Discipined for Calling a Cowork Lazy

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about coworker not doing her share:

I work in a busy restaurant; the job is hard enough as it is without people slacking off. A colleague was doing a word search and coloring in; then later on standing talking to a table for about 15 minutes while I was running round serving 8 tables, making drinks and running food. Plus all that I had to look after her only other table. Also I was doing all the jobs to prep the restaurant for the evening shift. I told the branch manager what was going on and nothing was said. I managed to get a break (only 30 minutes in 14.5 hours day). When I came back the kitchen, the staff asked me why I looked pissed off. So I told them I was sick of running around so much because this colleague was lazy. The kitchen staff told this colleague I’d called her lazy. She then confronted me and said if I had something to say, I should say it to her face. I did and we argued a bit. She then went crying to the manager.

Later on the same evening she had said to me, “We’re not talking now” and I replied, “I was pissed off because she was lazy.” We argued again and she went off crying. I really don’t like crying. It’s not good for workplace morale. The colleague I’m talking about is 4 month’s pregnant and I’m been disciplined for discrimination in a workplace. It’s nothing to do with her been pregnant; I called her lazy because she was hardly doing any work, but when she has 6-8 tables, she works hard, knowing she can make tips. Am I in the wrong??

Signed, Pissed

Dear Pissed:

You’ve made your point; you are not a happy employee. And you want the workplace doctor to say you were right to be pissed because your coworker, whom I will name Jane, didn’t carry her share of work. Yes, I can understand and empathize with you. You were working extra hard to making customers happy while a coworker was not. Were you wrong to tell your manager? No. Was your coworker right to confront you for revealing you were pissed at her without first confronting her? Probably.

Should the manager deal with the fair distribution of work load? Yes. What have you learned from this incident? That is the most important question that remains to be answered. You have become increasingly aware of how important it is to have a team effort in a restaurant. Organizing/coordinating who does what and monitoring how everything is going is not simple. You should have learned is that assignments should be spelled out and probably posted. You have learned a manager and head of various work groups; kitchen, waiters, those who clean tables, etc.–need to huddle from time to time each day to make sure all employees are cooperating to make sure customers are being well served.

You no doubt learned that conflict among coworkers distract from doing that. You learned that it’s natural to be frustrated and angry when coworkers aren’t doing their share. Hopefully you learned it’s a mistake to bypassing a coworker to complain about her to your boss and coworkers how pissed off. What now? I recommend that you

1. Apologize to Jane for not talking to her first. You might say that you realize how you should have gently asked her to help and privately said you were pissed at her. That conversation can be brief, but it could evolve in to an understanding about what is means to be responsible; about who does what, when and where.

2. Apologize next to your manager for calling a Jane lazy and arguing with her. Admit that you were angry. Say that is because you want to the restaurant to succeed and that wasn’t happening when you were over worked. Ask what you should the next time this occurs. Say you want this unhappy argument with Jane to be past. That you want to work with staff that helps where needed and cheers each other on.

3. Tell your manager that you want him/her to coach the staff like it was a soccer team. That means to have skull sessions that make assignments clear and engages the staff in organizing/coordinating assignments. That means talking about how you all communicate with each other. Talk about talk is not a one-time thing; it is a matter of daily huddles. Let’s suppose that in a few years you have been promoted to supervise and/or manage part or this entire restaurant? How would you like it to run? I expect you would want it to operate smoothly. You’d want it to be clean and attractive. What would you do to make it that way? You’d want cooks to take pride in the plates they serve? What would you do to make it that way? You’d want customers to be pleasantly greeted and seated? What would you do to make that happen? With what you’ve learned now what would you do to make sure work was clearly allocated and that the staff took responsibility to help each other to delight customers?

Get my point? If you are to be happy where you work, you must do your part to create a team responsibility. Your frustration and anger with Jane tells me that you care about how well your restaurant is doing. That caring is best expressed by enthusiastically talking up it up; that’s the deep meaning in my closing sentence: Working together with hands, head, and heart takes and makes big WEGOS.

William Gorden