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By: Dr. John T. Self

The Bad Employee

One of the great riddles of the restaurant business is how just one bad employee can lower the standards of the good employees and cause an entire staff to suffer.

What makes this doubly puzzling is that the reverse does not seem to be true; Good employees rarely elevate a bad employee. To paraphrase Winston Churchill, 'How is it that so few can do so much to so many?'

As Harvey Mackay (author of "Swim With the Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive") said, "It is not the people that you fire who are the problem, the problem are the employees who should be fired, but aren't". Think about these points:

  • Do you find yourself grumbling every day about a particular employee who just exudes an attitude of not caring?
  • Are there some employees who never get motivated no matter what incentive or threat is offered?
  • Do you have a certain employee who 'gets by' somehow by doing the minimum amount of effort each day...and your employees know it?
  • Do you find yourself apologizing for a particular employee whom you know is not putting out anywhere close to the same effort that the other employees are trying to do?

Why are they still employed with you?

In most cases, the answer is that in today's environment, it is extremely difficult to terminate someone. It takes an incredible amount of paperwork, time and effort.

However, I can tell you with certainty that it's worth the time and effort to do the paperwork. Your work in elevating the standards of customer service will be greatly diminished by having this person stay in your employment.

Keeping the weak link in your chain shows that you are only talking the talk and not walking the walk. Your employees know; If the boss doesn't care, then why should they care? Even good employees with very high personal standards will start to relax those standards if bad employees and good employees are treated the same.

The termination step is drastic and should certainly be the last resort. Everyone deserves a chance to do well. After all, people in your employment started off wanting to do a great job for you and for themselves. Was their downward trend partly your fault by ignoring them or having low standards?

Take the first step today: Talk to whomever you need to (your human resources department, your boss, etc.) and make sure that you know how to document the path for terminating a "bad" employee. Your customers and your good employees will thank you.

About the author:  John T. Self is a lecturer at The Collins School of Hospitality Management at California State Polytechnic University (Cal Poly Pomona). Prior to entering academe, Dr. Self spent fifteen years in the restaurant industry. While in the corporate world, he worked for several chains including overseeing six restaurants with sales of over twenty million dollars. He has also owned three independent restaurants. While at Golden Gate University, he started the partnership with Dalian University of Technology in Dalian, China and is continuing in that involvement at Cal Poly.

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