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The 15 Most Common ‘People’ Mistakes made by Bar Managers

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Employees are not managed. Numbers are managed, objects are managed, teams are managed but employees are people and people are led. Thus successful Managers are also leaders and as such need to project this to staff and guests alike. Creating a positive working environment and thus a successful Culture is essential in order to attract great staff, create good staff attitude and promote operational efficiency. When staff stop caring about their jobs or place of work then first the guest suffers closely followed by the operation as a whole. Whilst stopping short of telling you how to manage people, here is a list of the most common ways one can mis-manage staff and customers – and any bar manager who claims they have never committed any of these sins is a liar!

1. Misrepresentation

When interviewing potentially good staff there is a tendency to over-sell the future of the unit/company, the future role of the interviewee and often their potential earnings. When the promised future does not occur then is it any wonder staff become disillusioned and bitter and thus less effective?

2. Lack of Guidance

Failing to provide staff with a clear picture of company policy and procedure leads to variable competency. The only way to ensure consistency is to provide people exactly what is expected of them. Bar manuals need to have sections on the “Brand” including company ethics, clear and inspiring Purpose and Mission.

3. Lack of Training

If staff are not given the necessary training to action their jobs in the manner the manager desires then both the employee and the business will suffer. All staff- regardless of experience and ability – need to be put through unit specific training to ensure consistency as well as career development and in this day and age, the method of training needs to be addressed. Now we all have high definition video cameras and better-than-decent video editing software in our pocket are written manuals still the best way?

4. Lack of Feedback

In recent discussions, a barman said that they had been shouted at many times for screwing up but very rarely praised when they did things right. Failing to provide clear evaluations of staff performance (and attitude) makes it less likely they will fulfil their potential or meet manager expectations. Whether it’s a formal appraisal or just a few words after shift feedback is important but praise is best given at the minute it appears

5. Lack of Motivation

The two most obvious reasons that staff leave is lack of advancement opportunities and infrequent wage increases. It is hard to provide these for all but staff may remain enthusiastic and professional if they are continually motivated and challenged professionally and personally – regular incentives and competitions are the easiest way of ‘stretching’ your best staff.

6. Lack of tipped income

It is in the employers’ interest to ensure the staff are adequately paid and that positive service is rewarded. Decisions that affect this flow of income will work against good staff relations. This occurs more when an “optional” service charge is instigated or drinks are sold at overly profitable margins that disincline guests to tip.

7. Lack of Maturity

Any manager who exhibits irrational or immature behaviour undermines their ability to be perceived as a strong leader. Intoxication at work, spending too much time socialising with customers, hiding during customer complaints etc all create a climate of disrespect.

8. Inconsistent behaviour

Failure to act consistently, especially in disciplinary matters creates problems among staff. If there is no consistent application of rules and regulations then why should the staff themselves act consistently? And with responses to issues such as theft and drug abuse if dismissal rather than criminal prosecution is the worst that happens then it will flourish.

9. Schedule Inequities

Few things are more important to a bartender that their rota. Unfulfilling requests, preferential treatment of certain employees and the creation of strong and weak shifts will create disharmony among the staff and perpetuate variable service. Staff react strongest to factors that influence that affect their wages and earning.

10. Obvious Bias

When managers show obvious favouritism towards certain staff it creates a divisive atmosphere where what they should be aiming at is a tightly knit team with cohesion. All staff, regardless of ability should be treated equally and feel equally part of any team.

11. Social Involvement

A tricky one. A Manager should be admired and respected by their employees but not necessarily liked. Becoming too socially involved with one’s staff hampers a leader’s ability to lead, discipline and motivate effectively. This mainly refers to all socialising outside the working environment and includes sexual involvement.

12. Dehumanising staff

We all work to live and don’t live to work. Staff are people and people have personal problems which may impact upon their working lives. By being aware of people’s normal attitude and demeanour and noticing differences a good manager can gauge staff happiness and act accordingly. Happy staff are better staff.

13. Guest errors

The manager is the person who deals with guest complaints. To this end, they must be ‘on the floor’ as much as possible during service and also visible to the guest. Staff should know that any complaint should be immediately referred to the manager who is the only person to deal with it. When handling guest complaints a good manager will not suggest a remedy but should ask what they can do to remedy the situation and should not be afraid to admit errors.

14. Reprimanding staff in front of other staff or in front of guests

Linking in with the lack of feedback issue, staff problems should be dealt with the back of the house after the shift. If a staff member is criticised in front of other staff or during service will create divisions and will force the offender to work the shift with the mental burden of a reprimand.

15. Not admitting fallibility

Although managers should try to appear perfect problems do occur that are the responsibility of the manager and when they are at fault they should admit it.

Now that you have read through the list… how many of these common mistakes have you made? As Alexander Pope said, “to err is human, to forgive, divine”. It’s not surprising that Managers make mistakes as generally most have been promoted to managerial positions without any extra training or coaching. But its when managers admit their shortcomings and start to get more education that they move from managers that ask “what just happened?” to managers that make things happen which is on the way to true Leadership.

First publication in Greek: Beer & Bar Magazine, Issue 9

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