I wish I could tell before I hired a bad employee. Sometimes it's obvious. Like the person who comes into the shop looking like a complete slob and asks if we're hiring. Or worse yet, the ones who don't even bother to come in, they just call and ask if we need anyone (as if I would hire them sight unseen from a 30-second phone call).
When someone comes in the door looking for a job, I always ask if they have ever worked in a kitchen before. I often get "no, but I love to cook." Then I ask for a resume. You would think I was speaking a foreign language. "A what?"
Sometimes however, they look promising and have good credentials. They are well dressed and groomed, and say all the right things. And when things go terribly wrong I am dumbfounded.
I hate firing employees. We're a small business and employees are like family. This time of year, when I'm going over payroll records in preparation for sending out the W2's in January, I run across the names of former employees that left or were fired during the year. Each has their story and we've had our share of personalities.
- There was the "Magic Pan" girl. She had been to culinary school, but you would never know it. She couldn't even follow a recipe.
- Then there was the culinary school graduate who quit after one day because she couldn't take the pressure of the bakery. We had been open only a few months at the time, and believe me, we were not even busy.
- Two more culinary school students insisted on wearing jewelry and long fake fingernails. How they managed to pass their Safety and Sanitation class is beyond me. One got her ring caught in the mixer and I had to take her to the emergency room. The doctor told her that she would not have suffered her injury if she wasn't wearing the ring. When she returned to work she had removed the ring, but not the fake nails.
- We had an intern who thought that because I wasn't paying him, he was entitled to take home all the baked goods he wanted. His logic? He had helped make them.
- And the young man who was so absent minded that he forgot one of the (three) ingredients in buttercream (the butter). I suspect his forgetfulness was aided by controlled substances. I also came back from a cake delivery one afternoon to find I way paying him to skateboard in front of the shop. Unfortunately, this one was the child of a customer. Now a former customer.
- Then there was the girl who spent a large portion of her shift studying the display cases, trying to decide which goodies she wanted to purchase before she left. She did not understand that I was paying her to WORK.
- We had two workers who simply left one day and never came back. No idea what happened to them.
- And several who came to work whenever it suited them, with absolutely no regard to the schedule. One of them always seemed to miss work on the days we needed her most.
At the moment, I have a very good crew of four, who come to work when scheduled, call when they might be late, and do what needs to be done with a good attitude. It's a pleasure to work with them.
Today's lesson? No matter how hard you screen your workers, you will get a few bad apples. It's best to get rid of them before they spoil the whole bunch.