Over the past two months, we have discussed hiring employees and involving them within the restaurant. This month, we will focus on the unpleasant task of disciplining errant employees.
Remember, disciplinary actions should be viewed as an opportunity to reinforce company rules and to recognize any lapses in our training programs. Sometimes we can get caught up in the day-today operation of the restaurant and find it easier to simply accept an employee’s no-show or chronic tardiness with a “don’t-let-it-happen-again” speech. Unfortunately, some employees will take advantage of our laissez-faire attitude and continue the unwanted behavior until we are forced into a corner. Proper and timely action will help build a stronger understanding and respect for accepted behaviors.
No manager should boast about the number of employees they have fired. The failure of an employee to become an asset to the company is also the failure of a manager. At some point during the employee’s association with the company, the manager shirked their responsibility to the employee. They may have slipped in the interview process, they may not have kept the employee abreast of company rules, or they may have projected an unreasonable image. In any case, there are certain rules a manager must adhere to in order to make the disciplinary process effective.
Terminate the employee at the beginning of a shift
Unfortunately, I have worked under many chefs who never obeyed this rule. Knowing that they were going to fire an employee, some chefs will allow them to work the shift; assigning them the worst possible tasks to be completed. This is completely unprofessional and unproductive. As a representative of the company, you must always act in a professional manner, even if you don’t feel the employee did the same for you. Even if an employee does something inexcusable during a shift, send them home immediately. When they next arrive for work, then you should let them go. Allow yourself a cooling down period before acting. Sometimes, a deeper problem may be discovered when we have time to think through a situation.
Document! Document! Document!
Can I say that one more time? Document every instance of an employee breaking company rules. I know it is very easy to give one of your better employees a second chance, but where do you draw the line between the same acts being recorded or not recorded? You never want one employee to feel like they are being singled out, or that others are getting special treatment. If your company decided a rule was important enough to be written into an employee handbook, then it is important enough to be followed.
Make sure the employee is aware of any wrong actions
If an employee is issued a written warning, then they must also sign off on it. Give them space to write if they agree or disagree with the warning, which is fine, but they must be made aware that a disciplinary action has been taken. If an employee is unaware that they have done something wrong, there is no reason for them to stop the offending action.
Have a clear line of disciplinary progression
Whether the progression is: verbal warning, written warning, then termination, make sure the employee is aware of the next step. If you issue a formal verbal warning, let the employee know that the next action will be a written warning, and then dismissal. Whatever the steps are for your company, you must follow them. How many employees are still on our payroll that are on “double-secret probation” or we have told, “…and this time, I’m serious!” If we don’t follow the prescribed progression, then the entire disciplinary process becomes ineffective.
Make a termination away from the staff, but include one witness
Never fire someone in front of the entire staff. Some managers seem tothink that letting someone go in front of everyone sends a strong message.This may be true, but the message being sent is not one that you want. In the eyes of your employees, you are simply showing off. The actual dismissal should be done in the office, with another member of the management team present. By having one other person there, the employee can never come back and accuse you of letting them go for some reason other than what was noted in their file.
No one should enjoy firing someone. Being a manager means helping your employees succeed, and when they don’t, then we are the ones who have failed. Sometimes there are circumstances that we were completely unable to foresee, but the majority of the time, a problematic employee is the result of our poor management. We must be fair in disciplining employees, but when we have someone stumble, we have to examine whether or not we may have been the cause. If anyone has any more questions, feel free to contact me at 777-2380.
by Bill Knapp, FMP