Find the weak links

While working on a ship with a particular galley crew I was having problems with one of the cooks. His morale seemed low and he was constantly frustrated. He was at the point that he wanted to throw away food if it didn't come out exactly as he planned. Whoa!

The problems he had stemmed from to that never ending chatter that comes from complainers, pessimists, and people who can't seem to quit talking no matter whether its good news or bad. When I investigated further I found some very common problems that are found everywhere; restaurants, hospital kitchens, school kitchens...
  • One person was telling him that 'everybody' was complaining about his food. 'Everybody' being only about 2 to 5 people that make sweeping generalizations using terms like 'always', 'never', and 'everybody'.
  • After listening to that report, the cook went to talk to his friends about the food and they constructively said that maybe he could do 'this or that'. Not actually agreeing with the negative crowd but trying to give him good ideas on how to change the food if he thought it was a problem. The cook took this as confirmation the other crowd was right.
I took him off to the side and explained to him that the people that complained about his food are THE minority. They are the 'calling wolf' crowd that shouldn't be entertained as valued critics. Moreover they made up about 2% of the population on the ship. Usually I have to see close to 15 or 20% negative feedback from the whole population before taking complaints seriously.

Its hard work putting things into perspective for your employees. I sometimes used a small short introduction to recognize legitimate feedback.
  1. Consider the source - known complainers? bad tippers? new customers?
  2. What percentage is the Source? - If you turned a 100 tables or a buffet for 200 people compare that to the amount of complaints that were given. What percentage is it?
  3. Servers, Managers