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I just became a manager at the restaurant I've been working at for over two years and am really frustrated with some of the problems that I am now facing and that the restaurant as a whole is having to deal with.

There are a number of employees (cooks) that are causing HUGE problems every day. They do not follow recipes like they are supposed to, have generally bad attitudes when they come in, are usually late when they come in, and don't respond well to any of the managers when told they are doing something wrong. . .especially to me since I was on the line with them just a month ago. They all have this idea that they are better than anybody could tell them to be and they don't think they have to listen to us. In fact, it is so bad that, as I tried to fix a situation yesterday, it ended up getting to the point that the employee threatened to knock me out! He should have lost his job on the spot, but instead, everybody got another glimpse at the fact that I am not allowed to make that decision because we are depending on certain individuals so much that they can call the shots.

Now, I understand where the problem lies--management here in the past has done a horrendous job of telling people what they are doing wrong without trying to correct the behavior and without implementing any real consequences for things like insubordination, which is basically a daily ritual with these guys. At any rate, as we have recently tried to do what we can to talk with these guys, punish them immediately, try and promote behavior that we want, etc., etc., we have come to the conclusion that we just want them out of the restaurant, and herein lies the next problem.

However much my boss wants these guys out, he's scared to let them go because of the amount of shifts they cover every week. Between the two or three guys that cause the most problems they will easily cover between 1/4 and 1/6 of the workload in the kitchen every week. So, if we get them out, that means that we will be even more short-handed than we already are (we are currently running a skeleton crew due to high new-employee turnover rates. . .I think this is due to the attitude that the new guys have to put up with from the problem employees to a large extent), and I don't think my boss is really willing to put forth the effort that would be involved with that. I am of the opinion that we need to go ahead and get them out before they "infect" anybody else with their work ethic and deal with the incredible amount of work that we will have to personally make up until we can get a new crew in there to take their places, but I feel that I am the only one that is motivated to do that.

I really love my job other than this ugly situation, and as I was JUST moved up, I'm afraid that I won't find another job that will give me an opportunity with this much responsibility or pay immediately, and I really don't want to have to learn a whole new restaurant or other job after having just gotten this one down pretty well. What I want is some practical wisdom on how to approach this scenario so that the store can come out on top, doing better than it already is (it's doing well, but I think clearing this up would allow it to do so much better), and giving me and the rest of the crew an ejoyable work environment that will also be positive on a resume for future jobs. Is anybody willing to put in their two cents?

pavodive's picture

Jeff,

I can see how you feel about this situation, specially if you were on the line just a month ago...

My view is pretty simple, and a bit radical: these guys have kidnapped your restaurant, and there is --depending how far they've gone, and it seems by what you say they've already gone very far-- only one way out: firing them.

You'll be surprised with the relief that everyone in the kitchen (and most likely out of it as well!) will feel once these guys are out; you already perceive it in the form of high turnover rates, right?

So firing them SOLVES the root problem, but causes some "collateral damage" which --of course-- you and your boss are afraid of. There are some ways to make things a bit easier (not EASY, though!). You might want to consider any of these:

* Going back to the kitchen while you find trained replacements for them (give it a deadline and start searching in other similar restaurants in your city). Yeah, I know it is hard...
* Promote good memebers of your crew to cover the vacancies and fill the bottom (you might need to go back to the kitchen while they pick up the pace)
* Find a recently left-good employee that is in capacity of covering the vacancies they'll open (I can imagine there were some people that you considered good that left to avoid these guys. Find them and bring them back)
* Talk to the rest of the group after firing the problem makers, and ask them for extra-cooperation while you find new people to fill in.

And by no means allow a star employee to kidnap your organization...

My two cents...

aspiringceo's picture

I think firing them is just a quick fix and you need to look a bit deeper. My view is that what you describe is a case of Bullying and you and other staff are the victims.
I can only speak within a UK context where although there is no specific legislation on bullying The Health and Safety at Work Act places a general duty on employers to protect the health, safety and welfare of their employees and implementation of the act falls to us managers.
ACAS the Uk's Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service produced a guide for managers on dealing with bullying http://www.acas.org.uk/media/pdf/1/h/AL04_1.pdf some of the things they suggest for dealing with bullying include

• statement of commitment from senior management and an acknowledgement that bullying and harassment are problems for the organisation
• clear statement that bullying and harassment will not be tolerated
• examples of unacceptable behaviour
• statement that bullying and harassment may be treated as disciplinary offences
• the steps the organisation takes to prevent bullying and harassment
• responsibilities of supervisors and managers
• how the policy is to be implemented, reviewed and monitored.

You may want to implement some or all of these suggestions, but one way or another you and your boss have at the very least a moral responsability to act. To quote an often misquoted namesake and fellow country man "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing" (Edmund Burke)

Edmund

jeff_h's picture

I agree that more should be done. I don't know about those kinds of things in Alabama, but I will do my best to let them know exactly why they are being fired if we ever get around to doing it.

I am going to present the problem along with the options and the probable conclusions of following through with those options formally tomorrow in hopes that I will instil enough enthusiasm to my employer to move on the issue immediately.

Mark's picture

Jeff-

I'm sorry this has taken me so long. I regret my absence.

Give them lots of feedback. YOU stay in the kitchen, and bathe them in feedback. And if they don't change, Fire them.

Getting promoted didn't get you OUT of the kitchen, it gave you responsibility FOR the kitchen. So go fix the problem the only way a manager (almost) EVER can: observe behavior, incent and disincent, and fire those that are not helping and have been repeatedly given clear guidance but won't follow it.

Start looking for more cooks. I have never - that is, NEVER - had someone follow this advice about cancerous employees ever say anything but WOW - that worked and it wasn't as bad as I thought.

You may spend a lot of time in the kitchen. That's what you're supposed to do in such a situation.

Again, my apologies.

Mark