The New Bakers Dozen
What to do?

The The Bakers Dozen: What to do?
By Raine on Wednesday, May 17, 2000 - 11:49 am: Edit

Find myself in odd situation. A co worker has asked me advice on pastry schools. He has a great desire to be a pastry chef from watching me (huge compliment). I have never attended a class of any sort and cannot condemn them enough. He is 19ish and currently in college. As with most -20 kids he is a slacker, spends most of his day trying to avoid real work.
I don't think he is suited for this field, but I could be wrong. I have a print out of US schools he asked for( he doesn't own computer). Do I give it to him, discourage him or try to teach him?

By Yankee on Wednesday, May 17, 2000 - 01:17 pm: Edit

> ...he is a slacker, spends most of his day trying to avoid real work. <

Sounds like a perfect candidate for the CIA. My class was full of dead wood. "Be a chef, or just look like one."

That might sound like a joke, but sadly it isn't. He needs to make his own decisions. I'm really not trying to bash the CIA, or other schools, they are full of opportunity for those willing to put in the effort.

I think the CIA is a better investment than a regular liberal arts degree for someone who wants formal culinary training, but isn't ready or wanting a "college" experience.

If he is not ready to put in the effort, then tell him not to waist the time and money. Sounds like he is more in need of a mentor.

Good Luck.

By tj on Wednesday, May 17, 2000 - 03:16 pm: Edit

hold it ,hold it, hold it!
on one hand you say the kid has a great desire to be a pastry chef, on the other hand he is a slacker who spends most of his days trying to avoid work? did i miss something?
if he desires to be a pastry chef, who is going to do all the pastries? not him i think. the kid is a looser! wast of time and money! i have seen to many of his kind,nothing more than lazy bums who look for fame and fortune on t.v. or somthing.
people with out a spark in their eyes ,and without
hard long work will not make it as anything.
you will do him and his poor parents a big favour by telling him he is not for this kind of work...

By tj on Wednesday, May 17, 2000 - 03:22 pm: Edit

plus i will never be a mentor for a lazy kid like that.he needs to bust his behind realy good before i will consider him for a good know it takes alot more than "wanting" to be a chef/pastry chef....this is not a miss guided kid who needs someone to teach him.he has an attitude problem and total miss understanding of what it takes to make it.and i dont think explenations will do the trick....

By Dave on Thursday, May 18, 2000 - 12:41 am: Edit

Try telling the misguided youngster to look in the mirror and decide if he really wants to do this type of hard work for the rest of his adult life. Make him sit down and really look at what he is getting into and then and only then give him a chance. Slacker or not this "kid" may turn out to be an exception to his own kind. We were all young once and how many times, if you really reflect back on your own experiences, can you say that this person or that person really cared and gave me a break. Think about it.

By Gerard (Gerard) on Thursday, May 18, 2000 - 07:10 am: Edit

Some kids appear lazy because they aren't motivated, cooking is motivation for some and not for others. Anyone who's interested in pastry ought to give it a shot and see if they're right for it.

By W.DeBord on Thursday, May 18, 2000 - 08:23 am: Edit

At that age I do not consider him an adult! Sometimes people wake up at different ages, maybe his parents baby him? Maybe in time he'll turn out to be fabulous.

Show him what the options are (as a decsent person), give him advice as you would your brother. Give him some mentoring, he's asking for it. Then let him either make the best of his chosen career or fail.

He probably doesn't understand what the words "responsiblity" or "work ethic" mean, past a dictionary definition.

You can't be sure he will never be better than he currently is a 19!!!!!!It's not fair to judge all of his future life based on his behavior at 19.

By tj on Thursday, May 18, 2000 - 02:29 pm: Edit

excuse me, but if you can get a wepon and fight wars at 17-18 you are an adult!
the kid ,as i undertood it , is already working in a kitchen, and tries to avoid the work.what ever the work is, he avoids it as much as he can.this is a basic additude and behavoral problem that is dificult to fix at 19.if he was 12 (like me when i started baking) you could still work on him...

By Yankee on Thursday, May 18, 2000 - 03:04 pm: Edit

Easy there, tj. Don't give yourself a heart attack by getting so upset. I'd miss you on this board.

I was pretty responsible at 19, but it didn't mean that I made all the best choices for myself. Unless you know the person, it's hard to give any type of advice beyond general options.

Besides, at 19, wasn't that you slacking off in the Army by drinking cigarette ashes? :)

By tj on Thursday, May 18, 2000 - 03:21 pm: Edit

only couse i am forced to serve at the army, i would never volenteer.
is this kid forced to be a chef/cook/baker?
i dont think so. trust me about this, i know the type. you cannt give me an example of a person who was a slacker and an avoider of work in a kitchen, and became a great talented chef. its in the blood, either you like it or you dont. no one can force him to like it , and it would be a mistake to do so.

By Panini (Panini) on Thursday, May 18, 2000 - 03:46 pm: Edit

I have to agree with tj, slacking is part of your personality and attitude.You can blame it on maturity, poor work ethic or whatever. But you will hardly find a slacker that will go home to an organized and achieving life. If I was to come across a 19 yr. old that has'nt woke up yet, I really don't have the time.
When I think back to all the people that worked with me at 19, I can't remember any slackers. And yes we made all the mistakes and made bad descisions but we knew we had to get the job done.

By Dave on Thursday, May 18, 2000 - 04:01 pm: Edit

When a war breaks out, you are forced to fight. Only because the army needs numbers to scare the opposition........
You didn't peel potatoes to become a chef you were taught what a potato can do to a meal and different ways of doing it.
He is still too young to make career decissions, give him a chance by informing him.
Everyone cannot be a great chef, without great assistants...

By Raine on Thursday, May 18, 2000 - 06:16 pm: Edit

Perhaps some more info on this guy is in order.
Bad points...
He does not like to clean or do dishes, many times will leave for AM people; spends much of day talking on phone; has big issue with pulling/ filling/ rotating product in display; very slow, took 20 min to put 3 doz. cookies on tray, lacks the drive to improve skills already learned.
Good points...
Shows up for work every day on time; will"work?" extra hours; good with customers;good personality; eager to learn new things;

By Raine on Thursday, May 18, 2000 - 06:53 pm: Edit

We don't have the time or need for an assistant, so anything he learns here will have to be from watching and a few pointers we can give him during production.

By Ramodeo (Ramodeo) on Thursday, May 18, 2000 - 07:09 pm: Edit

Lay it on the line for him. Give him some very clear expectations for how you expect him to work if you're going to invest your time and energy mentoring him. Tell him he HAS to do dishes before he leaves and that he's got 3 minutes to get those cookies on that tray, and that you expect him to demonstrate his "strong desire" to be a pastry chef by showing you just how fast and efficient and kitchen-smart he can be. I honestly wouldn't spend any of my time, especially personal time, doing any mentoring until he really can SHOW himself to be motivated and a hard worker.

You should give him a chance - it's quite possible that no one has ever expected much of him or asked him to push himself. It would be great to be the one who brought out the best in him, but he's got to know what he's expected to do. I support mentoring, but not if he's not even living up to your expectations for your average decent kitchen worker.

(Really - what good is a willingness to work extra hours if you're not capable of doing the work the way you should?)

By W.DeBord on Friday, May 19, 2000 - 07:29 am: Edit

I'm with Ramodeo, give him a chance but walk away if after talking with him he doesn't show any improvement.

This is more and more our reality here in the States. All the kids I know have been babied to death by their parents to compensate for the lack of time they spent with their child while they were working. These kids are told how brillant they are by Mommy and think a starting wage is beneath them.

Some of their poor behavior is taught to them at home and some from the media they see. You have to wonder how they are going to become enlightened by them-selfs when they walk into a job market that's so tight people are getting bonuses just to come work.

I'm not condoning his behavior at all, but he may not even understand he's a slacker. Tell him clearly, then let him either rise to the job or forget waisting your time on him.

By Charles on Friday, May 19, 2000 - 06:10 pm: Edit

Take your potential student to the local ACF meeting, and then take him to some more meetings. Open his eyes to all possibilities. Apprenticeship should not be ignored.

The CIA would be an awsome choice.


Charles Rivers

By Raine on Friday, May 19, 2000 - 07:28 pm: Edit

I have been giving him as much time as possible, which isn't much. I think he would like to learn more, but at a faster rate. Which would make school a good idea, but he is already attending school for different field. I would hate for him to switch now and regret it later on. Any school is expensive and I am not certain he could get additional funding. If he were to show more responsiblity in his current position I would not hesitate to help him take whatever path he wanted to go. Previous talks by me and the boss has done nothing to change his slacking. He doesn't like his job and that could be the reason for the poor quality.Also, he sees that I do enjoy my work, and that could be the reason for his interest.

By Ramodeo (Ramodeo) on Friday, May 19, 2000 - 11:38 pm: Edit

Raine - are you saying that this kid can't see the connection between mastering the job that he has now before he gets to move up? What's up wid dat?!?

He needs to be told EXACTLY what he needs to acheive before you will give him any more responsibility or any more of your mentoring efforts. If he doesn't want to do that, and if he still feels his current job is below him, tell him to go find a job somewhere else that suits his abilities. He may get hired somewhere else, but he won't last and he won't advance until he shapes up and stops slacking.

We currently have an excrutiatingly slow prep person in the kitchen who is driving the kitchen mgr. and I crazy. It's not worth it to put up with people like that. It's easier to do the job yourself.

PS - Don't start taking any responsibility for this guys decisions about switching his schooling. He's old enough to make his own decisions and live with the consequences.

By Yankee on Saturday, May 20, 2000 - 12:48 am: Edit

Why don't you just print out this thread and let him read it...

By Raine on Saturday, May 20, 2000 - 07:20 pm: Edit

All here have very good points. I like Yankee's idea. Perhaps he'll benefit from other peoples advice.
Right now he is NOT on my good side. He messed up three orders today. I had to spend most of my afternoon correcting and apologizing to customers. And then he had the gall to stand there with a big stupid grin on his face while I raced around trying to make things right! He didn't even have the courage to face the customers and apologize himself! I will NOT tolerate him making ME look bad! Right now I would like him to go to a school VERY far away!

By Yankee on Saturday, May 20, 2000 - 09:21 pm: Edit

Sounds to me like it's time to let him go...

By tj on Sunday, May 21, 2000 - 10:52 pm: Edit

what a waste of time and forum space on a looser...
as i said, drop the guy , he is not cut for the work, and all the liberalizm and curtesy in the world will not change him.i say again, for the second time, take my word for it, i know the type and met far too many of the likes of him to smell them from a mile away.
this sound alittle harsh , i know, but this is my clean , fast, and honest advice to you...

By W.DeBord on Monday, May 22, 2000 - 07:15 am: Edit

Your last post Raine completely changes my responses. Ditto Yankee and tj, I don't play games at work.

By Raine on Monday, May 22, 2000 - 07:19 pm: Edit

I'm disappointed. Discussed his behavior with boss, but he is still a warm body and won't be fired (or even repremanded). In fact, I got a lecture for giving the customers a 25% discount for their inconvienence.
He tried to make amends, but I can't even look at him without wanting to slap him upside the head. Gave him the list of schools and told him not bother me any more. What a waste of time. What has happened to these kids. I'm only 9 years older than he is, and I would never even consider acting in such a way, especially at work. What's worse is he thinks I'll forgive him. What really pisses me off is he won't even be held accountable for any of it.

By Mikeh (Mikeh) on Monday, May 22, 2000 - 08:20 pm: Edit

Don't use your experience with this one kid as a basis to write all of them off. We have someone in my class of 18 who spends the last half-hour of class polishing their measuring cups instead of busting their ass like the rest of us to get out on time. In her mid-forties, she is also the oldest person in my class. Good evidence for this job being too physical and labour-intensive for anyone who isn't young, don't you think? Judge each person on their own merits.

Now, I'll turn the sarcasm off and offer some more helpful advice. The labour market is tight and there are a lot of warm bodies floating around. Unfortunately, you could hire and fire several people and end up with the same problems. It's too bad that you have written this person off, since you seem to be stuck with him. You've now got a lodestone hanging around your neck. If you're interesting in the possibility (note that I didn't say probability) of changing the situation, then read on. Otherwise, your time will be better spent on another thread.

Here's an effective method for dealing with employee problems. Have a talk with your employee and lay down in very specific terms what the problems are. The keys here are being specific, avoiding emotionally loaded language, and focusing on the problems that directly affect his ability to do the job properly. Saying "You're too lazy" will come across as a personal attack. While, saying that you expect him to be able to do something in 10 minutes that currently takes him 20 might not.

Next, you must lay out the expected performance. He may think that he is doing a good job, regardless of how absurd this notion sounds to you. Again, keep things very specific. Don't say faster, say precisely how much faster. Pride in a person's work is a big source of personal satisfaction and very few people come to work planning to do a poor job. Unfortunately, happy employees are not necessarily productive employees, but it is a management maxim that unhappy employees are ALWAYS operating well below peak productivity. One of your jobs as an employer is to ensure that people are satisfied. This doesn't mean warm fuzzies and empty compliments, but rather setting up a work environment and expectations that allow people to excel.

Many managers and owners place all the blame on the employee and fail to look at systemic problems that might cause the behavior. They look at one employee who is performing poorly in a group and assume that it is the employee's fault. Everyone is different and not all people operative effectively under the same structure. You can hire and fire until you hit upon the magical employee who fits into your system, or you can be a little more flexible.

Don't expect the employee to change overnight. If he decorated 50 petit fours in an hour yesterday and you tell him he needs to do a hundred tomorrow in the same time, you're going to meet a lot of resistance. Set a reasonable goal and make sure you follow up. Also, ensure that he is properly trained in the most efficient methods.

I'm voting against the crowd here by saying that a little (yes, a little) bit of work in the right manner will change this situation. Of course, there are dead weights out there and you need to strike a balance between bailing out a sinking ship and abadoning it.

Finally, if you document on paper (like you always should if you don't enjoy wrongful termination lawsuits) your attempts to help the situation, and it still doesn't work out, then you have much better ammunition to face your boss with next time.

Best of luck,

By Ramodeo (Ramodeo) on Monday, May 22, 2000 - 11:15 pm: Edit

You know, I agree with everything you've said, Mike, especially about being clear in your expectations. Do I recall that your previous (current?) career had something to do with management consulting? :-)

The problem I see is that many people don't feel as if they are in a position to follow through on all of your recommendations. While we have to work with these poor performers, and often we are partly responsible for the work they do, many of us are not the boss or the manager, and our job descriptions have no time allowance for this kind of one on one work. Even if we did have the discussions and lay out the expectations, we might not have the authority to let go someone who continued to fall short, no matter how well documented.

It is a frustrating situation to be in......

What would be your recommendations for a person who is, say, a baker, with no management responsibilities or authority, but who is responsible for so much production that it takes a second person to accomplish. This baker has seniority over the second person, but that's all. And the manager has no time for creating organizational structure that matches the actual work environment (ie making the second baker officially subordinate to the first). The second baker is just like Raines co-worker, above.

By Yankee on Tuesday, May 23, 2000 - 01:16 am: Edit

I also came from an office environment where you HAD to take care of your specific duties or the whole place would come to an expensive, grinding halt. And you got canned if you failed. Period. End of story. No tomorrow.

You have to find people who will get the stuff done. People who can work around each other's strengths and weaknesses. I know it sounds sounds stupid. I try to get my guys to do a mental daily check: look here, look there, and see what needs to be done and get it done. Take control and be responsible.

For the slackers, I list them to death. "X, Y, & Z by 5:00, A, B & C by 6:30..." When they fall behind, their own paper trail will hang them. If one guy is putting your shop behind, give him specific things to do rather than letting him choose. Methinks you will start to add more stuff to his list and end up with a better balance of the work, or he'll get tired and quit. You are not running a charity? Are You?

By W.DeBord on Tuesday, May 23, 2000 - 07:42 am: Edit

"There own paper trail will hang them" where are you working, I've never seen anything like that in a kitchen enviroment! Perhaps you all are talking about large Hotels with professional managers?

I work where the managers are the slackers (one a rumored alcholic the other rumored drug problem). They hire no one with abilities to manage so theres no threat to their job. They take care of them-selfs and let everyone else either sink or swim.

You can't push someone who doesn't want to be pushed, period. Some of us inspite of the situation take it upon our-selfs to do a good job, a few sit all day. As Ramodeo do the people with-out "management" authority control our co-workers who don't back us by doing an honest days work when there are no consequences?

Do managers really manage anything but keeping their own job? Talk to people and clearly define what's expected of them...I've never seen it done. Although I sure would like to work in either place you two describe!

By Raine on Tuesday, May 23, 2000 - 12:35 pm: Edit

Talking to him has done me no good in the past. He has worked here for 10 months, and has shown little improvement since his first week. I would venture to say his quality has done a major down slide since then. He is fully aware of what his current responsiblities are. He also thinks that his future is some far off thing that has no baring in the present.
My situation is cloer to W.DeBords. My manager does not like, or care, any more for their job. I find myself having to take on more of thier responsibilities everyday. I have self management skills, but lack what it takes to make others productive, and do not have the power to enforce any decisions I make.

By Yankee on Tuesday, May 23, 2000 - 01:57 pm: Edit

I have a staff of three people. I work with closely with each of them everyday. If someone isn't pulling their weight, or needs more to do, it's right their in front of me to keep the train rolling. I had a slacker last Fall. He couldn't get it done and was really not into quality and follow through. So, I started making him lists: cleaning, mise en place, closing up, etc. He had to check off everything as it was done, so the next day I knew what had had and hadn't done. A few of these and you have perfect fodder for a sit down. Eventually the pressure got to him, and a week before I was going to fire him, he quit.

I can change my staff, but I can't change an unsupportive upper management crew. Like I said, take control of your own situation and find something better.

By tj on Tuesday, May 23, 2000 - 03:26 pm: Edit

this is off topic, but how did mikeh
managed to post so much text in his message?
when i try to write longer messages i get an error for posting over 1kb of info (or something like that)and i have to cut them short.

By Raine on Tuesday, May 23, 2000 - 06:12 pm: Edit

Yeah, how did he do that?

Are you suggesting I get a new job? Hmmm....tempting but not gonna happen. Give up full bennies, good pay, sundays off, 2 weeks paid vacation, self management and a companiable crew (with the exception of slacker). The pros out wiegh the cons right now. I've seen whats out there and feel things are just as bad elsewhere. Not willing to give up 5 years of seniority for some slackers. Unless I carry the title , my manager is responsible for any management screw ups. he he ha ha ho ho.
Right now I am enjoying one of my 2 weeks of vacation. Last vacation(only 4 days) when I came back, got a standing ovation when I walk in the door. It is always good to be missed ;)

By Yankee on Wednesday, May 24, 2000 - 02:25 am: Edit

Same circus, just different clowns. If you are happy with your clowns, then stay. If not, find another circus and become your own ring leader.

I know we all face the same bs at work in this buisiness. I just tell people to take care of it or be quite.

I started training that line cook today. It's like carrying around a bag of sand. Tomorrow it will weigh a bit less, then a bit less the day after this the opposite of being pregnant?

Yes, and how do you get around the 1kb thing?

By W.DeBord on Wednesday, May 24, 2000 - 08:13 am: Edit

Raine I understand where your coming from. The only way I know of to really be your own ring leader is own your cirus. Then your not only the ring leader but all the clowns plus the guy who picks up all the ----. No Thanks, it's equal to throwing out the baby with the bath water. No job is perfect, where ever you go your only changing the clowns around you, not the whole cirus.

It's hard not to lose it sometimes(some of use more than others)...the only people who can relate to this job are other people doing it...or talk to a bottle of jack daniels but his advise isn't always the best.

By Raine on Wednesday, May 24, 2000 - 10:06 am: Edit

I don't have the patients or sanity left to own my own circus. Just working with some people is a practice in futility. Don't think I could handle it if my livelihood depended on these people.
We used to have a baker that would come to work drunk. He was a great guy, and an excellent baker. He quit, and is now washing windows outside skyscrapers. Said there is less stress and the pay was better!

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