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By: Dr. John T. Self

Great Employees?

Do you find yourself complaining every day about one or two employees who just don't care? Are there some employees whom you just can't motivate no matter what incentive is offered? Do you have certain employees that "get by" somehow by doing the minimum amount of effort each day and your staff knows it?

Do you find yourself defending a certain employee who you suspect is not putting out anywhere close to the same effort as other employees?

We all play favorites, but the trick is to play favorites for the right reasons. So many of us have been fooled by thinking a particular employee was great only to find out later, much later, that they were really one of our worst employees. How could this happen?

It happens because these types of employees are smart and are great, but they are great only in knowing who to suck up to. They know you, as the general manager, have the ultimate power. One word from you and they are forgiven or given another chance or have the best station. They will bust it when they are working with you because they know they have to be "on". Unfortunately, all of your employees and the assistant managers know the real person who shows up when you are not there. That person does not even come close to being the person that you think you know.

You might want to really pause when you start defending someone and actually think about why you have to repeatedly defend someone who is a "great" employee. Truly great employees never need defending. The problem is that they can go unnoticed, because they just do their job exceptionally well without needing to be in your face about it, like the other "great" employees. Test it out. Take an informal poll of your employees to find out who they think are the great employees. They'll tell you and it just might surprise you because you never noticed them before.

The majority of the time the really great employees never make waves, are not flashy, and become invisible. That's generally fine with them, but it stops being fine when management gives special breaks to employees who the entire staff knows are less than great.

This causes real damage to morale, service, and ultimately causes your restaurant to spiral down and lose your best people.

Keeping these favorites makes no sense. It makes management appear weak and easily manipulated. Your employees know who the really great employees are. Isn't it time you do too?

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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