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is your organisation run well?

over the past couple of weeks, i have started a job and quit and i've had a trial shift in which i never contacted the organisation again. so what went wrong?

my recent experiences within the hospitality industry have reinforced that so many organisations are run poorly. despite these businesses apparent success (defined by popularity and earnings), their staff are not happy. so what made me quit a job after only two weeks of working there? a few things.

having worked for a company for 3.5 years and never hearing a slither of gratitude or appreciation from the owner, i am very conscious of working in environments in which i do not feel valued. this place reeked of a similar experience. the job advertised, and the job i trialled for, was for 20-25 hours as a barista. for two weeks i worked 15 hours across four days doing everything but making coffees. red flag number one: lack of integrity and alignment with actions and words. red flag number two: lack of respect for my time.

almost every shift i worked, my shift was cut short. i even rocked up on a saturday where tables needed to be cleared and wiped to be told to sit down for 15mins because they "weren't that busy". this is a place that makes ridiculous money. but they are very conservative with wages. my role, it seemed, was to come in and work tirelessly for two-three hours, and be sent home the minute things died down. i understand hospitality occasionally needs people to work these 'rockstar' shifts, and i've been that rockstar for many years when i first started working, but i'm an experienced, competent worker who doesn't need to 'work my way up' nor prove myself.

the worst part though wasn't necessarily the hours, it was the lack of acknowledgement and thanks. the lack of awareness that this wasn't the agreed upon arrangement. the lack of value. what incentive do i have to slave away for a business who doesn't respect me as a person or employee? the answer is none.

the trial shift at another very successful business had other problems. not only were some of the systems incredibly inefficient, but there was no receptiveness to asking questions. when i queried something, the response was "oh no, we don't do that here." but why not? unlike the other cafe, this place was overstaffed. and the staff looked like they were operating out of fear; they were stiff and tense and conversing with them felt brief and abrupt. it didn't take me long to learn why - they were being micromanaged. because there were so many staff on, they felt they always needed to be doing something. this resulted in them 'hovering' around tables, clearing dishes before individuals finished their last mouthful just to appear busy and productive. the supervisor on duty kept asking me, "have you taken an order from this table?" or "have you bite checked that table?" well no, the fourth person on that table still doesn't have their food. there's a big difference between attention to detail and intrusive service, this place operated on the latter.

the systems and hours are something that can sometimes be overlooked, but only when the connections to your peers are significant. what i found most startling at both these organisations is the lack of interest in me, as a coworker and as a person. in any environment, the first interaction with a new employee or teammate is critical. it sends so many belonging cues to this individual about what the environment is about. is it safe? is it warm? is it welcoming? do i belong here? am i valued? it seems though, that many organisations neglect this opportunity.

so what are some of the most important things to do with a new coworker or teammate? i've written about some of these things in how to make people feel valued, but i'll touch specifically on new individuals in environments.

  1. make an effort. new environments are scary. they're overwhelming. individuals are often nervous; they're wanting to make a good impression. take the focus off their novelty by getting to know them. find out where they worked (or what team they've played for). get a gauge for their ability to also assist in the way you communicate with them. nothing is more condescending than being treated like a fool in something that might be your speciality.

  2. offer them a uniform. nothing feels more isolating than being the only individual in a black shirt when everyone else is wearing white. if you have a uniform, give them one straight away. or in the interim, ask your staff to loan them one of theirs. looking the part helps make you feel like you belong.

  3. say thank you. and say it often. people need to feel like they're valued. they need to feel appreciated. for individuals to enjoy work, which in turn benefits your business, they need to feel like they matter. like they have an incentive to give their best every day. when efforts are overlooked, incentive goes missing and so too will your staff.

  4. reinforce behaviour. see something you like? say so! see someone working hard? acknowledge it! humans aren't robots - they need praise. they need to know their efforts aren't going unnoticed. and if you ever want to 'criticise' behaviour, you have to be willing to reinforce it too.

  5. check in. i can't emphasise this enough! ask them how they're finding the new environment. see if they have any questions or problems. this communicates that you care about their wellbeing and that you want them to feel safe. it also allows for any confusion with the current arrangement to be rectified.

  6. get to know them outside of work. this ties into point one - make an effort. work can sometimes be too busy to have a chat, but that doesn't mean you don't have opportunities to connect. what that does mean is you might have to invest a little time into getting to know them. staying for an extra 30mins to have a chat. extending an invite to an event. people want to feel included - it's not on the individual to invite themselves, it's on the environment to do that.

the last point i have is about addressing conflict - this needs to be done in person. and if, heaven forbid, it is done via message, there needs to be acknowledgement that whatever mistake was made, wasn't intentional. passive aggressive messages are never received well nor do they resolve the issue, so just don't. what these messages also do is catalyse the chasm between employee and employers, creating contempt for the latter. employers are human too, so don't be afraid to acknowledge that.

humans are complex, but our needs are not. it's really not that hard to treat people well. if you work on the aforementioned points, i guarantee your employees will be happier.

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