Chef Swears At Me

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about being sworn at for mistakes: I was sent home from work for standing up for myself and have to have a disciplinary meeting with the boss, possibly ending in unfair dismissal. What are my rights on this?

Our head chef has sworn at me in the kitchen for a little mistake or a lack of communicated between the team. I have said to him, “I’m sorry for the mistake; however, don’t swear at me. You wouldn’t like it if I swear at you.” This happens at least once a week.

Obviously he didn’t like me standing up for myself as he’s 33 and in only 18 (nearly 19). He has had similar arguments with the sous chef about the same situations. But because he is similar age to head chef, he doesn’t take it any further. I was sent home from work for standing up for myself and have to have a disciplinary meeting with the boss, possibly ending in unfair dismissal. What are my rights on this?

Signed, My Rights

Dear My Rights:

You don’t have any rights as an employee unless you are a member of a union or if you are in a protected class and discriminated against racially, religion, national origin, sex, age, or disability. You can quit any time you want to and your boss can fire you at any time for a reason or no reason.

You are right to tell your chef not to swear at you, but that likely will do little good if he has a habit of swearing. You say you stood up for yourself and consequently have been summoned to a meeting with the boss. My suggestion is that you don’t go to that meeting prepared to talk about your rights. Rather go prepared to pledge your commitment to doing good work; to serving customers well and working cooperatively with your chef and coworkers. Also tell your boss that you are sorry for any mistakes you’ve made and determined not to make the same ones again.

When it comes to how the chef swears at you, it is OK to say that you told him you didn’t like that and tried to explain to him that he wouldn’t like it if you swore at him. Your tone should be sincere and absent of any snappiness if you don’t want to be fired. It might also help if you could speak positively about how you want to be a responsible team member and have seen ways to cut wasted supplies, wasted time, wasted energy and wasted money.

Do any of these suggestions make sense? Will you avoid gossiping about the chef with coworkers, family and friends? Will you think of yourself as a cheerleader who wants to make the chef and coworkers jobs easier, more effective and less stressful? You can choose to have a constructive attitude; one that sees this job as one step in what might help to have better jobs and your experiences providing lessons that will help you in whatever career direction you take.Work is work, but wouldn’t it less stressful if you could find ways to make it more pleasant for that chef and your teammates?

Finally, don’t obsess with this; playing and replaying it over and over again in your head. You had the courage to speak up and that was good. Don’t lose that spirit. You will meet with the boss, but don’t see her/him as your enemy. It is the boss’ job to deal with trouble. But remember your name isn’t Trouble. Working together with hands, head, and heart takes and makes big WEGOS. That’s my advice encapsulated in one sentence. Let me know if these thoughts help for that upcoming meeting with your boss.

Follow Up: Thank-you for the reply makes an interesting reading. your advice is along the similar lines of which I was planning to do, end of the day in there to help the business make money no more no less, however as my opinion goes in the workplace I expect to be treated with respect as I treat any other member of staff, just because of my age I think they just take advantage of that, (that I will be too scared to say/do anything). Wasn’t sure on what my rights were in this area as it’s all very vague on the internet, as every case is different. I will just speak my mind honestly and be open to suggestion.Many Thanks for replying and spending your time to answer.

Reply: I appreciate your additional thoughts after reading my answer to your question as to what are your rights. Hang in there and give of your best, until and if you decide you have a definite offer for a better job elsewhere. You said you were sent home because you stood up for yourself, but you didn’t say what specifically the chef or someone did that caused you to speak up for yourself or what language or tone you used. Before the forthcoming disciplinary meeting with the boss, take time to reflect on the situation that provoked your being sent home and ordered to meet with the boss. If your language or demeanor was disrespectful, apologize. If not, simply say that you don’t want to be yelled or sworn at and want to do good work in restaurant with a happy cooperative spirit.

Should the boss fire you, and you think the firing was unjust, determine to learn from this unhappy experience. Sometimes it is best to vote with your feet with no bitterness. There are good jobs out there. You are young and are learning how to deal with authority and coworkers. Hopefully you can weather this conflict until you choose something better or go for training that will shape a career you feel good about.

Meanwhile, I recommend you read the insightful little book Fish Tales. Please stay in touch; I am interested in how this evolves. Don’t allow this incident to squash your determination to speak up when that is needed.

Second Follow Up: Had a chat with the head chef today (was expecting boss to be there but wasn’t), went in with the frame of mind, depending on how he wanted to deal with the situation, (if he wanted to kick up a fuss then I’d make my point of view clear) He was very professional about the whole thing and I respect that, he apologized to me, likewise said it could have been resolved a lot easily but wouldn’t tolerate that kind of language, to which he agreed. a few other issues where raised about my ‘lateness’ which I said, fair enough I was late once,

I live a fair distance away from work it’s no excuse but sometimes traffic is a lot more congested than usual, u have to understand that. Not using it as an excuses but it does happen time to time, on which he also agreed. Both matters were resolved with little confrontation. Business is back to normal, your first reply calmed me down and realized what there was to consider and in very grateful. If he was to push it further obviously I would have stood up for myself and made it clear as had another job lined up in case of a dismissal. situation was, a busy Saturday night service, and as part of a 4 man team it’s not the biggest kitchen, use rally we say ‘behind you’ when passing each other to avoid burning each other while cooking with hot pans and trays, but not always we all try as much as we can to be aware, and I passed head chef he turned around with a small tray with a sea bass fillet ready to serve and hitting it against my arm, knocking it out of his hands, called me a Dickhead, and started to swear a few more times, I apologized on the spot as was clearly a genuine accident to which he continued to swear with an aggressive tone about the accident to which I replied in “Sorry, fair enough swear once twice whatever get it out of your system but don’t carry on to swear at me, you wouldn’t like it if I was to swear at you the way you’re talking to me.”

Had an argument about the situation, he said just go home ‘to defuse the argument’ also saying we’ll have a meeting tomorrow with the boss. Said to him, “Fine, we’ll talk tomorrow about it, and mentioned about what I had cooking in the pans/ovens as were nearly ready to serve.” Wasn’t rude, just straight forward. Then left. Was impressive with the amount of professionalism he had at this chat, I made my thoughts clear he respected my opinion and which I also took in his, was easily resolved. If things went differently would have been a different story and 9/10 would have left to the other job I have lined up. Many thanks.

Reply: Talking with each other about the way we talk to one another works, not always, but this time it did. Stay in touch and continue to use the good sense and good character you have.

William Gorden