As managers we must coach and counsel our cooks and culinary staff to become better, more productive team members.
In this day and age, it is important as chefs that we move with the trends of progressive coaching and counseling. Not only do the old ways of operating a professional kitchen not mesh with the current workforce, they will also lead you to legal troubles regarding improper disciplinary actions. The younger generation of cooks and chefs coming up through the ranks demand that we engage our teams on a daily basis to encourage and mentor them for future roles. We must also change our ways when it comes to dealing with issues and conflict in the kitchen.
It is more important than ever to have good hiring, training and review practices to ensure your team is doing what you ask of them. In one of my other blog posts, we discussed the statistic that 9 out of 10 problems that arise regarding line staff lead back to decisions or actions made by the management team. This means that you must let your line level employees learn and grow before you begin to think that this individual may not be right for their job or that you may have to consider termination.
That being said, even if we must give our employees the chance to grow into their role’s it is very important that we follow proper procedures regarding documentation to ensure you can prove you have exhausted all avenues before you consider terminating someone. Starting with a verbal warning, have a conversation with the employee about what happened and what they need to do to correct the problem. To document this conversation you can consider emailing your HR contact or just put a note in their employee file stating what happened and that you had a conversation with the employee about this. This is the first step of the documentation process.
If they violate another rule, your next step would be a written warning; this should be a formal conversation with you, the employee and another manager as a witness. You need to have a standard documentation form that states the problem, what the correction in their behavior needs to be, a time frame for a follow-up conversation to make sure the employee is following through on what you have asked and then you, the employee and the witness sign said paper. It is important when you document a rule infraction or incident that you are very detailed in writing what happened. Provide dates, times, potential witnesses and any other supporting details that will help explain the problem. Make sure you reference any rules from employee handbooks or training that you have conducted to show you have covered this information before and that it is the employee’s responsibility to follow the stated rules.
If you continue to have challenges with this same employee, move onto the final written warning. This is the same process as the written warning but after you have stated the issue and the solution you must make the employee know that any future infractions or issues will result in termination. If anything else happens with this employee you must take action right away, I typically suspend the employee pending an investigation and send them home, telling them I will contact them in the next day or two to invite them back in for a meeting. This gives me a chance to get the paperwork in order, discuss the problem with my boss, make sure all my t’s are crossed and i’s are dotted and then decide exactly what I are going to do. Then I schedule a meeting with the employee and follow the same procedures as the final written warning, making sure to give as much supporting detail to explaining the reasoning for termination.
As managers we should all strive to reduce turnover, coach employees to become better more productive team members and use termination as the last step of the coaching and counseling process. Whenever you have challenges with an associate make sure you involve your general manager. Many people have very different management styles, discussing these problems with your boss will help you consider a different solution or see things from a different perspective. Always remember—take the necessary steps to protect yourself and your club from legal troubles while striving to empower your team to grow into the best employees they can be.