3 Ways to Deal With Flaky Staff You Must Know

Running a restaurant is hard enough as it is but adding a flaky staff on top of everything can make life a living nightmare. Not only does this negatively impact staff morale for the people who do come to work and have to bear the extra weight of being understaffed, but it also inhibits productivity, speed, and quality of service. This results in poor experiences for your customers which, in turn, reflects poorly on your business. 

So, what should you do when you notice your staff seems to have a habit of calling off for their shifts or being absent without notice? That is what we are going to discuss in this article. As you read, you’ll learn the top three ways to deal with flaky staff in a reasonable manner that best benefits your business as well as your productive employees.

Gain Insight Regarding the Cause

When flakiness becomes a common occurrence inhibiting your business and staff’s productivity, it can be tempting to immediately resort to harsh solutions that reflect your anger and frustration. While this impulse is understandable, it is crucial to be level-headed throughout this process and start with a more constructive approach.

The first step to dealing with flaky staff should always be to find the underlying reason for their inability to arrive on time for their shift, contribute equally, and/or complete tasks. This should be done in a private setting and on a one-on-one basis between a single member of management and the staff individual. A rational, calm disposition is also crucial to convey to the employee that they are in a safe space to discuss what might be causing this issue and how the two of you can go about finding a solution together.

Oftentimes, flakiness comes down to poor time management and/or organization. It’s easy to assume someone is tardy or missed their shift completely because they simply don’t care about their job, but you’d be surprised how often this isn’t the case. 

Despite how close some restaurant owners or managers might think they are with staff, they rarely know the whole story. In reality, their tardiness could be due to understandable reasons such as their shift start time being to close to the end of class or the bus schedule. Causes such as these could resolve with simple lifestyle changes.

Remember, Flakiness and Its Causes Aren’t Limited to Being On-Time

An important note to make here as well is that flakiness does not always directly correlate to a staff member arriving for their shift on time, or in general. Sometimes it can refer to their ability to contribute sufficiently within a team and complete and/or stay on task. 

Some common explanations that might explain this behavior include:

  • They’re a “yes” person who takes on too much (ex. taking shifts they don’t have time for because the idea of saying “no” causes anxiety or guilt)
  • They have poor time management or organization skills and, therefore, forget about their shift/lost track of time or incorrectly time it within their schedule
  • They’re perfectionists who struggle completing multiple tasks because they spend too much time on one

These are other causes or explanations that can hopefully be overcome once both parties are aware of them and take constructive strides towards ensure they don’t inhibit performance or attendance in the future. 

Generally speaking, if a flaky employee genuinely cares about their job and is visibly putting in effort to perform well, it would be more beneficial to find a way to compromise and problem, ensuring they become and even better employee, than to outright punish or fire them without giving them to opportunity to explain or the tools to change. 

Clearly Convey Workplace Expectations and Provide a System of Consequences

While there is a significant amount of accountability on the staff-member’s side of the equation when it comes to flakiness, restaurant owners and members of management also have a part to play in preventing these occurrences.

One step all restaurants should take to inhibit flakiness in staff is to clearly convey their workplace expectations for all employees and pair this with a consequences system in the event that expectations are not adequately met (ex. write-ups, suspension, termination).

Most work environments have a set of principles in common, and while most employees are intuitive enough to know what these are, it is unfair to expect all staff members to know and reach your expectations if you’ve never discussed them.

Structure is something many employees need and find comfort in, and this can partially come from you providing them with clear vision of what is expected of them while at work, and what behaviors are deemed unacceptable. While it may be common sense to show up for a shift on time, having such expectations clearly laid out in an employee handbook or similar resources will ensure workplace expectations are conveyed to your staff and will provide you with security should you choose to enact a form of punishment. 

While a punishment system might seem harsh, it is oftentimes beneficial in these instances because it:

  1. Expresses that this business has standards for its employees
  2. Ensures all employees are held to the same standards
  3. Provides a step-by-step progression employers can follow for consistency that also ensure employees know what to expect
  4. Gives less motivated employees more incentive to meet expectations

The unfortunate reality here is that if you fail to provide clear work expectations and connect them with consequences, employees are going to think they have the freedom to conduct themselves however they prefer. Some will willingly do so more professionally than others, but taking these steps is often one of the easiest way to try and force everyone on to the same level. 

Remove Toxic Employees

We like to give our employees the benefit of the doubt when it comes to flakiness and believe that this is a problem you can solve together with enough motivation, structure, and communication. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case for every staff member.

Some employees truly are flaky because they think they’re above being punctual or, to put it bluntly, they don’t respect or care enough about their co-workers, superiors, or the business to act otherwise. These are what many refer to as “toxic employees,” and the best way to deal with toxic employees is to either reduce their toxicity or let them go. 

Now, we don’t mean that you need to fire them outright! To reiterate what we discussed earlier, you should always try to sit down with the individual and search for a cause of this behavior first. This might give them the perfect opportunity to discuss workplace grievances that are affecting their motivation or aspects of their life that are carrying over into the workplace. Alternatively, they might be an overtly egotistical or narcissistic individual who performs better and is humbler when surrounded by other strong-willed people.

If there is a way to reasonably try to reduce their toxicity in the workplace, especially if that includes drama with other co-workers, the effort might be worthwhile. However, this should not be done at the expense of staff members who clearly care for their job, staff, and work environment, and perform optimally. It is never beneficial to jeopardize or sacrifice a quality employee for a toxic one. 

After you have attempted to reduce the employee’s toxicity, reevaluate if their flakiness and other unsatisfactory behaviors have improved. If you find little progress has been made, then they probably aren’t a good fit for your team, and it would be more beneficial for everyone to terminate them. 

Final Thoughts

Dealing with flaky staff can be a trick, delicate manner, but oftentimes, if you follow these three tips, you’ll be able to either improve the staff-member’s performance and punctuality to meet your expectations, or you’ll be able to remove the staff members that do more damage to your team and business than they’re worth. 







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