I am woefully behind in answering emails to Mr. SponsorPants, but hope to get that sorted in short order, and to put some new emails up here on the blog this week.
But this email, from one of the kids at work, was waiting for me when I got in this morning. The subject line was, "I don't even know what the subject line should be":
Mr. Sponsorpants, it has been brought to my attention that [co-worker] has been very vocal in their disdain in regards to when I am the Lead. Basically, they're upset about how I handled Thursday night by keeping them on the register all night. Frankly, it is my opinion that is where they contribute best. They get good tips and can't get distracted and go off on some tangent. They feel that my management was poor because I didn't have anyone else jump on the register when there was a line, and they had to stay there all night. The phone didn't stop ringing and that was basically [other co-worker's] job all night and [other other co-worker] (my eternal life savor) was running and packing. I also didn't want to put [other co-worker] on the register because the kitchen would constantly get slammed by long phone orders and ticket times would become too long. Please let me know how I should handle this situation next time. Thank you.
After I composed a reply to them I reread what I'd written -- as is my habit with all business communication -- before I clicked "Send." I had to chuckle at myself. Truly, without consciously choosing to strike that note, AA and its principles inform every part of how I deal with the people who work for/with me. "In all our affairs" indeed.
Hi [their name],
It sounds to me as though you handled the situation just right. You deployed your team to their strengths, taking into account each individuals abilities, and balancing that against the needs of the kitchen and ultimately the guests overall. If you were on stage I would be clapping and shouting "Bravo!"
Some further points to consider:
First: I am very happy with the job you're doing as Lead -- it's no surprise to me at all, after having worked with you, that you're organized and focused and able to run a shift on the floor and also handle the office/money paperwork in the back (with only the occasional minor admin blooper which everyone is vulnerable to late at night after a long shift).
Second: We have a team of strong personalities, and people love, love, love to carry tales and spin a story about who said what about whom and to put things in the most negative light possible. I don't know why this is, since on an individual basis I find everyone on the team a pleasure to work with -- I chalk it up to the sadly shady side of human nature, and the close-quarters pressure we sometimes feel when things are busy and we can see how close to the edge we are before everything starts going South. I believe when people do that they harm themselves far more than anyone else. But here's the Bottom Line: If I trust you with the responsibility then I trust you with the authority. If you like them on the register for your shift then I am fine with that.
Thirdly: Welcome to Leadership! This is part of the package I'm afraid. Someone will vent about something and then someone else will come and tell you about it -- and then you have to not abuse the power of the Leadership position and supervise them and be fair minded and put the needs of the business above personal concerns. That's what being a good lead/supervisor/manager/human being is about.
True example: One of our Leads here had a habit of, after talking with me about something and not getting their way, going out to the Front and saying to the other Team Member there, "Mr. SponsorPants is a terrible General Manager." (It's funny how people often think you're a terrible boss if you don't do things the way they think they should be done -- which generally involves something for themselves -- but that's a conversation for another time.) Then of course the Team Member they said this to would come up to me while I was eating my lunch and say, "I just wanted you to know that so-and-so is walking around saying you are a terrible General Manager." Oh. Well then. Thank you for telling me. Could you pass the ketchup?
To be good a good Leader (and to be good at all the jobs we may ever have) the thing to do is not to take things personally and let it change how you deal with people either as peers or as people you supervise. Sure, feelings can get hurt, some comments can sting more than others, but you don't let it change how you do the job. Because when you do that then they are leading you.
Whether it's the person who said something or the person who carried the tale to you, they are pushing your buttons (whether accidentally or on purpose) and if you let the reaction to that button-pushing color how you do your job then you hurt yourself far worse than the sting of unfair feedback or unkind criticism. If you get to that place, then you're just reacting, not Leading.
I think you are doing a terrific job -- we all have areas to work on but on the whole you're rapidly becoming one of my strongest Leads.
Let's take a few minutes next time we're both here and talk about this a little more if you want.
The AA's I first met when I was newly sober told me a few things about work. They told me that all the jobs I may ever have will always be my second job. My first job is to stay sober and help another alcoholic achieve sobriety. They also told me that God was my employer (and in that case I would like to suggest to my Higher Power that it's time for a raise.) They told me that the way to find peace in a troubled work situation -- whether the trouble comes from without or within (and for me so often it comes from within) -- is to view the job as an opportunity to be of service. And finally they told me to be a living example of The Big Book -- whether or not people ever find out you're in AA. Those last two sentiments in particular have always loomed large in my consciousness. (Especially going on 14 months in this position). Truly grateful to be employed, but truly wish I was on a different path. Regardless, it's my absolute privilege to try and pass along my professional experience, infused with 12 Step principles, to these kids (I have thirty years on most of them, I think I can call them "kids" with impunity) in any way I can -- and when I get the chance to do so it changes a job which can sometimes feel like, well, like a place I wasn't aiming for (at all) to a place I can feel really good about being.
Grow where you're planted, right? (Even if it's not the garden you would ever have chosen).
"... I started writing 'thank you' on all of the checks I wrote. All the checks I was writing to make amends. And then all the checks I wrote to pay my bills. 'Thank you for the terms to pay this off' or 'Thank you for providing me with electricity or ... I don't know, just... thank you. 'Thank you for extending me credit.' Eventually -- not right away, but over time -- it really helped me see that the way I thought about my amends, or what I owed, or what I was paying for, was upside down in some subtle ways. I was still struggling with feelings of entitlement and privilege and, well, plain old resentment. But writing 'thank you' ... it's so funny, how it all comes back to gratitude, and how that changes everything, isn't it."
I had many fine examples along the way in life, but as an active, drinking alcoholic those things could not penetrate my self obsession and addiction.
Nothing really did until I came to Alcoholics Anonymous.
For me, AA is the "design for living" which gives me guidelines for my choices (especially when I'm afraid or resentful and thus much more prone to making very bad ones) and shows me how to behave no matter what the crossroad or how murky the shades of gray.
An interesting and I think wise sentiment, Mr. Chbosky. For me, as an alcoholic, I found that I did not have the power to choose sometimes -- which is the fundamental reason I had to build my life today upon a search for, and connection with, a power greater than myself.