As a manager there are a lot of resources to inform yourself on how to properly manage your daily operations. If you’re short on time, hospitality online classes are an option, or if you have the budget (very rare case) consultants offering their hospitality management services can be helpful here too. Both can assist in running a tighter operating and more cost effective restaurant. But neither options would be able to closely monitor day-to-day communication with your employees on a consistent basis. Although a great manager knows to keep him or herself in check when speaking to the team. However, there are times when even the best managers might say something less than productive to their employees. Remember that you can only move forward with your team, and trust that you will be mindful of your words in the future. If you believe this may apply to you, take small steps. You could be saying some of these phrases, unknowingly, and discouraging your staff in the process:
“That’s Your Job, Not Mine”
Danger Level: 3.5
Probably the most passive-aggressive phrase in the list, bringing it to 3.5/5 on the “Danger Level” Scale. Working in hospitality services is is a team sport. You’re not playing solitaire by yourself, this is the big leagues and hospitality is football. You’re the quarterback as the manager - and every shift is game time. And if you can’t wrap your head around this concept, then you need to rethink your strategy before you close your restaurant with your negative attitude. This phrase implies that you would leave your employees aka your teammates, stranded when they clearly approached you for help. Being dismissive about your subordinate staffs’ needs is a highly inefficient management style. Nothing will get done in the restaurant if every person has this similar attitude. This is a “no job is too small” industry, and there’s zero room for people, who are not team players. Truly great managers are always willing to go above and beyond for their staff- even if it’s not in their job description. So, if you ever have the urge to say this phrase, then you might want to consider changing career paths.
“I Don’t Know, You Tell Me”
Danger Level: 1-3 (depends on tone)
This phrase really depends on your tone. If said in frustration the context is, “Why are you asking me this?” or “Why don’t you know the answer?”, which makes this phrase a 3/5 on “Danger Level” scale. This undermines the intelligence of the employee coming to you for advice. Say you’re in the middle of a busy happy hour, a new server asks you if there’s cilantro in your mango salsa for a guest with allergies; it’s unfair if you to bark “I don’t know, you tell me!” Even if a bartender called out last minute, so you’re behind the stick in the meantime, you must be able to direct your new employee to someone who might know the answer- like a tenured server or your Chef. As stressed as you might be, you should still provide your staff with guidance, in other words: manage.
Then there are instances where a kindly mentioned “I don’t know, you tell me” can provide some gentle pressure on staff. If a server, who has had been there for 6 months, cannot tell a guest if there’s cilantro in the mango salsa, then the phrase is appropriate to mention in this case. It may also be a sign that you need to give your tenured employees a “refresher” quiz on menu ingredients, but that’s a different post on training.
“It Doesn’t Matter, Just Get It Done.”
Danger Level: 2-3 (depends on tone)
With 15 hour days and doubles being the norm, it can sometimes get the best of restaurant managers. This phrase can be one of exhaustion, making the tone more passive putting it at a 2/5 on the “Danger Level” Scale. The context at a 2/5 rating is “I’m too burnt out to care, please complete this task before I fall over” - while it will not insult an employee, the outcome of the task at hand could be less than great. While at a 3/5, when it is said in haste or anger there is always a chance an employee will rush to accomplish the job at hand and do it 100% incorrectly. Especially, if they come to you with a advice on how to execute the task. In this scenario you’re a Kitchen Manager and a new prep cook asks you if the carrots for your seasonal soup are small or medium dice. If your answer is “it doesn’t matter, just get it done” you’re flipping a coin on raw or mushy carrots, resulting in a subpar soup and ultimately displeased guests. This phrase puts your name at risk by letting your employees do a poor job in haste by completing tasks improperly under your watch.
“You Figure It Out”
Danger Level: 4
While the context is very similar to “I Don’t Know, You Tell Me”, it can come off as more aggressive than the former. This phrase is an example of a completely hands-off management style. The manager, who uses this phrase is on autopilot, he or she is free falling and bringing staff down with them making it a 4/5 on the “Danger Level” scale. There is never a time where “you figure it out” would be be useful to anyone on the receiving end. The underlying tone of this phrase is “Do what you want, just get out of my face” - definitely a less than positive way to communicate to your employees. It will always be counterproductive to have this attitude, as it trickles down to your staff. Tenured workers will begin to label you as a “lame duck” or a “dud”, and will train new employees to stay away. So, if you want people to leave you alone, then consider your goal accomplished with this phrase. Just remember that a manager with no employees to follow him or her will most likely end up jobless.
“You’re Lucky You Even Have a Job Here”
Danger Level: 5+
This phrase is a blunt threat to someone’s job. You’re putting down the employee on the receiving end, and implying that he or she is not good enough to be working in your restaurant. The only reason why managers see results from this tactic is because fear is the motivator. If this phrase is used often employees are looking to leave the restaurant for their next gig. Not even the best restaurant in the world has the pass to say this to their staff, good talent is valuable and having a hostile work environment does not help to retain it. For example, you might run a store within very well-known restaurant brand. A trainer, with a year under her belt, tells you that she accidentally allowed a trail to speak to a guest. As a result, the guest left because the trail told him you 86’d your best selling sandwich. If your response is “you’re lucky, you even have a job here”, this disgruntled trainer is capable of walking out mid-shift, and find work at ANY other fast casual restaurant she wants. Keep in mind, to be considered a great restaurant leader, you have to treat your people with respect. To summarize, watch how you say or your words as they can cost you strong employees.
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Maria Gee is a Digital Marketing Manager for Harri.com. A restaurant worker turned blog-writing-video-directing machine, she aims to educate and entertain those in the hospitality field. She spends the majority of her spare time posting food pics on Snapchat and Instagram at @mariaalexag, and frequenting as many hospitality focused networking events as she can fit into her calendar.