The Entitled Employee

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by Steve Slowey

Let’s talk about the evolution of Employee X. When Employee X starts a new job in, say the restaurant industry on the staff level, he/she is eager and ambitious, no task is too large, they stay late and arrive early. As time passes Employee X establishes tenure; and so develops a behavioral fork in the road. Which path Employee X chooses is largely based on the operational systems in place within the restaurant.

A typical restaurant operates with rewarding tenure. We’ve all heard it: “Mary’s been here for 10 years, so we promoted her to General Manager”. Now it may be that Mary is an exceptional employee that out-performs all of her counterparts, runs circles around the other servers, and truly deserves the promotion to General Manager. But in most cases at a typical restaurant, this type of promotion is not based on productivity, it’s solely based on tenure. If you value an employee for their tenure rather than their productivity, you will likely have several mediocre employees with an inflated sense of self-worth. You will spend ten times more time coaching, training, motivating, and counseling this type of employee than any other.

The better way to manage employees is a system based on rewarding productivity. This type of system should be rooted in accountability. When I developed systems that revealed who my most productive employees were, tenure based entitlement was gone! Employee X, regardless of his/her tenure, could be the most productive one week, and perhaps the least productive the next. That iteration in itself, didn’t solve the entire problem; I needed a more consistent productivity outcome. So I then developed systems that scaled my employee’s productivity, meaning I created an acceptable range within which they were rewarded for staying. Furthermore, when they fell below that range, there was a consequence. When I implemented this system and followed through with it, I found a profound Increase in productivity across my entire staff regardless of their tenure.

This idea of rewarding based on productivity instead of on tenure does not just apply to the restaurant world, it transcends business. There is no place for unearned entitlement in business. It can do an incredible amount of damage to your business.  The days of employees starting at the bottom and working their way to the top are gone. You will be lucky to get three years in the restaurant industry, specifically. If you want your restaurant or business to be a great place to work, then there has to be a consequence to failure. That concept, coupled with a reward for productivity, will make your employees value their job.

When you meet with your (prospective) Franchisor, ask them what type of operational systems they have in place that reward employees based on productivity. It may be that the Franchisor does not mandate one type of system over another. In this case, the onus may be on you to implement your own system.