Recently we talked about our restaurant experience where we had a lovely meal seriously diminished by a “toxic” server. We thought there would be merit in discussing how we chose to handle this situation. This is not to say our method was correct as every situation is different. We feel that this issue of toxic people is worth bringing up in a staff meeting for discussion. We should listen closely to how team members respond to various situations as that may provide a window into how they respond when under stress as well as provide a springboard for development of systems/scripts fort how to deal with a toxic client.
Our dinner experience began with a server who was so toxic that before he spoke his first words we know we were in “trouble”. He technically did all the right things and said all the right words but we felt he would have been just as happy to pour water on the table and then throw the food on top. This was doubly sad as the food was wonderful. So, what did we do and what might we have done?
First, circumstance drives available actions. We were guests of another couple so we could not get up and leave. Had we been on our own we would have done so. In the restaurant and service business there is no excuse for a lousy attitude. There are other places to eat. That may be what some of your clients choose to do when confronted with a staff person with “attitude”. Our hosts did not seem as sensitive to the situation when we arrived, but by the time we departed they too were aware of the toxic person serving our table. This was sad as they were then embarrassed by having put all of us in this situation.
Would confronting our server have made a difference? We doubt it. Our emotional intelligence indicated that while he knew we were a table to be served, his mind was so angry over some other matter he was looking for an excuse to blow up. He performed his functions mechanically – perhaps thinking he was being ”professional”- but seriously diminishing what should have been a lovely meal.
What did we do? We did choose to leave a gratuity – he fulfilled all the necessary steps expected. But we did not leave what we would have for great service with a smile. We left a note with our bill with his name on it. It said, “David – Your attitude turned a wonderful meal into a less than fun experience”. It is unfair to allow this toxic behavior to continue, especially if the server is unaware that his attitude is showing much louder than words. We asked the hostess for a private moment and explained our experience enough so that she could understand this person was a detriment to the business. Will our actions make a difference? We hope that at least the staff in the kitchen will no longer be dealing with an unseen enemy.
If you have a toxic employee that you are not aware of pray that someone has guts enough to confront them constructively. Also, pray that they address you or another staff member about whatever the issues are. There may be legitimate reasons for what happened or you may have an “unseen adversary”. Either way, whether you do not know about it or choose to ignore a poor attitude you are doing everyone a disservice. You will have clients leaving and just like on Trip Advisor they will be telling everyone all over town.