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Keeping Up the Communication

In this advice column, we tackle industry challenges.

Q: At my restaurant, I’ve always been told I’m a great boss, but lately I seem to be having minor conflicts with employees over scheduling and expectations. Somehow what I’m trying to communicate isn’t getting across (and vice versa). How do I fix this?

A: Communication in the workplace is tricky, but think of it like a muscle you have to keep flexing in different ways in order to keep it strong. Sometimes the mix of personalities in your restaurant will be just right, but then, as often happens in the industry, people switch jobs, and the balance you’ve worked so hard to achieve is all off.

A lot of the internal communication breakdown in restaurants, retail shops and other non-desk workplaces happens because schedules are always changing, last-minute hiccups are more common, and therefore stress increases. The more shift planning you can do in advance and the more you respond to feedback in a timely manner, the more likely employees will feel comfortable speaking honestly with you about what’s working, and what isn’t.

Quick notifications to employees, such as a message about a new menu item, should be short and to-the-point. Think of the news alerts or text messages that pop up on your phone. If employees are ignoring your emails or voicemails, ask them why. It could be that because of employees’ shifting schedules, they have less time to read longer communications.

Try to avoid micromanaging — it’s a sign of a manager who’s lost control and it drives employees crazy. Software tools like Sling help with internal communication and employee messaging, so that you can accomplish scheduling tasks and move on (and maybe even relax a bit).

Another thing managers often forget is that it’s great to have a friendly chemistry with certain employees — it sure makes the workday zip by — but showing too much favoritism can alienate other workers. Think about a time when a boss had inside jokes with certain co-workers, but treated you only cordially. It can create some resentment, even if slight, and that can poison a workplace vibe.

Remember that as a boss, you’re friendly, but not a friend. Being a good manager means being equally approachable and fair to all employees.

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