Is 8 Food Service Directors in the past 8 years too much?

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It's kind of a rhetorical question, but how much turnover is TOO much turnover?  Is 8 Food Service Directors in 8 years too much?

I just took a position at a senior community as the Food Service Director (of Director of Dining Services, as they require us to be called).  My husband and I moved a state away so I could take this job.

It's a good paying job, acceptable benefits and is in a field I am very excited about...  HOWEVER, I walked into a HUGE mess.  I did not have any idea how huge of a mess until I had been there for 3 weeks (yesterday was the end of the three weeks).  I knew they had been through a few FDS's over the past year or two, but I recently found out that there had been much more than what they told me and that their turnover rate for the position was very high.  Par for the course, management and corporate have no idea how food service works.  In the interviews, I was told that the last few food service directors were incompetent and that's why they were no longer there.  I recently found out that, without exceptional, all of the FDS's walked out because they were fed up.  Last night I had a meeting with the Executive Director and told her that it was NOT the fault of the FDS's, but it was her fault, the managers fault, corporate.  I don't think she had ever been told that or been talked to like that.  She took it well and also understood that I may be their last best hope.

I would love to hear some stories from fellow professionals about your experiences with walking into a mess and how you untangled it.
 

pete

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I've been there plenty of times.  Seeing as the Executive Director didn't throw you out immediately there might possibly be some hope, although 8 FSDs in 8 years doesn't give me much.  But you weren't immediately thrown out so just maybe....

I've been in the situation where the powers above me (owners, upper management, district manager, etc.) couldn't see the real problems and constantly blamed the manager, or refused to give the manager full rein.  In that case, it is hopeless and you might as well jump ship right away, before you get pissed and leave, or worse yet, get blamed for the ongoing problems and get fired. I had one job where the powers-that-be wouldn't let me fire any of the problem children.  With my hands tied like that there was nothing that I could do and so I left pretty quickly. 

Once you have the backing of the powers-that-be, the road gets a little smoother, but it requires a manager that isn't afraid to get their hands dirty.  You can't "clipboard" manage a place and think you can turn it around.  As much as I hate to do it, in these situations you have to micromanage everyone, at least until they get to the point where they understand the expectations and you can trust that they will do the job you want them to.  This includes micromanaging everyone, from the dishwasher all the way up to your support managers

With as long as this place has been a mess you are going to have a long road ahead of you to get right, as I imagine that the staff there does whatever they want, due to the lack of consistent management.  You will lose a good bit of your staff and people will buck the system with the old, "well we've always done it that way."

But if you can convince upper management that they are part of the problem and that there is no way in hell that all 8 FSDs were the issue, then you have the start of the solution.  You will still have a long way too go, but the situation is still salvageable.  If upper management can't see their role in the problems you might as well quit now, as it will never change.
 
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I just am running out the door and saw this so I will post quickly and then get back to it in more detail when I am home again. 

I agree with @Pete. It is a messy thing to get into however, they have not kicked you to the curb so I think you are still in the running to make a difference. 

I call your situation a "common denominator" factor. When the uppers want to point downhill and blame there is a two-fold situation happening. One......they are pointing with their finger at someone and that means one pointed towards what they 'think' is the problem with three pointed back their way which is the main problem. Two.........If there had only been one or two FSD fired in the 8 years then we would know the issue at hand was the FSD's fault, however, that is not the case and so the common denominator of all the problems that is still rooted in place is the upper management. That is usually how I present my case to the upper regions or owners. I go as far to the top as possible so that I am heard. This is your livelihood on the line so having too many middlemen (I suspect this is a major issue for this company) relaying (or in this case NOT relaying) vital information to the bigwigs takes the impact of what you need to do to make a dent in the place down a notch and possibly through their complete incompetence places the blame directly on your shoulders for all the things NOT GETTING DONE. YOU do not want other people to mismanage your livelihood so get your food in the uppers door and firmly plant yourself there until they are forced to face the truth of their incompetency. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain!

This is just a quick thought and I hope we can help as best as we can /img/vbsmilies/smilies/smile.gif
 
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Lots of good advice so far..

What expectations of management are not being met? 

What is the essential reason all 8 FSDs were fired? 

This may seem like asking the same question twice but there are clearly two sides to this.

The FSD has a clear job- to run the Dining Services. Management clearly doesn't understand the role of the FSD. 

What responsibilities does the position hold that are not accompanied by equal authority? 

     To me this is the essential question to bring to your management. If you do not already have a job description based on current management expectations, then write your own. Bring it to your boss.  Identify problem areas, clarify what makes them problem areas and then offer solutions, making it clear that you do not have authority to make the necessary changes. 

Do all this in writing. Send or make available to all management. 

      In some respects, all food service is the same. Employees need to show up on time and complete their tasks in an efficient manner. ServSafe or its' equivalent needs to be followed. The special dietary needs of the residents' need to be honored. Food costs need to be kept in line. Theft and waste need to be eliminated. Meal times need to be punctual.  The food quality needs to be at a certain level. 

     It would seem your immediate boss at least has an open ear. Take advantage of that with a clear analysis of the problems accompanied by clear solutions. Those solutions are not written in stone but at least give upper management something to think about. 

In effect, I think your Executive Director is clueless about the responsibilities of your position and doesn't want to admit it.  By outlining the situation as it is and making clear what it should be, you effectively educate those involved while providing a plan forward.

     I am always amazed that people somehow get themselves into positions of management without knowing how to manage what they are hired to manage and never make the effort to figure things out, instead wasting time by blaming others. Eight FSDs in as many years and they are so blind they can't see the FSDs' aren't the problem??? Or they don't want to see.

 I sympathize completely. People can suck. 
 
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It is hard to give sound advice without knowing some key factors. Who sets budgets? Who sets pay scales? Who is in charge of purchasing? Who hires and fires? I have learned the hard way to ask questions such as these during the interview process. I have found myself in a few situations were I thought I knew what the job required only to find out in hindsight that my hands were tied in many aspects and my idea of the job description did not jibe with corporate's. It is hard to be in charge if you are not."To blame" should not be a synonym for "in charge".
 
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The last salaried job I took was with a small hotel who had leased out the entire F &B servicesvto a high end restaurant. I was there fore one year and we went through 6 f&b managers. Six. The rest. owner was described by many who knew him as an "arrogant (deleted)". In short, the owner was breathing down everyone's neck all the time. One f&b walked out mid service when the owner cloed down a section that was opened to accomoadate a hockey game (canucks vs penguins). The last F&B that was hired when I left was the owners son.....

I dont know enough about your job to give advice.

Is mngmt insisting you only use one supplier for everything and then complains about food cost and lousy food quality?

Is mngmt insisting ypu have to pay staff a certain salary and all they do is butter toast, and then complain your labor cost is too high? Or the other way around, insist you can't pay above min. Wage, and then complain your staffing are poorly trained?

Or are they the kind who give you ancient eqpt. and tell you you cant upgrade refrigeration and theres no money to repair?

The best way to deal with owners who regularily work their f&b s to death is to negotiate. This means working for free for two or three days, identifying problems and how to best deal with them. Then you negotiate. If they backslide, you have every reason to walk. But if you dont set your ground rules,mgmt. will keep on changing their criteria for you when and how they please. Once you're hired, you don't have this negotiating power any more.
 
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Things have gone from bad to worse.

This is my first day off since I've been there. I've been in touch with the former FDS and he has confirmed what I already knew.

I am trying to figure out how to proceed.  For the most part, my kitchen and dining crew are very hard workers.  And I repeat, it is not the food service crew that has the problem.  I am running on a skeleton crew, currently.   I have absolutely no one to put on the schedule.  I have no applicants, I have no prospects, I have no one that will come over from other departments to help out... this includes the other managers (Director of Wellness, Director of Communications, Assist. Admin, Director of Memory Care).  The other managers have the philosophy of "while Rome is burning, we will watch the show while we are enjoying our lunch." (true story)

So, now I am trying to figure out how to proceed.  I have never walked out of a job.  But yesterday I was as close as I've ever come.  The details of the day are not important, but the results might be the same.

Do I quit and search for another position?  My husband and I moved our whole lives down here to Pittsburgh for this job.

Or do I give it one more push but "lay down the law" with the Executive Director?  They are kind of running out of options and she knows it.  They have blown through so many FDS's in the past 8 years.

Thank you for all the great advice and support.  I don't like to question why I stay in this business, because I enjoy this work for the most part, but this job is making want to go sell Avon.
 
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     Glad you came back. I was wondering how things were going. 

I'll offer some advice based on some hard experiences of mine. 

     First, give yourself permission to quit. I'm not telling you to quit. I'm telling you to allow yourself the option of walking away if you choose. Feeling trapped is not good. So think of this as a fight you choose daily. "I can leave anytime I want, I'm just choosing not to." is a better mindset. 

     Second, over time everything changes. People come and go. Equipment gets replaced. Buildings get renovated or torn down. Problems come and go. Negative life changes like the death of a family member are a sad reminder of this. Graduating from a school is a positive reminder. But daily life is full of smaller events of the same kind. Stick things out long enough and they will never stay the same. So in the middle of a difficult situation, remind yourself that it will not be that way for very long. 

     Third, mindful of the first two thoughts, put your efforts in to those things you can do something about. Put out a help wanted ad if you are able. Talk to the staff about relatives who may need a job. As I suggested in my earlier post, make sure everyone is aware of your standards and any desired changes, management included. Post notices, send emails. whatever you can. Clear communication is vital. Be sure to let the hardworking staff know you appreciate their hard work. 

      It seems from your post that everyone is aware of what is going on however disinterested they may be in helping out. They have their own issues to deal with. Don't expect help from or pay attention to your audience. That is a good thing.  They know you are working hard to change what you can and will recognize what you can't. 

     As for the Executive Director, by all means be clear about your needs and expectations. No yelling is necessary, unless of course you're family. But without you sharing any details about a specific problem, all I can suggest is to pick your battles. Make sure you are both identifying specific situations as problems, then work to find a solution amenable to both of you. Recognize that you won't get everything you want but there will be some things that are an obvious problem and should not require much discussion. In other words, go for the low hanging fruit first.  Establish a problem solving relationship. As you go, you should discover how the Exec. Director operates, what concerns her the most and how best approach future discussions.

     Meanwhile update the resume and begin quietly looking around. Remember that this difficult experience can teach you a lot and will make future situations easier to handle because you've been through worse. 
 
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One way or the other, you will have to have your "little talk" with the Exec. Director.  Like Chefwriter says, give yourself permission to quit.  If the job makes your life miserable, why bother with it?  Rule around my parts is, if you work less than 3 mths, 2 weeks notice is not required,. regardless if you're mngmt or not.

However you will have to ask the Exec director what his/her "vision" is for the kitchen and the resident's dining experience.  Theory of probability says that choosing 3 "incompetent" fds in a row is possible, but 8,or in your case 9, is virtually impossible.  Then again, the odds of someone incompetent choosing 8 fds and making them quit all within a year is very probable.

Your situation reminds me of my first job in S'pore, a big 600 room hotel with multiple f&b outlets, my first job overseas.  I come back from a meeting to find all of my staff missing.  I mean all.  Waiter tells me they are all in another building, separate from the hotel.  It's a fruit juice stand operated by the resident manager, he just grabbed all of my staff and had them prep his fruit.  I asked the R.M. point blank if this was hotel related, he wouldn't answer that question, but insisted talking to him that way would result in consequences.  He was right, I got fired a week later.  Two months later the hotel was sold to Marriot, all of the management was retained except him.   

I've never been to your city, but I'm pretty sure there are other job prospects available.  
 
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I am a firm believer that attitude trickles down.
 this includes the other managers (Director of Wellness, Director of Communications, Assist. Admin, Director of Memory Care).  The other managers have the philosophy of "while Rome is burning, we will watch the show while we are enjoying our lunch."
There undoubtedly is no teamwork attitude present throughout this particular locations management structure.  This lack originates from the top position, in this case the Executive Director. It sounds like the Exec Direc is the problem and definitely not going to be part of the solution for whatever reason, but the reason probably stems from an egocentric nature.

Of course, the Ex Direc could just be the tip of the iceberg. It might be a corporate characteristic. The one way to determine that is to take your concerns up the chain of command.

There is a caveat to taking this route. Go to the Ex Direc first and in the least confrontational manner as possible, voice your concerns. Then suggest that going up the chain of command of corporate might give you some tools to help solve your issues. This will probably yield results, but will the outcome be desirable?

Her reaction should be a clue as to whether you proceed up the chain of command and how rapidly.
 
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Mmmmm That very well may be, Cheflayne, but my thoughts and experiences are a bit different.

No one wants to help out the "new guy" (or gal) because they all know that this person won't last very long--regardless of how good they are at their job, or how hard they try.  Maybe the Exec has a "thing" for the fds, (get 'em to complain about the food instead of other things) maybe not maybe the other dept.'s have it just as bad .  In any case it's not worth it for the other managers to stick out thier necks and help,  if that position has always been in turmoil, and there's no end in sight. 

Sounds cruel, and probably is, but I've been there, on both sides, at one time or another, and it happens.
 
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Maybe the Exec has a "thing" for the fds, (get 'em to complain about the food instead of other things) maybe not maybe the other dept.'s have it just as bad .  In any case it's not worth it for the other managers to stick out thier necks and help, 
Lack of teamwork attitude. Stems from somewhere.
 
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I have worked with egocentric thinkers before. It doesn't mean they are bad people, they just can't get out of their heads long enough to see the big picture and how their actions effect the overall staff. You can't solve a problem with the same head that originated it in the first place. Determining where the egocentric nature originates will be helpful to determining whether to stay or go. Is it at the top of the food chain in the organization, or is it the Executive Director at that location?
 
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Update- after a particularly frustrating and ridiculous day, I told the Exec. Director that if things do not change in the next few days, they will need to start looking for yet another FDS.

I don't think this Exec. Director is a bad person... I think she is very young and acts more like a mid-level manager, than a fearless director.  She would rather run around putting out the fires herself, than confronting her management team.  

However, I do think that the standard of an establishment or facility starts from the top and trickles down.  If there is no example set by the director and management team, how are the rest of the employees supposed to know how to act?
 

pete

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Is this a corporate place?  If so, have you thought of going to corporate before you quit.  Going above the head of Exec. Director won't make you any friends, but it might shake things up enough to see some major changes which you could be part of.  If corporate doesn't care then you have lost nothing as you are ready to quit anyway.
 
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I am wondering why this director is still in place, having gone thru so many FSDs.

Is corporate even aware of this revolving door in your department?

If nothing else they must think this "director" has no clue how to interview and hire (unless she throws up a pretty thick smoke screen with all the micro managing).

Hell the entire corporate "tree" may be infected with this ridiculous style of non-management.

Hiring and training employees (even at the management level) is not without cost and I would think someone somewhere would notice the hemorrhaging of money.

You have already tried to deal by talking to your direct supervisor without any positive results.

Go over her head... get your ducks in a row...type out your bullet points (a sort of agenda) and go have a sit down with someone up the ladder.

Worst that can happen is you tender your resignation which sounds like you are thinking of doing anyway.

Then turn around and sue to recover all the monies spent on relocation as it sounds like who ever hired you misrepresented the position.

mimi
 
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I agree with @Pete  and @flipflopgirl. Don't be another one of their revolving employees. Take charge of your career now with this place and go above to get the results you are looking for. You have made the decision to leave so you have NOTHING to lose and a whole heck to gain including the confidence that it is okay to have to go above sometimes. People follow hierarchy too much these days without question and it is this that has landed these places and people in the position they are in because they are too afraid of "conflict" and would rather find a new job than do the work of face to face integration with the tops to tell them what the heck is going on. Worst case scenario: you get fired. Best case scenario: you keep your job, get a raise and they listen to your every word from now on! /img/vbsmilies/smilies/wink.gif  

PS: We are here backing your play so don't feel as though you are making any bad decisions /img/vbsmilies/smilies/biggrin.gif
 
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I strongly agree with the others. The management doesn't begin and end with the Exec. Director. Go to someone to get some answers. And as is so often noted in the workplace, we are not there to make friends, we are there to do a good job at what we are getting paid to do. Or as Michael in the Godfather put it, "It's not personal, strictly business". 
 
 
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This is some very good and supportive advice!  I really appreciate this forum and the professionals on it!  

We will see how the rest of this week goes.  I will post an update soon!
 
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Update.... I quit!



I guit my job yesterday.  I walked into the director's office, put the keys on her desk and said, "This is my last day.  I have cleaned out my office.  If you wish to discuss why I left, you can contact me in a few days, but I am leaving now."

Several factors led me to this decision.  I don't feel relieved.  A decision like this is never easy, so I don't feel relieved, but I do feel like I made the right decision.  The best thing about that job was my staff and I will miss them very much.


As soon as I collect my thoughts, I will come back here and tell you all what happened.  I will be looking forward to your feedback!
 
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