Saturday, August 11, 2007

"Nothing happens by all will come your way once you understand that you have to make it come your way, by your own exertions"--The incomparable Ben Stein

There is a server on my staff who is a "dead man walking"--he remains employed only because his replacement, a previously-employed server making a return, will not be starting for another week.

This server's terminal condition is the hopeless mixture of hubris and incompetence that I see all too often. He is not skilled enough to work at this restaurant--he can't prioritize, he can't get his timing down, he only sees one table at a time rather than viewing the whole station, and he can only do one thing at a time--slowly. Making these fatal flaws worse is the fact that in his mind he is the best and smartest waiter in the county--obviously unappreciated, he spends so much time complaining about his poor guests and his bad station and the fact that the manager has it "in" for him that he is even slower and less effective than he would be otherwise.

Everyone working in a restaurant likes to complain, and to a great extent everyone working in a restaurant likes to hear others complain. Complaining yourself is a stress-reliever, not to mention a time-passer. Hearing others complain is a diversion--it allows you to either commiserate with a comrade's ill fortune or bask in a coworker's misery depending on your mood and/or attitude toward the complainer. This fellow has railed for so long and about so much that even the other complainers are telling him to shut up.

I have run out of ways to attempt improvement and motivation--you can't really look at someone and yell, "BE BETTER!!"--his best, such as it is, just isn't good enough.

The most telling sign is that the other servers won't cover for him. Usually, when one of the staff is getting crushed, making mistakes, or having a bad night, others will come to their rescue. They will take an order, clear some tables, deliver coffee, etc.--often without asking. In the case of a hopeless one, however, the others seem to know. They are like buffalo in a herd that smell death on one of their own. They move away, isolating the sick one, not wanting to be in the way when the predator arrives for his meal.

Now when I fire this guy, he will be incredulous. In years past I would have explained his dismissal by listing his myriad weakpoints and giving specific instances of failure. However, experience has taught me that anyone of this fellow's ilk will have no recollection of any previous conversations regarding performance or execution. All their guests love them, all their co-workers idolize them, and I am clearly making this decision for personal reasons. In one previous firing, the hapless soul was even transparent enough to lament the fact that, "this "always happens to me wherever I work--how come all you managers are so unfair"?

Instead of the above-described melodrama, I will take a different tack that has served me well in such situations for the last year or so. I simply tell whatever pain-in-the-ass is being shown the door that they and the restaurant are not suited to each other--in this case I will tell Mr. Sucks that he will be much more comfortable in a restaurant that can offer him a full service busperson and food runner, cocktail waitress, expeditor, and three-table station--an atmosphere more ordered in which he can thrive. In other words, you can't carry your end of the log in this particular logging camp--hit the road.

I really do hate to fire people, but I admit this one will be a tad easier than most--the guy really just won't shut up.


Blogger k.s.d. said...

i just discovered your writing and i love it. i don't comment so often but i feel like feedback is typically appreciated... hope to read more soon.

11:02 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

love your new post as always...

5:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

/////good post. give us more, more, more. Bob

8:57 PM  
Anonymous Food Service Ninja said...

Funny how up until your the person doing the firing how easy it seems? I always a firm advocate of trimming the fat or dead wood until I had to be the one to do it.

That said your loser reminds me of a coworker of mine. This coworker is a good server but nitpicks everyone else's performance, & seems to forget when anyone else aids her. The worse part is she is negative enough she is a drain to work with thus we refer to her as t the Queen of Negativity.

10:06 PM  

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