The Lambton Golf and Country Club in Toronto made the prudent move in issuing an apology to Alex Shimo, the mom who was told Saturday evening that restaurant patrons didn’t want to see her breastfeeding her son and was led to another part of the clubhouse to do so.
The incident caused a social media uproar and the story hit national and international media, understandably not the type of publicity that the club wanted or needed.
However, the apology should be about more than the club’s image or damage control. Hopefully, it was sincere, especially with the way the mom was treated, particularly with a table cloth pulled out to shield her from the view of others, which understandably would make her feel like a social pariah. You can read more about it here.
As I said in my previous blog, breastfeeding in public is just one of the issues in a rapidly changing society that golf operations, and all businesses for that matter, are going to have to deal with in the near future and they’re topics that many of us never thought we’d face when we began our careers.
Have no doubt about it, however. They are sensitive topics as the backlash against the Lambton club indicates quite clearly.
While the apology was necessary, the sensitivity training that the staff will undergo is unlikely to accomplish anything other than appease the mom and critics of the club in the breastfeeding incident.
What was needed, and hopefully what will be established, is a clear set of guidelines and a procedure designed to deal with such incidents, making clear to staff members what the club policy is and what the law requires.
That should not only be made clear to staff, but also members/golfers/patrons who may complain in the future about not only breastfeeding, but other potential issues such as transgender rights when it comes to the use of change rooms, for example.
If those guidelines and policies are established and properly communicated to staff and members, sensitivity training is seemingly a dog and pony show and more of a public relations move.
Many staff members are likely to agree with a mom’s right to breastfeed when her child needs nourishment, but in the Lambton case, may have been trying to calm a storm when patrons complained. That’s the point of solid procedure in such cases.
If you’re going to tell staff they need sensitivity training, shouldn’t the patrons who actually complained require it too? Of course, you can’t force people who don’t work there into sensitivity training, but will you actually be solving a problem if many who played a role in it aren’t included in sensitivity training?
If the point of sensitivity training is to bring people around to a certain way of thinking, chances are it won’t work, even if employees are forced into it.
However, customer service requires empathy and dispute management skill that should be examined in the hiring process, while company policies and procedures back them up.
It’s a confusing time, with Canadian society shifting quickly and drastically. There are sure to be more controversies in the future, clashes in culture and values in golf and other businesses, and all we can do is prepare as best we can to deal with what’s to come through anticipation and the establishment of guidelines to assist employees.
That will be an onerous task in itself, with no real need to participate in what amounts to nothing more than a public relations exercise.