June 11, 2012
I once worked for a manager who was fond of saying, “Every two weeks, you and the company are even.” What he meant was that every pay period, after you were compensated for your previous two weeks of work, the company didn’t owe you anything. I agree with him.
Too often, when I overhear disgruntled employees banter or read blog comments from disillusioned employees, I sense a recurring theme of entitlement: having a right to this or that. Oftentimes, these comments have to do with money or customers.
Here’s an actual blog comment that depicts entitled thinking:
“Anything less than 20% is a bad tip. If everything is right and timely, that server did their job – they served you. 10% is a slap in the face and embarrassing to only the payee of the bill. You go back and they will drop your food on the floor and serve it to you, believe me. They get paid two dollars an hour and work harder than most people.”
It sounds as though this person is saying that, as long as customers receive the correct food orders within a reasonable time period, the server is entitled to a 20 percent tip. I disagree. Accurately capturing an order, conveying it to the kitchen staff, and delivering it to the table in a timely fashion are all examples of job function (the duties and tasks associated with one’s job role). Job function, however, is only half of the server’s job. The other half is job essence—of which there is no mention in the above blog comment.
Job essence is an employee’s purpose or highest priority at work. And for restaurant servers, their highest priority should be to create a promoter of the restaurant—a delighted customer who is less price-sensitive, has higher repurchase rates, and is responsible for 80-90 percent of the positive word-of-mouth about the restaurant. Whereas job function deals with processes, job essence deals with personality.
Executing job functions in a restaurant (e.g., serving hot food hot and cold food cold according to customer specifications within a reasonable timeframe) may earn a server a 15 percent tip but a 20 percent tip hinges on the server’s ability to demonstrate job essence (e.g., expressing genuine interest in the customer, anticipating needs, paying attention to detail, following up, sharing unique knowledge, using appropriate humor, providing a pleasant surprise, etc.).
Restaurant servers are no more entitled to a 20 percent tip than you and I are entitled to indefinite paychecks from our employers. Remember, we’re even every pay period. Your employer, regardless of your tenure or the quality of your work, doesn’t owe you any more than is outlined in your employment contract such as severance pay, outplacement services or access to portable benefits. To think otherwise is naïve and irresponsible.
What’s worse, the above blog comment suggests that if a customer tips 10 percent after receiving an accurate order within a reasonable amount of time (job function) regardless of the server’s attitude or personality (job essence), then the server is justified in retaliating by dropping a customer’s food on the floor before serving it to him during his next visit (assuming there is a next visit).
Really? Does this sound like something a responsible person would do?
I suspect there will be readers of this post who will disagree with me and sympathize with the author of the adversarial blog comment. Without reading my bio, they will accuse me of never having served a customer and will chastise me for offering an elitist perspective from my ivory tower of theory and abstraction.
If that’s you, I have one question: If you operated a restaurant, would you hire the person who wrote the above blog comment to serve your guests?
Entitled thinking poisons the mind and undermines customer service quality. As soon as you begin to think that you have a right to a steady paycheck, a promotion, a pay raise or a 20 percent tip, you begin to feel justified while judging others, complaining, and even while retaliating against customers—which is inexcusable.
I welcome all questions, comments, bouquets, and brickbats.