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Minimum Effort for Minimum Wage

1 Oct

It’s a situation I think every fast food manager is familiar with.

The classic setup:

You’re inspecting the work of a crew member, usually a cleaning task but sometimes work that is central to the job (such as the wrap of a sandwich).  It’s not good enough.  The table base is still dirty, the wall still has spots, or the sandwich looks like a really cute baby slapped it several times while giggling.

You know how babies do that when they discover something cool, especially if it’s a squishy something cool.  But I digress.

You inform the employee that the task is not done properly and tell them they have to redo it.  They say the task is “good enough,” and that since you only pay them minimum wage, you only get their minimum effort.

That sickens me on two levels, and I let my employees know it sickens me on two levels, One Minute Reprimand style.

On the first level comes the ridiculously high current minimum wage.  In Ohio, state minimum wage is higher than federal minimum wage, so we must pay our folks $7.70 per hour.  And, on January 1, 2013, it will rise to $7.85 per hour.

I didn’t make anywhere near that for my entire stint in hourly management!

As unpopular opinion as this is, I think that fast food crew are overpaid because of the minimum wage.  The job responsibilities of a crew member are not commensurate with the federal minimum wage, let alone the higher Ohio one.

Of course, I always get, “Was gas as high as it is now?  Did the food here cost almost $7 for some sandwiches?  Were any other prices this high?”  Of course, the answer to all of that is NO.  And the crew member folds her arms in superiority.  She won against her know-it-all manager.

Then I explain the second way that response sickens me: the deontolgical response.  This is almost a fancy, philosophical way of saying “guilt trip.”  The hypothetical crew person can’t win against this.  It is best illustrated with an example:

If you go to McDonald’s and order something off the Dollar Menu, receive it, and find out that the sandwich wasn’t made the way you ordered it or the meat was raw, you’d take it back, right?

Or if you went to Wal-Mart and bought something on clearance, then found out it was defective or broken, you’d return that, right?

Of course.

Because if you pay for something, even if you pay bottom dollar, you expect that it will fit the needs for which you bought it.  And if it doesn’t, then you complain and expect that the store will fix it.

Well, what if the McDonald’s employee told you that since you bought a Dollar Menu item, you only get the minimum possible effort McDonald’s can muster?  Sometimes that equates to “baked under a heat lamp all day” or “served raw.”

What if the Wal-Mart employee said that since this was a clearance item, that you had no right to complain since you didn’t pay full price?  Only general sale items or full price items can be returned.

I’m sure you’d be fired up and pissed.  You’d be asking for high-up managers or writing letters to the respective parent corporations.

Well, how do you think your manager feels at the utterance of “Minimum effort for minimum wage”?

The point: it doesn’t matter what the restaurant is paying a worker.  They have an expectation of how the worker is going to perform, and every right to coach the worker to complete tasks properly.  Or terminate the worker if the worker won’t comply.

“Deontological ethics” are practices you have a duty to perform.  I believe that if a worker agrees to a wage, minimum or otherwise, then they have a duty to put for the best effort every time they are clocked in and collecting money.  If the money isn’t right, don’t take the job.

“Minimum effort for minimum wage” is the attitude of a loser.  Yes, I couched in strong terms because I feel that strongly about it.  If workers can’t be coached properly and they cling to this mantra and the piss-poor attitude that always accompanies it, they need to be replaced immediately.

One Minute Reprimands

4 Dec

Beware: Reading this article may make you a more effective manager than most others. If you really want to know how to discipline employees, then continue reading. Mastering the One Minute Reprimand will increase your effectiveness exponentially.

First, let’s examine what goes into a One Minute Reprimand:

The One Minute Reprimand works well when you:

  1. Tell people beforehand that you are going to let them know how they are doing and in no uncertain terms.

The first half of the reprimand:

  1. Reprimand people immediately.
  2. Tell people what they did wrong—be specific.
  3. Tell people how you feel about what they did wrong—and in no uncertain terms.
  4. Stop for a few seconds of uncomfortable silence to let them feel how you feel.

The second half of the reprimand:

  1. Shake hands, or touch them in a way that lets them know you are honestly on their side.
  2. Remind them of how much you value them.
  3. Reaffirm that you think well of them but not of their performance in this situation.
  4. Realize that when the reprimand is over, it’s over.

The two tricks that most managers have yet to master are communicating in no uncertain terms, and ending the reprimand. Setting yourself apart from your fellow managers is child’s play if you will only stop beating around the bush and tell your employees what you really think. I had a tough time with this one.

When an employee messes up, most of the time it isn’t malicious on his end. He was trying to do the right thing, but he didn’t. Knowing that his motives were pure, it becomes difficult for you, as his manager, to tell him that he’s screwed up.

But you’re doing your employee a great disservice. Most people assume that “No News = Good News.” What that means is that your employee, hearing nothing from you, assumes that he actually did the right thing. He will continue making the same mistake, over and over, because he thinks that it is the right thing to do.

You have to end the cycle before it begins, the first time you see the mistake. If you let it go, or if you tell the employee that he messed up in nebulous terms (as many managers do), you are depriving your employee of a chance to grow professionally.

The second secret to a good reprimand is to know when the reprimand is over. Most managers have no idea when to end a reprimand, and continue the reprimand for a long time–up to six months later, believe it or not.

Think just for a minute about that. How demoralizing is it to an employee who is trying his best, messes up once, then works well for a month, only to have a mistake thrown in his face after he had gotten over it? Would you like it if your boss brought up something you did three months prior–a mistake you thought you had atoned for already?

Once the reprimand is over, it should be over. Don’t bring it up again, not during that work day, not a few months later. Just let it lay and trust that one reprimand was enough.

The rest of the One Minute Reprimand points are easy. A good fast food manager will set himself apart from the crowd if he only masters those two little points: being specific in no uncertain terms, and knowing when to end the reprimand.

10 Steps to Empowerment 6: Feedback

30 Nov

I once heard it said to seek first to understand, then be understood.  When giving feedback to your employees, this statement is very true.

Feedback is the lifeblood of the fast food industry, and quite possibly the most important tool in the manager’s arsenal.   Feedback should be immediate, tailored to the individual, and continuous.

Feedback that is given too long after the fact is ineffective.  To alleviate this problem, the feedback must be given as close to the behavior as possible.  The feedback must be specific.  Always target the behavior and not the person–even when giving positive feedback.

Here is where One Minute Praisings and One Minute Reprimands come in handy.

Feedback should be tailored to the individual for two reasons.  First, generic feedback will seem insincere.  It will seem as if you don’t care enough to observe performance. I’ve been over this in previous posts.  “Good job!” is not nearly as motivating as, “You make a perfect Whopper every time.  I appreciate that, and so do our customers.  Keep making those beautiful sandwiches!”

Specific, positive feedback can be very motivating.  Not only will the employee keep up the good behavior, but they will feel good about it.  Once people start taking pride in their jobs, it will make the entire restaurant run much more smoothly.

To tailor feedback to the individual, it is first necessary to understand each individual’s motives and reason for being in your restaurant.  Managers with hearts are so rare, and the manager who puts in this extra effort will earn people’s commitment.  This pays huge dividends in the running of your restaurant.

Continuous feedback is important because it will keep the employees focused on the customers.  We all know that once service goes awry, it will be very difficult to get back under control.  In really high volume restaurants, service goals are impossible to attain if your staff suffers even one misstep.

But don’t overdo the feedback.  You don’t want to be a micromanager.  Everyone hates those guys.   The real trick to good feedback is finding the balance between too often and not enough; positive and negative.  Master that, and feedback is a powerful tool.

Applying the Tricks of the One Minute Manager

20 Nov

Yesterday, I started to apply the tricks I learned in Dr. Blanchard’s book, The One Minute Manager.   I think that it was a little bit weird for my employees to be told exactly what I think of them and to always know their standing.  I know that this is something that isn’t seen too often in the world of work.

I have a few things I can be proud of.  Overall, the service time for dinner was awful, 183 seconds (goal is less than 150 seconds).  But, we did enough business to warrant seven people in the 4:00pm hour with only four people on staff.  Needless to say, at 5:00, the service time was higher than I care to report–over 240 seconds.

Using One Minute Praisings and One Minute Reprimands, I was able to motivate people who are normally slow beyond words to move faster and to get the time down.  That is a very good thing.

An employee, normally lackluster at best, was my “enforcer” yesterday.  He’s interested in a management position.  I’d have to see much more consistency from him before I’d consider recommending him to my boss, but what I saw yesterday, combined with the fact that he is the only one I don’t have to ride constantly to get quality pre-close work and that he is available to work days and nights, means that he might be management material in a few more months.

I have another potential manager in the crowd, too, and she is a very hard worker.  But I’d like to see if she can influence others to step up in the same way my first employee was trying.

Which is why Maxwell’s book, Developing the Leaders Around You, would be such an appropriate Christmas present, if anyone was wondering what to get me.