Problem Solvers

I have been talking about writing about work for a long time. I really long time. I was going to talk about how it’s so frustrating to watch good employees get new jobs and move on. I was going to write about how I miss those people so so much and wish there was some way I could have changed their minds and kept them around. How a ‘Thank you’ letter was great, but probably came with a big ol let down of “and my last day is…” I got really sick of thank you letters for a month or two last year. I wanted to throw it back at them and say “NO!! KEEP IT! BAHHH!” and pretend like it wasn’t happening. But, it did happen. They left to better themselves. And some even come back to visit me at work or send sweet texts to see how I’m doing. But, the business I’m in waits for no one. People are still going to come in and eat food whether Sally Sue is behind the bar or Emmy Mae is serving them in the dining room. So, I got past my sadness and feeling of failure, and here I am.

For those of you who don’t know, I’m a restaurant manager. Right now my title is “Service/bar manager.” That’s quite a job really. I’m in charge of a lot of people. To be more specific, a lot of students.

Don’t get me wrong, I was a college student before. Actually, I was a full time college student working full time in another restaurant, cooking for other college students. Then I was a culinary student working in ANOTHER restaurant cooking for anyone that went to the mall. But, it has dawned on me recently something that is lacking in the mindset of restaurant workers these days. And I’m not going to say it’s JUST students having this problem. It’s damn near everyone. And it’s frustrating as hell sometimes. But, then again… I am VERY pregnant and VERY ornery at this point….

Let me explain to you this problem.

Problem solving.

And no, I’m not talking about how many more apples Jill will need to be at 5 bushels of apples. I’m talking about solving a problem at hand in order to get your job done. I’m talking about looking, thoroughly or at all, for something BEFORE asking me to go look. I’m talking about figuring out how to get one thing from point A to point B without asking how/why/when. Solving the problem doesn’t always have to be done by the manager or co worker. And I’m convinced a lot of people are just lacking that skill. A skill I find to be very helpful, especially in the business I’m in.

I’ve been avidly preaching about it to people at work. One day I went a few hours answering questions like “where is…”, “who is…”, and “how do I…” with “I don’t know,” shrugging and walking away. Not because I’m a bitch (well, I mean maybe that’s part if it) but because I wanted them to PROBLEM SOLVE. Even if they came back to me with an answer that they came up with and it was wrong, I wanted them to think about it. I want them to be PROBLEM SOLVERS, NOT PROBLEM MAKERS.

Maybe this all seems a little off the wall. Like, why is this broad complaining? Aren’t you the manager? Shouldn’t you have the answer to everything? (I do some/most of the time). Shouldn’t you be polite enough to coach in the moment (shout out to those managers who know that saying!) and help the employees get to the answer? Yes, in some cases I should. But, put me, by myself, in a busy restaurant setting with 20-30 employees on at once, and have about half of them asking you when Joe Shmoe is on, where the bone-in wings are, and how you cut a lemon and I’m telling you you’re going to go absolutely insane. You’re going to start wondering where you’ve gone wrong in your life.

So, today I’m watching some good ‘ol Mickey Mouse Clubhouse with my two daughters thinking to myself MICKEY CAN PROBLEM SOLVE! I mean, he has Toodles to give him the tools, but he gets it done. How is the gang going to get around the giant mound of rubber duckies?? Ask Mickey to call Toodles, pick the best tool to solve the problem (obviously a giant broom). In real life we don’t have a flying alarm clock to give us 4-5 options on how to solve a problem, we have brains. How will you get those tortilla chips from the back line to expo? I could tell you, or you could think for a moment, go through your own tool box, call on the ever mighty power of problem solving and see that the answer is simple, quick, and doesn’t involve asking me one damn thing. I shall applaud you. Then, I want you to go to your friends and explain this phenomenon, share the wealth. And for the love of everything that is good; save my sanity.

That’s all I ask. Simple.

I’ll end on this note. I plan on teaching my three daughters how to be problem solvers and not problem makers. How to work smarter and not harder. And how not to drive their mother up the wall into an oblivion of padded rooms and straight jackets. I will also teach them how to teach others this art. And together we will make the world a better place.

So please, come on this journey with me. Let’s change the world! ;o)



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