Managing Employee Conflict

Let’s face it, there is no way you can end all of your employee conflict.  Human beings are human beings after all.  The trick is to minimize it.

Front of the house vs. Back of the house

I took a minute to think of all of the restaurants I have worked over the years, and they add up to twelve.  In those twelve restaurants every single one of them had the inevitable front of the house vs. back of the house confict going on.  Some more than others, but all of them nonetheless.  I tried to remember which places had less of it, and why, because this is often the biggest source of conflict in any given restaurant.

The back of the house likes to complain that waiters work much less than they do.  True.  And that they make more money than they do.  Also true.  The front of the house likes to complain that kitchens make it difficult to get product to the customer.  True.  And that they are often unapproachable when it comes to questions or problems.  Also true.

Both are guilty

I don’t care, nor have I ever cared, about the reasons for conflict.  Figure it out has always been my mantra.  The kitchen needs to be sensitive to the fact that the waiters are dealing with often difficult customers.  The waiters need to be sensitive to the fact that the guys in the kitchen are working long, often brutal, hours and they don’t have time to answer stupid questions that the waiters should know the answers to in the first place.  Both the cooks and the waiters took the job they took.  Just do the work you were hired to do.

There are other conflicts that take place in restaurants, too.  The lunch staff complains that the dinner staff never cleans up after themselves.  The dinner staff complains that the lunch staff never stocks anything.  One waiter can’t stand another waiter because he never does his side work.  A bartender hates working with another bartender because he never washes any glasses.

I don’t care

It is one thing as a manager or owner to think in your head that you don’t care, but it is not okay to express that to your staff.  Help out with these conflicts.  Lead by example.  Be on the floor hustling.  Have a good work ethic and show everyone that it is the expectation.  Train your staff that it is not okay to spread this kind of poisin.  Let it be known that this is not going to be accepted.

I have worked for chefs who lead their line cooks down the path of making fun of the waiters.  What are you setting your restaurant up for going down this path?  Failure.

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