Dealing With A Difficult Employee

One of the toughest things to do as a manager is to have to discipline/motivate your staff. I remember being taught how to manage costs and run the day to day operations of restaurant but I don’t remember anybody ever sitting me down and teaching me how to manage employees effectively so I had to come up with my own system.

First thing to remember is DO NOT discriminate.  Now I’m sure you already know this as far as illegal discrimination goes based on legally protected status’s such as race and gender but what I’m talking about is the discrimination we tend to carry with us as individuals, our personal opinions.  When it comes to an employee, performance is everything, and not just sales but as a team member.  Are they on time, clean with a good attitude?  Do they follow the rules and help other team members out. Do they meet the goals that are expected of them, including financial goals and guest perception? Do they take direction well?  These are the important things to think about.  You have to look at the employee as a whole and how they benefit the company.

Now once a standard is clear to them you need to take the time to hold them accountable for their actions.  This is where managers tend to fail.  First, never let something go without at least a discussion or comment whether the behavior is good or bad.  Also, document everything because you’ll never remember every conversation you had with every employee but if you record it you can always go back later to check.   I would keep a sheet of 8×11 printer paper that I folded into  quarters and carried in my back left pocket that I recorded everything on.  At the end of each shift, I would pour myself a beverage and sit in front of the computer where I kept a file on every single employee who was working for me.  I would enter the relevant information with a date in my files and would always know when I spoke to the person last and how many times.

My employees would get four chances and her is how they went.

Number 1 infraction, I would tell them to stop. Simple, but you must record it or you’ll forget the conversation happened.

Number 2 infraction, tell them to stop and explain how the behavior is effecting the company.  This is a longer conversation usually done in private after the shift.

Number 3 infraction, they get a write up.  This is a meeting done with another supervisor as a witness.  The employee should be told that this may be their last warning and that they may be terminated if the behavior continues.  Follow the rules of a write up carefully during this step.

Number 4 infraction, termination.  If you’ve done the previous steps, no one will be surprised once we’ve gotten this far .  They have been talked to twice, been given a write up and have been told they may lose their job.  Make sure you do this correctly and that you are completely prepared before the meeting to fulfill all of your legal obligations as an employer.

You may find this to shake things up a bit when you first start doing it, especially if your employees are used to having 5 write ups in their files.  But as you begin to remove the unnecessary confusion between what is expected of your employees and the consequences of their actions, you will find that everyone will be happier including your guests!

For information on training by me and the rest of the Western Food Safety team visit