If reality TV shows bore any resemblance to real life, we could all dismiss our unwanted employees with the nonchalance and dramatic gesticulations of "The Donald." But few of us have the power, privilege, chutzpah, or coiffure to make firing someone look quite that easy. Most business guides concur on the methods and procedures for handling this trickiest of tasks, but the real world of the restaurant is much more rough around the edges than the ivory-tower ideals of the HR office. The cooks and kitchen staff we deal with can be a pretty odd bunch, and language problems and a hectic work pace contribute to a complex work environment. Here’s a plan that will help lessen the unpleasantness of the termination process.
Start with a frank discussion with a problem employee.
Be direct and outline exactly what level of performance you expect. Always back your argument up with solid facts and incidents. If the worker’s performance does not improve, prepare to let him or her go.
Delay firing until you feel calm and can make a clearheaded decision.
Even following an ugly incident, never fire when you are angry; your rash action could end up punishing your staff and yourself by causing scheduling problems resulting from the dismissal. Let the staff know that you regard the incident as unacceptable, then put on your poker face. Line up a replacement before kicking the culprit out of your place. Of course, if the employee poses an actual danger, he or she must be sacked immediately.
Before you fire, document your case in writing, noting specific incidents and actions.
Documentation will help present a clear justification for firing, and if your action is challenged legally, you will have a paper trail in place and will not have to reconstruct your case from memory. When the time comes to dismiss, ask another representative from management to be present to back you up and act as a witness.
Terminate the employee in a face-to-face meeting.
This is the polite and respectful way to proceed. If at all possible, have the employee work a half-shift but pay the person for the whole day. If this is not feasible, let him or her finish service. Most people will resent being called in to work just to get canned.
Proceed in a businesslike and compassionate fashion.
The act of firing may be stressful for you, but it is much worse for the person being let go, who will suffer a huge blow to his or her pride. Help the worker understand why this is being done. He or she will still be thinking like an employee, so make it seem as if the worker is "taking one for the team." Assure the staffer that there is nothing personal involved and the firing is strictly a business decision, then listen to the employee’s response.
Never set a date for the employee to leave.
The best policy is to let him or her go immediately. People who have to be fired for disciplinary reasons are often argumentative at the firing, so be ready to firmly but politely cut them off with an "I'm sorry you feel that way." Present them with your paperwork and wish them well. Let the worker know that you are more than happy to help them find another position---an offer that few will accept.
Why We Fire
Most people are fired because they just don't see eye to eye with their superiors or they behave in a manner that would have landed them an "F" in school. Here are some of the main reasons for letting workers go.
1. They can't cut the mustard, let alone fillet the salmon. They are too slow, make too many costly mistakes, or simply don't have the skills, training, or talent to accomplish the job.
2. They talk back, goof off, and disrupt the work flow. They disappear from their stations and nibble away at mise en place. They are insubordinate to managers or rude and disrespectful to guests.
3. They are repeatedly late, AWOL, or show up still feeling the effects of the night before. They miss excessive amounts of work and put a strain on their coworkers.
4. They are troublemakers. They challenge decisions and purposely don't follow instructions, they take shortcuts, or they change recipes. They conspire and create dissension in the ranks.
5. They take property that doesn't belong to them, commit an act of violence, or sexually harass or endanger others. These employees must be summarily dismissed.