January 2005 Edition
Dealing with Difficult Employees

The Art of Employee Negotiation - Part Three


In the foodservice industry it has always been a challenge to recruit and retain competent employees. High quality employees can walk out the door and find another job the very same day, so if you have a "my way or the highway" management style, you may lose valuable employees.


In Parts One and Two of Dealing with Difficult Employees, we discussed the reasons that employees don’t do what we want them to do and how to properly define these behaviours. The old school method of "do it this way because I am the boss and I say so," just won't hold up in our competitive labour environment. Employees do not have to put up with this kind of treatment and they can easily get another job elsewhere. Truth is, this hard-nosed approach to human relations is unreasonable in any labour environment.


Negotiation is a much better way to solve the problem and it leaves both parties feeling good about the outcome.


In the last article, we identified a problem with our employee John who was often caught talking to his friends (customers) while he was working and consequently was often late setting up the salad bar, which is scheduled to open at 11:00 a.m.


The Behaviour that we have identified that we want to fix is the late salad bar. If John chats with his customer friends and still opens the salad bar by 11:00 a.m. every day, then everyone wins - John, the manager and the customer.


Begin by having a one-on-one meeting with John and state the request at ground level: "John, you must have the salad bar set up by 11:00 a.m. Why are you late every day?"


Then listen. John may have valid reasons for being late which you may not have considered. For example, another employee might be using critical equipment that John needs at the same time (a mobile cart for example) or there may not be enough crocks for all of the condiments and ingredients meaning John must stop and wash them before doing his prep work.


After you've listened carefully, take a If and Then approach to solve the problem. Suggest to John "If I get you 24 new crocks Then will you be able to have the salad bar set up by 11:00 a.m?" Or ask, "If I bring Ed in an hour earlier to ensure that the cart is available for you to use by 10:00 a.m., Then will you be able to set up the salad bar by 11:00 a.m?"


It could be that the reason John is running late is that he needs to work a little faster, and an appropriate If and Then can work in this instance also. Find out what is important to John - possibly something he wants or needs and see if that sparks a behavioural change.


Some examples of possible suggestions include:

·        Shift changes

·        Break schedule changes

·        An improved work station

·        A free trip to a trade show to get new ideas and have some fun

·        A promotion

·        The elimination of a task that he finds unpleasant


When it comes to the salad bar, supposing John dislikes a task, such as slicing onions, then you might suggest that "If I buy the onions already sliced, Then will you have the salad bar ready by 11:00 a.m?"


And, if you don’t know what John wants - just ask. When John agrees with your If and When solution, shake hands and repeat the agreement. This technique will work 90 percent of the time, and the beauty of it is that everyone wins.¨


Contributed by Tepper Kalmar Associates, Operational Consulting and Training for the Foodservice Industry, Emeryville, CA. For further information, call 510-655-0936 or visit us on the web at www.restaurantprofitmakers.com  We welcome Canadian inquiries.