When the perfect hire fails

Joined Jul 27, 2018
Hi all,

Looking for some insight (of course) and figured after racking my brain for the past month that I would reach out and see if anyone has any thoughts.

We hired a section manager ( think along the lines of a butcher manager, or bread manager), who was hired up into the position from a sous background (3 yrs) with strong references/recommendations. They are coming from a well regarded company, with super high standards and a well known screamy kitchen culture. Beyond that, they have another 5+ years kitchen experience (plus the 3 as sous), and food science as well.
We’re paying salary- close to 70k with benefits- and the written and explained expectation was 50 hr week, learn our developed recipes, train a team (2-3) , help execute product, set up systems so we can grow that branch.

When this person started, first 1-2 weeks was motivated-ish, though doing well under the 50 hrs asked. Now we are 10 weeks in- and still at about 40 hrs/week. I check in w them everyday and then an hour long check 1x/week. Product is mostly fine and 85% being executed, but no systems development has happened (as basic as a cleaning calendar in excel), and training of the team has also not happened. Most concerning is the fact that this person does not clean beyond a cursory wipe up, even after detailed instructions and seeing how the rest of our kitchen breaks down (we're dept of Ag so everyone takes it seriously). At our weekly check ins, I have said the words “you and your team have to clean the floors everyday and sanitize all your bins” a number of times, with 0 effect. I try to “be the example” in the kitchen, so regularly put in btw 60-70 hrs and am OCD about cleaning when I need a break from the regular work, so am unsure about how else to communicate the severity of this. I basically threatened their job last week if major changes didn’t occur: and truly nothing happened.

I am resigned to the fact that I will be letting them go and taking on their work while we look for a new hire in a very crowded market(yay). But want to prevent this from happening again: we had what should have been a perfect hire who had grown through kitchen roles, who just fell totally apart coming to us. I am 3 years in as exec, so I feel like I’ve learned many of my big mistakes, but this one hurts. Any light bulb suggestions? Ways you’ve supported new managers that I am missing? Direct instructions failed me here, and I am just at a total loss.

Thanks for reading, any suggestions are welcome. Trying to do better w the next round.
Joined Feb 8, 2009
I've hired 100's of people over the years with most of them not meeting my expectations. In your operation I would hire people to work under you and move up within your operation. This way they know what's expected and there isn't any surprises.
one of my clients was a large retailer. I watched the managers in this business over the years. I noticed as long as they followed the strict rules the company set down for their employees they would do fine. These people weren't managers they were rule followers. Most of these managers wouldn't make it in any operation that took problem solvers, leaders, motivators, trainers and people skills. To this company it was like, just follow the rules we don't want you to think.
With your OCD, it's going to drive you crazy thinking everyone has your kind of focus on cleanliness and sanitation. To make a long story short, just because someone excelled as a manager in one place doesn't mean they will be great in yours.
In my case the ones that did well were self-starters. They didn't need pats on the back all day to accomplish something. They did their job and left work with a sense of accomplishment. When you hire and train your managers. They will see day to day how you want things done. When you move them up into a managers position all you need to say is " Do your job just like this and we will never have a problem"............ChefBillyB
Joined Mar 1, 2017
Once again, chefbillyb chefbillyb makes an excellent point: there's a difference between following the rules and managing. While following and enforcing the rules is a part of management, the most important part, managing employees, is often overlooked.

While the description outlines the problem with the new hire, it does not provide any information about what steps were taken to determine why this manager, who looks so good on paper, is not meeting the expected standards. Not to advocate any particular position but, this guy didn't earn excellent references and rise to the level of sous by screwing the pooch. Then again, he may think he's hit "easy street" and can slack off. The point is, there's no information as to why he's not living up to resume.

The choice is yours. You can either investigate the matter and try to uncover why this person is under performing and attempt to remedy the situation or you can let him go and start over. I don't think there is a reason to scrap the whole team unless they have specific performance issues unrelated to this employee's lack of management.

Either way, good luck. Let us know what you decide. :)
Joined Oct 10, 2005
What steps did you take after giving clear instructions about floor and bin cleaning that weren’t done?
Joined Jan 31, 2012
Im in the camp that feels it should be looked into further.
He didnt get to this point by not being a total foodie, absorbed in the work. There seems to be something thats just keeping him from "connecting" with your company. Could be as simple as time.
You also might want to determine his past cleaning and training ethics and experience--its possible hes never really had to do these things before.
Same with the longer work week.
But IMO hes getting plenty of money to learn and do all of it.
Joined Sep 27, 2019
Looks like this guy doesn't really care about the consequences of his actions (or lack thereof). He has most probably decided that he needs to move on anyways, since he refuses to cooperate with the upper echelons of management. That's just plain disrespectful!

Having him linger while setting the wrong example to underlings is toxic to the work environment.

If you're certain that you're being fare and just in all your demands and expectations, then this guy should be let go...IMMEDIATELY!

And may Godspeed!

Joined Oct 10, 2005
Whoa there Bodhisattva..

Did you not want to ask a few questions before making absolute statements?
Joined Aug 21, 2004
I would have a sit down with the person and in as non-confrontational friendly manner as I could muster I would thoroughly explain my goals and expectations for their position. I would then ask if they had any questions or needed any clarification on any points. I would ask questions that would tell me if they were on the same page and fully understanding. I would then go to say that your goals and expectations are not being met but what concerns you the most is that you see no progress in that direction. Ask them what you could do to help them to get started in that direction and to help them to meet your goals and expectations. Conclude by saying that you would have another sit down with them in one week to discuss their progress, after which a further course of action would be decided upon.
Joined Jul 27, 2018
Y’all! Thank you so much for all the effort and thought put into this.
First and foremost, I think I will try training this manager on cleaning procedures: while straightforward, perhaps they need a visual demo on everything needed. BillyB, your answer is golden, totally agree and most of our managers are promoted internally: this happens to be a new program w specific expertise that we were hoping to grow quickly, so it has been one of our first external management hires.

As for what’s happened to respond to the discrepancy; I have sat them down for now 4 weeks in a row with words like “you might think this is going ok, but it’s not and I am deeply frustrated”, “I am not screaming and cursing but please consider this as serious if I was”, etc etc etc. A write up has been given (for a manager?!) and I went over several times at end of day to explicitly ask that a deep clean happen by end of day. I’ve ended up going straight to the floor staff to ask them to clean, bc at the end of the day I am extremely frustrated that a manager who I am asking to run a program is unresponsive. TBH, it feels like they got a concussion and forgot everything about cheffing. But I agree that this manager might not be my best fit, and I will give it my throw in the towel last ditch chance by cleaning their station for them while they watch.

Thanks all, I’ll let you know how it goes
Joined Jul 27, 2018
It all works out (not for this manager but it will for me!)- an amazing former colleague is moving back towards us, and will be starting that position in a few weeks- having already worked with us to develop recipes/train staff. So I’m happy, and to be honest I still don’t know why it wasn’t a fit but I will be content to call it what it was. BillyB’s answer makes the most sense to me- perhaps this person was not a great fit for our org, and that’s it. It’s too bad, but at end of day if I give direct instructions of what job minimums need to be met, demo how to do them, sit down and give a due date/explain urgency, show an example, ask for thing 3 times, and then write up an employee for failing to do the basic thing (which they then sign)... then I am at a loss. Oh well. Goes to show good on paper is certainly not everything.
Thanks for the input everyone!
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