. No pain, no gain! Macau people have to learn the hard way. How can we manage local employees in these situations? Below are just some suggestions:

• Let them experience the job – allow them to fail (to a certain extent), tell them they are wrong, and allow them to learn from their own experience.
• Show them leadership – hire good expatriates to lead these local people. Manage and lead by example and charisma. Show them good leadership - Western and Chinese-style.
• Send them for training – educate and train them on all aspects like leadership, management/supervision, communication, and customer relationship management.
• Keep them motivated – introduce specific internal marketing programs on a continual basis.
• Promote selectively – promote only those who are most suitable and deserving based on your corporate principles. Set a good example for all others.
• Be patient with them – show empathy. Attitude and behaviour take time to change. Perhaps we are in a period of transition from poor to rich - nothing to a lot. Remember: learning and change require time.

* This article was originally published in Macau Daily Times, 27th Apr, pp. 4.

Date Posted: 27-Apr-2011

Desmond Lam is an associate professor of marketing at the University of Macau. Visit www.DesmondL.com.

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