Young manager needs advice

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Joined Mar 8, 2004
I'm 25 years old and a sous chef at a independent hotel. I started as a breakfast cook 5 years ago and quickly moved up the ranks. I got my position as sous chef about two years ago. Now I have management responsibilities such as training, supervising, motivating, and disciplining the kitchen staff. My problem comes in with the disciplining part. My problem is that most of the staff has been working here longer than I have and I started out in lower positions than them. Going from their co-worker to their boss has been a dificult transition. I feel I have gotten better at it these past couple of years, I'm not looked at as much of a "push over" as I used to. Mainly because I started tweeking my management skills with the employees, lower on the totem, that started after I became management. For the most part I have been able to carry this over to the employees that have been years longer than I have, except for one employee. He's one of my line cooks, and he is a non-stop crabby, complaining, walking chest pain. I don't repremand him nearly enough for his atitude problem. I finally speak up when it's so severe that we are about to loose a good server because of him. Alot of the time instead of nipping this problem in the bud, I mention something to the executive chef. I'm pretty sure he's sick of hearing about it and would like me to take care of it on my own. I feel he hasn't fired him yet because he pretty much got him the job here because he worked with for years at a different restaurant, so there's a loyalty issue. Even though they have that loyalty issue I'm pretty sure that the executive chef would back me up in any decision I make, even if it's firing him. But it still dosen't make me feel any more comfortable disciplining him becasue he's over twice my age, he was the one who trained me on the line when I first started, and he's pretty much been getting away with his attitude from all the previous management including the current executive chef. I feel that is definately going to have to end up in termination for him because even when the executive chef does get fed up and threatens to fire him, his attitude changes for a few days and then he's back to his normal, causing me chest pains, ways. So what ever advice you can give me, I'll gladly listen.
 
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Joined Mar 12, 2004
You have encountered one of the toughest management problems there is. There is always one that just won't accept a young co-worker who makes the grade and gets the promotion.

Your only choice, IMHO, is to give him a final warning and put him on probation for some period of time, say 6 months. If the problem happens again in that period, he is on the street with no further warning.

You should get the Exec's blessing before going this route, but it sounds like that should not be a problem. My guess is the Exec may actually be hoping you fire him.

I have seen this happen before, and more often than not, when the guy realizes he can't push you around any more, he might become a pretty good worker again. Right now he is just feeding his own ego, and it sounds like he is getting away with it.

Good luck, & take no prisoners!
 
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Joined Jul 31, 2000
Jason,

There is only really one way to move on with this situation.

You must document this employee. discussions, action plans, coach and counsel.

A "walking chest pain" as you phrase it is very unhealthy.

Inlist your HR manager to steer you through the best possible approach to managing this associate.

You "must" have the support of fellow managment to properly deal with this.

Don't feel it is only your task to deal with, your team should be there for you.
 
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Joined Oct 23, 2003
Not sure where i want to start with this...but think about yourself in 20 years to maybe get an idea. Good lifer line cooks are a breed apart, usually folks that can be depended upon when TSHTF. Bad lifer line cooks should be culled with impunity.
Try taking a management course for starters at the local community college- if you haven't already. Forget the touchy feely stuff and you'll pick up some good info. Also looks good on the resume and at raise time. As you progress you will see that everyone requires a different "touch" to get the results you want. Some folks need direction, others a simple word or coax.
It's a fine art. Threats and reprimands will get you nowhere, unless your objective is to terminate. In that case document and terminate-or watch your ***** and your inventory. Also morale may be an issue, the losing face thing, and so on if done openly. Gross negligence or insubordination is a little different to handle.
My usual way to take care of problems is out by the dumpsters, laundry bins, etc...somewhere removed from the "office". This sets a level playing field where discussion can take place without the trappings of authority. Of course if the dude just wants to kick your *** this may not be viable. I ask the employee to be a part of the solution, and what they're views are. The biggest part of being a good manager is listening-who knows you may learn something.
Folks need to feel like they're part of the "team" and have some voice. Those that don't want to be part of the solution WILL be a problem and should be culled also.
Do not ignore a problem thinking it will go away. Talk to your chef about it. If you can't then that's a major problem right there. Communication is the key. It's ultimately his kitchen.
Sorry for the ramble. Just remember that old age and treachery thing vs. youth and exuberance ;).
hth, danny
 
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Joined Mar 8, 2004
dano1Well dano when it does hit the fan he's usually in the middle of it. Particularly in his pants. Read the Funniest Kitchen Stories to find out what I mean. He is that line cook.

Thanks for the advice everyone.
 
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Joined Jul 16, 2003
Just a small point Jase and I am not lectering you. You mention in your funniest kitchen story that you put images in the minds of your co-workers that made them think about the situation everytime he walked past. While these things are amusing, if he knows what you have said, this it will aggravate the situation of how he feels about you as a manager. While you can hack your peers making jibs at you, your boss joking behind back would be hard to forgive, especially one you don't get along with.

I have also had a bad time with an older chef years ago, I made him feel I had his back and he in turn had mine, it took time though. Also it maybe to late for you and this guy, but I once turned a grumpy old man into my best friend by asking him for advice on a syticky issue. This was a form of respect I showed for him and it came back to me tenfold.
Good luck!
 
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Joined Mar 8, 2004
Gen, I understand what you are saying and realized how I probably didn't handle the situation as professionally as I could have already. It's an area of growth that I am working on. I guess it does sound from this post that I was saying that he particularly has a problem with me, but that is not the case. He has a problem with life in general I guess. He makes a hostile work environment for everyone. In all actuality if it were just me he was causing problems for I wouldn't have so much of an issue. I've always been the type of person that can let grudges against me just roll off my back, but when I see someone harming someone else is when I have a problem.
 
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Joined Jul 16, 2003
I know how you feel. The old queen I worked under was from Yorkshire England and 62 years old at the time. He was the lunch chef at one of Aucklands most upmarket retaurants and it seemed his mission to make every new chef cry. He suceeded with most of them to. The difference was he was my boss so I tried to be friendly and I ended up with his job but not before it he had worked there for 16 years. I would hate to hink of the damage he did to the reputation of the place because his food wasn't good, and I vowed to myself if I was in a buisiness and some one who worked under me cooked food that wasn't good, no matter what I would get rid of them.

My advice to you is to build a case against him over a period of time so the Exec chef will have to be slacking in his job in order to ignore you. It is imperative when doing this that you behave the total professional as any short fall can and will be used against you. You need to not stoop to his level even if it kills you. Especially watch what you say to other staff members. Chefs talk, thats why we are here!

Keep a diary of the things he says that are not right as this seems to be his biggest problem and focus on that, then when you think you have enough, present your case. I don't think you can fire some one for lack of speed or digestive problems...:lol: but you can for abuse.

Hard ball is the name of the game and its not easy, you sound like an outgoing friendly person and that can make managment a tough number. How do you feel about all that?
 
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Joined Mar 8, 2004
Gen,

Thanks for your advice. You hit the nail right on the head. I'm a very friendly person, who gets along with everyone. Even this guy. Not getting along with him isn't the problem. We actually get along quite well when it isn't busy in the restaurant. We shoot the breeze and talk food, but the min the pressure is on (for him that means one order) he is the crabbiest SOB in the world. Constantly slamming oven doors, tossing pans... you get the picture. So I really don't want to have to fire him. I don't enjoy having to have to discipline anyone. If I ever do start to enjoy it I think I would turn into a misserable SOB myself. At the same point I can't sit there and watch him make everyone feel like they have to walk on egg shells around him. I would be just as guilty for letting him get away with it. I've tried justifying it to the servers saying that he's really just a pussycat, ignore him when he gets that way, but truly it's not fair to them to have to put up with that kind of abuse, plus it can lead into costing them some tips.Well it helps to talk to someone about it.

Just a side note check out the funny stories again, I've got another one about him. This time I did keep my proefessionalism.
 
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Joined Oct 13, 2001
chefjason , this is what we all run into in management , the good employee with the bad attitude . My advice is to nip it now . Confrontation is hard for some people but what I would do is to call this cook into the walk in when its slow and tell him like it is .
Point out some of his good points at first and then give him the biz on what he is doing wrong ! End your speach with his best point ( even if it is punctuality and dependablilty ) and tell him your not going to put up with this bad behavior anymore . Thank him for teaching you as you progressed but now its your job to make things run smooth and he is not helping .
Then , let him know that his behavior from now on will not be tolerated any more and you will verbally tell him so on the line as well as documenting it with H.R. Heck , if you are open and honest this cook could realy turn out to be your best and trust me the chef would love a resolution like this as Im sure he has enough things going on and this is why you are in management now ! Just my 2 cents but it works , one way or the other . And if you do have to term him then its all up front . thanks Doug.........
 
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Joined Mar 21, 2004
Good advice all. IMHO, this singer ain't gonna change his tune. Don't be foolish enough to think the respect you receive from the rest of the staff won't be affected by your lack of action regarding the problem employee. Come up with an action plan, ie, recruting a replacement, final warning to the problem employee and termination within 30 days if the problem persists. Follow through and quit dragging your feet. Be decisive and don't be afraid to follow your gut instinct.
 
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