The 8 Essential Components Of A Constructive Employee Write-Up

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QUESTION: From Amy in MA

“What corrective action, additional training or corrective course do you advise for cooks with A LOT of remakes, re-fires and speed issues?


It depends on where in the service cycle the breakdown(s) is/are occurring.

Before deciding on any corrective action you must first validate the violation/failure before determining the most appropriate course of action...and more often than not, the appropriate corrective action will reveal itself with some thorough investigation of the issue. 

Sometimes issues (like the ones you’re describing) are merely revealing breakdowns of core functions / basic procedures that many operators reflexively assume are occurring automatically and almost involuntarily.

Remember the old adage: “Inspect what you expect” and ask yourself the following:

-Are orders being rung in correctly?
-Are orders put in immediately after being taken?
-Are orders coursed appropriately?
-Are orders fired appropriately?
-Is every station on the line set-up properly?
-Are tickets being routed properly?
-Is expo calling tickets / items with pick-up times in mind?
-Our pick up time expectations realistic?
-Are line cooks and sous regularly tested on recipes / Are recipe cards in place?
-Are thermometers being used?
-Are platings and portions accurate / consistent ?
-Are ALL other stations timing appropriately or is one station waiting on others & having dishes die in the window ?
-Is there a manager on the floor every shift to determine if restaurant menu, atmosphere, flow or service staff are inadvertently impacting guest perception or contributing to unrealistic expectations?

There are so many other potential reasons...

It could even be a constellation of multiple issues that are resulting in remakes or long tix times.

The last thing you want to do is issue a corrective action / write-up to a solid line cook when the issue isn’t even their fault (or at least theirs alone)...only to be down one more on the line and still having the same issues.

I’ve had more than one rock star on the line holding it all together who confided in me that they were planning to leave due to mgmnt thinking re-fires and re-makes were their fault only to shadow a few services and see that the total opposite was true. They (and their ability to forecast issues or prepare for re-fires by over-stocking their station with par cooked proteins) were the reason there weren’t more issues.

Not saying you’ve assessed the issue incorrectly, but just reminding you to examine every step in the process so that the appropriate corrective action can be taken (it WILL reveal itself when you do) with the appropriate party/parties.

But if this line cook is the weakest link, here’s how to make them stronger:

When you write-up a member of your staff...ALWAYS think of it as a coaching moment as opposed to a criminal sentencing.

That should make it easier (not to mention motivating for both of you) to always include the following 8 steps:

1. Re-statement of the mission, objective and desired result(s) (ALWAYS INCLUDE THE “WHY”).

2. State how the employee is expected to attain that result / specific job performance requirements.

3. Obtain employee’s re-acknowledgement of both 1 & 2. (Preferably, this would have originally been done by obtaining their signature on the final page of their employee handbook confirming the fact that they have read and understand the entire employee handbook and all the information, policies and procedures contained within it).

4. Cite how, when and where employee failed to perform that specific job requirement and why said action (or inaction) is detrimental to the mission / your “WHY”.

5. Explore, discuss and then list reasons (consider the fact that reason(s) may be extremely personal) why the employee may not be performing as expected.

6. Collaboratively come up with realistic steps / goals the employee can take to remedy / prescribe what they should do to ensure their ability to perform the specific required task(s).
These goals should be SMART: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Timely (immediately - next eval or 30days).

7. State what the consequence will be for failure to follow steps / prescribed course of action in order meet the goal, perform the specific job function(s) and/or obtain desired results (e.g., Failure to do “A, B & C” will result in additional documentation and corrective action up to and including possible termination).

8. Signatures by both you and employee (or document as “Refused to Sign”.

Good Luck!

Josh Sapienza