My stepson Sean was only 15 when he took a job at the busy Colophon Café, in Fairhaven. Being a teen meant he wasn’t quite focused enough to efficiently wait on customers or make food quickly, but he found a niche that suited both him and the café. He became the Dish Pit King.
Restaurants rely heavily on the dish person. If dishes back up, the kitchen is a mess. If they aren’t washed fast enough, the servers and cooks run out of them. If the dishwasher is careless and breaks things, it costs the owner a lot of money. In addition, a nonchalant dish person can cause clogged drains, lost silverware in the garbage, floods in the kitchen and even unsanitary conditions. In other words, the position some people see as the lowliest, is often the most important center of the business.
Sean grasped the importance of his job and became so fast, neat, clean, and absorbed by his task that he became annoyed if anyone tried to help or do it for him. He would work a hectic eight-hour shift on his feet and come home cheerful, because he knew he was important, and he had done a good job that day.
Creating that sense of pride in jobs perceived as menial is central to success in any business. Table bussers, bell hops, waiters, cashiers, and janitors are all people in the service business, and unfortunately, some people see those jobs as subservient and fair game for insult. Customers can be rude, especially if they sense the person feels uncomfortable about their job.
I got a wake up call in college when I sometimes helped a friend with his janitorial job at a health spa. The spa owner came in one night and talked about us to the manager as though we weren’t even there. I felt invisible and demoralized. It certainly didn’t inspire me to work harder or do any favors for the employers.
So, how to instill pride in all your employees? It takes time, patience and a good attitude on the part of the supervisor. Here are a few tips:
Give proper training from the beginning. By making the job clear to the employee, they will make fewer mistakes and require less negative energy from you. Also, train beyond their more obvious job. At Disneyland, the street sweepers are taught everything they need to know about the park so they can direct people to where they want to go. Walt Disney was a genius when he realized that everyone goes to the sweeper to ask directions.
Be open to feedback. Ask questions about the job. Find out what they need to succeed. Are your company policies creating situations that make your staff constantly have to apologize for? They are on the front lines and see the world differently than you do. Listen to their opinions about things. A small business should have a spiral notebook for employees to make note of customer requests and problems.
Stock what they need. A pencil by the phone. Extra cash register tape. Window cleaner. Making sure they don’t run out of an essential item to do their job correctly shows that you take their jobs seriously. Create systems so items are restocked in a timely way without waste.
Help them with the job. I knew a former restaurant owner who never once bussed a table or refilled a glass. He wandered the floor visiting with customers and totally ignoring that there was chaos going on around him. Know how to do the jobs you are supervising and lend a hand when it’s important. It increases staff morale and impresses customers.
Make sure they look the part. A dress code is important no matter what the job. We all know people feel more important in a uniform or great clothes. Don’t let casual clothing get out of hand to the point where no one takes your employees seriously, including themselves.
Encourage pleasant behavior. Most grumpy employees I meet have grumpy bosses. Attitude starts at the top. If you hate your job, get a new one, but don’t take it out on the people who work for you. If you are happy, it will be contagious. Everyone loves a cheerful taxi driver, waitress or mailman. It can perk up the whole day for a customer.
Offer copious & genuine praise. Tell people they are doing a good job, and mean it. Instill pride in the smallest of actions and your staff will want to keep it up.