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The Ten Worst Employees in your Hospitality Business

Aug 17, 2007
Run a hospitality business for a few years, and you're likely to have at least a few nights where you had actual nightmares revolving around staffing your business. The neat-as-a-pin waiter who turns out to be a violent felon, the whole staff walking off the job, the chef who loses it and has a breakdown right in your lobby. Have you had the one yet about the new hire you can't get trained no matter how hard you mentor him, and you look up and realize you're talking to a department-store mannequin? We've all had that one after enough time.

After a few years, you'll get a feel for whom is a likely candidate for a star performer and who should be shown the door. While the personality types I'm about to describe may have their places in other parts of the world, they probably aren't cut out for hospitality service.

"What's in it for me?" An example is an employee who asks about payday or even a raise while on the clock on their first day of work. It is clear that they are not dedicated to doing a good job. Service-oriented people habitually put the customer first; a new hire who is anxious to grab the first paycheck probably isn't planning on sticking around for the second one.

Unreliable. There isn't much to keeping up commitments for a hospitality job. Show up on time, keep breaks trimmed to a reasonable period, and carry out their duties. The kitchen is ruled by the clock, and there's simply no place for a person who will make a promise and not keep it.

Rebels. This is any employee who does not follow the rules, or who challenges you on every idea. For some reason, the restaurant industry sometimes attracts people who have an authority problem. That's hardly the attitude you need when the meals have to be done and served on time. Let the upstarts go join the army if they want to fight; you're here to do a basic job and follow rules for both the sake of safety and customer service.

The petty thieves. This can be anything from employees who abuse the clock, by clocking in and then leaving to go eat breakfast, for instance, to those who might mysteriously make a couple of cases of shrimp disappear on the night shift. This isn't always a case of outright dishonesty. The low wages of the service industry inspires the offer of perks such as free meals and the like. Of course, you might have already made it known that grabbing a bite on the way through the kitchen is tolerated and even encouraged. The crucial point here is to communicate where the firm boundaries are. We all want to be generous employers, but you can "Mr. Nice Guy" yourself out of business if you don't watch it.

Employees who do not try to learn. It is essential that employees read a job manual if there is one, and make some effort to learn everything that they can from co-workers. Striving to expand the skill-set is a sign of a dedicated employee.

The dreaded "that's not my job" attitude. This might be OK - even desired - in a job like air traffic control or the military, but there is no place for it in the service industry. A host of daily annoyances will always necessitate employees taking on additional responsibilities, such as filling in for a co-worker who called in sick, or getting slammed with way more business than you were prepared for at a peak hour, or even recovering from an unexpected mishap. After all, what, exactly, is the "unexpected" in this business? It doesn't matter what job title a given employee has, they should be ready to pitch in wherever they're needed in an emergency.

Slackers. Whoops, here comes the boss, better look busy! Oh, the managers aren't here, we can chat and socialize and ignore the customers. Slackers hurt your business two ways, one, by not giving you the day's work you're paying for, and two, by angering the other employees who will resent having to fill in for someone who isn't pulling their weight.

Flakes. Sure we all have personal lives to live outside of work, but the employee whose life is a constant emergency just isn't what your business needs. It is a shame, because for some people this isn't truly their fault; they just lack the skills to manage their time and life events efficiently. But others hide behind this mask, counting on your sympathy as they launch into a flat-tire story here and a couldn't-get-a-babysitter story there. These types of workers often become 'perpetual victims', who seem never able to get the work done but to always have an excuse ready as to why.

Bad people skills. A bad temper is the worst; this will be a constant headache for both customer contact and working with other employees. Too many employees don't heed the warning signs of a person with a poor handle on their emotions. A worker who loses their temper needs to be relieved of duty immediately; before they get you sued for damages when they got into a fight. Your other employees have a right to work in an environment where they do not feel constantly threatened. And of course, how many of us have left a business vowing never to return simply because one employee was rude to us?

The overly-social. This is the flip side of the people skills issue; those who will take more time to socialize with the other employees than they do fulfilling their duties. Best friends don't always make best co-workers. And then there are those who seek romantic relations, either by dating their co-workers or flirting with the customers. At the least, you will have to carefully communicate to them where the boundaries are to be drawn between work and personal time. And at the wost, you will sometimes have no choice but to let the Romeos and Juliets go.
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