Black and Blue


A new manager was recently employed at a local restaurant. He immediately started to have problems with one of the wait staff. She had been on the permanent part-time staff for a long time, and created minor issues in a variety of ways. For example, instead of wearing black pants as agreed, she would sometimes wear dark blue. She was also overheard to sometimes be quite rude to customers, and used offensive language in the kitchen when talking to the cooks.

Individually, each incident was not enough to take action, but the new manager began to feel that, overall, matters have been adding up to where he thinks something should be done.

The new manager doesn’t know what to do. He’s unhappy with her but doesn’t think he has the grounds to terminate her employment, although he would like to. There’s no staff training system as the owners don’t want to pay for training. There’s no Policy and Procedures manual, or even any written guidelines. The owners don’t want any trouble: They just want things to ‘keep going’ quietly without any trouble.

If you were this manager, what would you do?


Answer 1:

If I were the new manager, I would speak to the owners.


It’s important to have an accurate idea of what one is worth in any situation. A person with skills and experience who steps up to run things well and make profit or gain business (or both) for the business owner is typically way more valuable than a grumpy waitress. The owners are likely to listen very closely to any proposal involving dollars.


I’d say I think I can increase the turnover and/or profit by tightening up a bit. I think I can whip up a basic operational manual, and train when times are quiet without any extra expenditure using a competency checklist.


The waitress is flexing muscles she doesn’t have, and can easily be stared down by a carefully focused manager. If she complains the owners probably won’t listen, as they will be thinking about the bigger boat they will soon be able to afford. The manager needs some good ideas though: better get Gordon Ramsay or Manu in for a chat!!!!!!!!!!!!


Answer 2:

Firstly, if you can’t fire the permanent part-timer because her errors are minor, then find a positive way to keep her.

I would talk to the owners and persuade them to create some basic guidelines at least.

It is essential for employers and employees to stop ‘randomness’ in the operation.


Secondly, I would propose that the owners give workers a title such as ‘Senior’ or ‘Supervisor’, or something nice, like a bonus. I would let the workers they have some opportunities to have a title and/or get some bonus.

Additionally, the restaurant could collect customer feedback. Usually customers want to give feedback if their waiter gives them excellent or awful service.


Thirdly, I would go through important matters, such as dress code and behaviour, in the new guidelines and review customer feedback with each of the staff members. So, every staff member would know clearly what the restaurant wants, and that might also create motivation for them to work at the restaurant. It creates a great opportunity to talk to the problem waiter about what is expected of her at the restaurant. She’ll know that the discussions were held with everyone individually, so she won’t feel anything negative and it won’t create any ‘trouble’ in line with the owners instructions.


In summary, employees need criteria so they know whether their styles and behaviours are acceptable or not at the workplace, otherwise they might not actually know that they are wrong.

Giving awards can create motivation to work better. Using the feedback from customers directly informs them how customers feel, so it’s a more neutral way to raise problems. Guidelines and feedback would set very clear criteria for the problem worker in particular, and together with the feedback she might find a pathway to working properly instead of becoming cynical.


Answer 3:

This manager has a problem, what can be done if there are limited or non existant guidelines? While actions may be taken to confront these problems directly there is the ongoing or recurring issue of staff operating in a disorganised and difficult manner. The manager needs first of all to get the owners to recognise there is a problem worthwhile spending effort on the fix because if this is not done the manager will not get the support he needs to implement a plan to resolve these issues. If the owners do agree that it is important to develop policies that will answer to these sort of problems, then the manager needs to determine, document and train staff in these policies starting with new staff members to get the standards set in these staff minds, then roll out the training to existing staff. Existing staff members will have to get up to speed with the training or understand they may be in breech of the new policies for the business. With support the manager should be able to implement these standards. If the standards are implemented and supported such as wearing black instead of blue pants the existing staff should follow the new standards at a minimum to avoid looking like the “ odd person out” and little may needed to be said.