Managing Mutiny In Your Restaurant

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QUESTION FROM: Gerry in VA

“It was a high pressure day (big orders) and my employees were in a lot of pressure, part of it caused my be because I wanted things done right and fast.

They blew up and one of them (the leader) formed a mutiny and they all want to quit.

I stood my ground and told them that’s not the way to quit, that if they want to leave they have to give me a two week official notice.

What do I do? I feel like they might not want to quit but I also feel like they shouldn’t be in a position to control me.

Any advice would be GREATLY appreciated.”


HH ANSWER:

Need a lot more info before offering you any substantive and specific advice.

With the amount of info you’ve given, it’s like arriving at the scene of an accident and trying to guess how and why it happened.

What is your position at the restaurant?

Do you have a superior who works in the restaurant with you?

Is there another manager under you / over them?

How long have you been there?

What’s your background / management experience?

What exactly was done to “form a mutiny”?

What happened? / Why was part of it your fault?

By telling any member that they’re “quitting the wrong way”, you’ve just lowered yourself to their level and thus given up control of the situation.

The broad brushstrokes of situation paint a picture of a new largely un-mentored manager being thrown into a situation with veteran hourlys at that location who know the drill and resent having a superior who doesn’t.

I say largely un-mentored because if you had been appropriately mentored, I’m guessing you wouldn’t have hesitated to call your training mgr / DM or owner when your wheels started to come off...or shortly after they did but see no mention of that here.

The bottom line is this: you erred and you need to own that. Step 1 in owning it is to call your direct superior and tell them you mismanaged the situation and let them take responsibility of you - coach you - and execute the clean-up / damage control.

If there isn’t any such person, it’s likely you’re simply out of your depth and need to either explain that to the owner or quickly learn to swim in these waters by effecting the damage control yourself.

If the latter is where you are: It may be up to you now to either 1) fire everyone or 2) apologize and talk to them like human beings instead of “underlings”...unless 3) there’s someone else (i.e., a senior member of staff that everyone looks up to)who can step in to mediate / help you organize a staff mtg once everyone has calmed down.

Be grateful you know about the “mutiny” as you can, at least, be prepared to close tomorrow if necessary.

While some may advise you to clean house and start hiring immediately - that would be like a doctor prescribing medication without first gathering a history and conducting a physical examination.

Because of the fact that you’re seeking advice from someone who doesn’t know the whole story...or even the complete details of one side (yours), you’ve revealed yourself to be a relatively inexperienced owner/operator...just as anyone else who might attempt to advise you with such limited information would be doing.


I get a lot of questions with regard to “What makes a good manager?” and my answer is always the same:

1.Great attitude

2.Great mentor(s)

3.Patience

4.An awareness of and respect for the relativity of perspective


The only general advice I can offer you is to:

  • Make sure you’re working with an organization that’s committed to training and developing their people - ALL of their people.

  • Always look in the mirror to ensure you are practicing the above.And give every member of the staff (including yourself) the opportunity to do the same...in other words, give yourself and your staff leeway to correct their actions if and when they are not doing the right thing via standardized documentation protocol / write ups (or, in your case a genuine apology if appropriate) in which open and frank discussions are based on mutual respect.

  • Read more of the articles in this column.

  • Buy & Read “The One Minute Manager”.

Please stay in touch and let me know how things go - or if you’d like to discuss the events in more detail,

Josh