Employees behaving badly. It sounds more like a B-rated movie than a scene your customers should witness, and for good reason. Researchers at University of California Marshall School of Business and Georgetown University found that employee conflict negatively affects customers as much or more than employee rudeness directed at them. And the bad effects are profound.
Lead researcher, Christine Porath, co-author of The Cost of Bad Behavior reports that 80 percent of people who observe employee incivility said they wouldn’t return to the establishment. And it gets worse. 83 percent tell family and friends. “Bad reports spread and can ruin reputations,” Porath says.
For restaurants, a pleasant environment is crucial. At The Glendon Bar & Kitchen in Los Angeles, owner and managing partner J Wolf fosters a relaxed working environment, encouraging employees to get creative and have fun. However, Wolf says, “I lay it all out there to employees when they’re hired. Business comes first.”
Wolf strives for teamwork. “Nobody can just sit on their island and take care of their own thing.” He addresses disputes immediately. “The second somebody steps out of line, business isn’t being taken care of,” Wolf says. “Our customers are our business. Employees are all aware, if business is hurt, their jobs might be hurt.”
A new technique outlined in the book, The Exchange: A Bold and Proven Approach to Resolving Workplace Conflict advocates giving workers a stake in positive outcomes.
Co-author Steven Dinkin, president of The National Conflict Resolution Center, says the strategy empowers management to help feuding employees address issues before they escalate. This training in specific communication techniques gets to the root cause behind disagreements.
The strategy may reveal weaknesses in how interactive tasks are performed. “In a restaurant,” Dinkin says, “wait staff may learn the cook needs orders presented in a different way, for example. Employees then brainstorm changes and come up with an agreement.” Solution buy-in makes it effective.
Since The Glendon Bar & Kitchen is only a year old, Wolf says he learns every day. As such, he welcomes employees’ ideas. A bartender’s drink creation was a featured special, and a pizza recipe modification was named after a cook. Everyone strives for the restaurant’s success. The relaxed, collaborative environment works, although Wolf admits to more structure now than when the restaurant opened last year.
The Greene Turtle Sports Bar, an East Coast franchised chain begun in 1976, has a solid framework behind its fun, teamwork culture.
“It starts with the interview,” says Jennifer DeMent, director of training for The Greene Turtle Franchising Corporation. “We prepare individual unit managers to speak about our culture so the person interviewed understands, believes, and can buy into that culture.”
Twice daily pre-shift meetings inform staff of the day’s happenings, current promotions, and incentives. “We discuss teamwork so customers get the best service possible,” says DeMent.
Corporate-supported incentive programs at The Greene Turtle revolve around customer service, and are used to boost team spirit. For example, a $100 money chain is hung up in the back of the house and $1 is removed from it every time an order goes out late.
The employees share what’s left at the end of a shift, so they work together to get orders out in a timely fashion.