Living through an American Recession

Dealing with never ending life changes. Who says making lemonade is the best thing to do with those lemons life throws at you?

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Managing restaurant employees through a closure

I was recently promoted to supervisor in a restaurant 4 weeks before it announced it was closing it's doors in 4 days. The first day of the announcement was more rant than it was rest. Emotions were flying high. The original close date would have given everyone almost 3 weeks to find new employment, but considering business was almost at a stand still, another supervisor had "leaked" information of an impending closure causing people to quit, panic and start stealing, the company needed to pull the plug sooner...

A little over a month had past after the new GM arrived bringing with him a new supervisor, new ideas and plans of getting our restaurant back on track and making money when I was promoted. I was proud to supervise such a great group of people, even though a few of them had me worried. Not sure how they would take the news of someone who had only been with the company 3 months would go over with more seasoned veterans. Low and behold, they were all supportive and happy.

Our new kitchen supervisor had been on my "watch" list suspected of stealing money from the office and missing alcohol. As soon as he realized I was watching him, he immediately quit. Since then, nothing missing. Go figure...

It never ceases to amaze me the differences between the way people handle stress. Some just go with the flow, do their jobs while others act out. As a supervisor having never been in this particular situation before I'm learning quickly to roll with the different reactions.

On one hand I have those who are trying to help, empathizing and informing the customers smiling and keeping calm. Their tips are HUGE since the customers are now empathizing with the impending doom of them being out of work in 4 days. While others are stomping around threatening to quit, complaining about "fairness" and others just doing a half assed job. By the end of the night their tips reflected the attitude.

At this point we are on a skeleton crew in the kitchen and dealing with a dwindling supply of food, the 86 list is rising. So how do you as a supervisor handle the stomping, complaining few?

1. Know that getting them to understand or empathize with the companies loss or delema is pointless. Panic has set in and all they can see is rent, bills and food. Their basic survival needs are number one, not yours.

2. Praise, thank, listen and offer to do anything to help everyone through this. Suggest places to find employment, pick up slack where people have quit, etc. The decision has been made by corporate and there's nothing that can be done but to finish working to earn as much as possible and look for another job.

3. If you have enough staff, send them home. This is a prime example of a few bad apples will RUIN the whole by causing more stress, angry customers and a possible expedited closure on an expedited closure. If they threaten to quit, clock them out and accept their resignation.

4. If you don't have enough staff, damage control & communication with your customer is essential as soon as possible. Especially if you run the possibility of reopening another store or location. You must protect the name of the company for future business. Inform the customer of your closure, apologize for any inconvenience, for being short staffed or low on supply. They will understand.

5. Refer to number 2.

Loosing  a job is a major stress like moving or death. The ones that have been there the longest will hurt the most. Not only are they loosing a job but friends that have become family. They will act out angry or distant, the outward/inward projection of energy. Some will want an apology letter from the company and/or to be recognized for their years of appreciated service, some look for something tangible like "what are you going to do with the tv's", or the quiet ones who may be crying on the inside that need reassuring everything will be ok.

Either way, as a supervisor offering to talk anytime about anything is important at this point. Some of these people may have no one to talk to about what's going on and feel alone. Fear stimulates people into making bad decisions, especially when they are quick like this. Panic causes fear, fear causes stealing, anger, and depression. Everyone goes through the cycle of emotions either internally or externally. Being empathetic and offering a real open door policy is number one.

Everyone needs help in life to move through these natural cycles. Some get stuck in the anger phase, some in the depressed phase and some die and bloom regularly. As coworkers and friends just being empathetic and not judging people no mater what phase they are in is huge.

Judgement shows ignorance and ignorance is easily cured with knowledge. 
Non-judgement without knowledge shows curiosity and curiosity leads to knowledge. 
Judgement is the disease of knowledge. 

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