I fired someone on Monday.
She had it coming.
Bad attitude. Flippant guest service. Repeated 10+ minute bathroom breaks in the middle of volume. Refusal to follow recipes. Verbally abusive to supervisors in my absence.
The last straw came when a loyal guest complained about her. The employee was less than deferential to the guest’s questions about vegetarian versus vegan items on the menu. The guest was kind. She told me, “I think your employee just needs a little more training.”
She’s worked here for 3 years.
When I fired her, she cussed me out for about 10 minutes straight. Yelled at me about the restaurant, the concept, the other employees, how the guest was mistaken because “I was in a bad mood Monday so I asked the supervisor if I could just work in prep.” Oh, and she threatened to sue me.
I chuckled at that one.
I try at all times to be empathetic to my fellow human. This employee was brought up in terrible circumstances (we’ve chatted before about her life), and she’s the roommate of another team member who’ll likely feel the pinch when the rent is due. This employee wanted to be a professional singer and a dancer (and she is actually talented), but still finds (correction, found) herself prepping onions and washing dishes at my restaurant.
There comes a point, however, where my empathy for her shifts to enabling her destructive, counterproductive behaviors – and it’s at the expense of my profits, my guests, and worst of all, my team.
I believe in telling my team as much about as many “behind the scenes” information as I possibly can.
As an old boss of mine said, “we work in an industry where the skills are transferrable and everyone pays basically the same, so factoring those things out, we basically manage a team of volunteers.” I think the same could be said of most industries.
If the team is made up of volunteers, I want them to feel like they are owners in this endeavor. They are choosing to help us make this restaurant great. They are responsible for the end results, just as I am.
So, as I always do, I gathered them on Tuesday morning and told them, “I need you all to know that I fired someone yesterday, and I want you to hear it from me so there’s no need to gossip or wonder what’s going on.”
As I told them, I saw faces that conveyed a variety of emotions. Empathy. “I told you so.” But the most telling ones showed the team’s sense of relief.
My job, boiled down to its elements, is simple:
Hire the right people. Make the end goal crystal clear. Give the team the tools they need. Remove all obstacles to achieving the goal.
The team was relieved because I finally stepped up and did a crucial part of my job on Monday. I removed an obstacle that was keeping them from achieving the goal I had given them.
I know I did the right thing because my team’s reaction said so.
I also know, for what it’s worth, because when I fired someone for having a terrible attitude, she didn’t respond with pleas for another chance, with embarrassment, or with acceptance of her shortcoming.
Instead, she responded with an even worse attitude. She proved my point more thoroughly and directly in 10 minutes than I could have ever hoped for.
My hope, as an empathetic human, is that firing her now frees her from a job that brings her down and propels her toward singing and dancing her way to stardom.
Sometimes, you are left with a variety of bad options, and freeing someone from her obligation (and paycheck) is the kindest thing you can do.