Wednesday, March 25, 2015

The Dumbest Question You Could Ask Your Barista

If you've ever asked a barista, waiter, bartender, or cashier if they “like their job”, you may be stressing your server out for no real reason. Exactly how do you want your service person to answer the question and what do you really want to know

“Yes” is probably a lie. I've never met someone who's fulfilled by working the bottom tier service industry. In a roundabout way the job might make them happy. It might provide the schedule to do something creative/educational in the background. Maybe, it’s an opportunity to make connections that they are hoping to leverage into a better career or a better living space.

“No” is a whole other dangerous can of worms. What if your boss overhears you? It sounds dumb. The boss shouldn't care if you're happy so long as you do your job, but they care. Every guest complaint is your fault because you're giving out the vibe you're not happy here. And you need to be more grateful you have a job and are getting paid.

If you're a manager, it's even more deadly to tell a guest you don't like your job. All your employees will hear you and think to themselves “Well my boss doesn't even like this job, so this place is just terrible and I should leave” or “My boss doesn't even care so I don't have to do a good job.” Yeah, being happy and caring about a job are not the same thing, but you'd be surprised how often the two are confused.

Saying “no, I don't like this job” could be seen as a backhanded expression of “no I don't like serving you”. A guest might be offended, ascend offending a guest is about the worse thing you can do.

Why do you care if we like our jobs? Are you going to leave your career and join the minimum wage service industry?

Honestly, do people come to where you work and randomly ask you if you like your job? How would you feel if a random stranger entered your work space, had you do a bunch of tasks which you did as cheerfully and effectively as you could and mid way through asked “do you like working here?” Does it sound mildly like a threat to your security no matter the inflection?

Next time, ask what you really want to know like “is it fun to work the espresso machine” or “it must be nice to know so much about wine pairing” or whatever the heck it is that you thought made this job fun/cool. It's kind of nice to be reminded of the sweet parts of the gig and it's always makes my day to hear that someone else has an appreciation for the way I handle part of my job.

If you're looking for work for your teen, then just open with that. Most people will let you know the minimum hiring age for their store and are often TOO open about whether or not it's realistic for a teen to work their job. There is a lot to consider when hiring teens, but I do find that often my employees will chase away possible candidates based off what THEY do on the job that a teen legally couldn't do. As a manager, I'd make space for a teen to work a shift. The right teenager brings a bubbly enthusiasm, speed and friendliness to guest service that can rejuvenate the rest of the staff and can be hard to find in a more seasoned worker.

For the record, I hesitate to hire teens whose parents or family are job hunting for them. It signals to me that the teen doesn't really want the job or the teen isn't competent enough to handle the job.

If you're using “do you like your job” as a segway to offer us a job, just present the opportunity. Don't play games with us about whether or not this is all we see ourselves doing with our lives. Remember, everyone in the service industry is underemployed. We all have skills and talents that go way beyond filling your order, taking your money, making wine suggestions, or scanning items. Give us the credit that you would a chimp and acknowledge we're at minimum bored and frustrated. Just like you wouldn't bang on the glass in the monkey house, don't waste our time with a stupid invasive question.

Opening Up the Conversation:
-Have you asked people in the service industry if they like their jobs and if so why?
-Have you ever seen a skill in a service person that made you think, this person could do more than this?
-Have you ever offered a job to or hired someone who was serving you?
-If you work in the service industry, have you ever been asked if you like your job and how did you handle it?
-If you don't work in the service industry, has anyone asked you if you like your job and what was the context?

-Do you love your job or industry and if so what do you do?