We all want staff like this

We don’t have an HR department. Despite our company being nothing other than a collection of people, we’re too small to merit a manager specifically for personnel, let alone a team dedicated to it.

So the role of personnel manager, as that of virtually every other manager, falls to yours truly and I have to admit to falling down on the job at times and not really being as good as I, or our staff, would wish. I try to keep up with the appraisals, keep the contracts of employment up to date, monitor the training schedules and generally keep everybody motivated and happy.

But still, despite all my efforts as a manager, mentor and motivator, that well-known British malaise occasionally rears its ugly head: “I’ve got the flu and I can’t come in today. I’m sure I’ll be better tomorrow”.

Flu? As was explained to me by a hard but fair employer many years ago, you’ve only got real flu if you can’t pass the £20 note test. That is, if someone places a £20 note at the foot of your bed, tells you it’s yours for the taking if you’re prepared to sit up and reach over and pick it up and, and this is the important bit, if you can be bothered and you’re actually able to, then you haven’t got flu.

But whatever, they can’t come in today because the raging cold and fever they’re experiencing prohibits them from catching the bus. This despite their subsequent entry on Facebook explaining how their exploits down the pub last night meant that they’d had to take a day off work.

Well one of the stories must be right. However, either way, it’s a sad indictment of some of the members of our society from which we, as employers, source our teams. It’s not necessarily a sign of the times. Thus have always things been.

But there are exceptions to the rule. And more than one of them works for Oldfields.

Take Jarrod who’s a chef at our Durham Eating House. He’s only young, and in fact looks a few decades younger. But in our busy run-up to Christmas he, and without him being asked to or appropriately trained, was an absolute star when it came to leading and keeping things together in the kitchen, despite customers coming out of our ears. His efforts and initiative are alone a great testament to the young of today.

But even he could hardly believe it when one of his colleagues, a waitress, arrived at the restaurant an hour and a quarter early for work one recent Sunday morning. Especially when he found out that, due to her car being snowed in near her home, no taxis being prepared to come out and no buses operating early enough, she set out from her house at 6:15 am and walked 14 miles to work.

You may even have read about it in the national press, heard about it on regional and national radio or watched stories about it on the TV because, so astounded were the media when they heard about this young lady’s dedication, they wouldn’t leave her or Oldfields alone.

Why did she do this? For the actual answer you’d have to ask her but she’s probably too modest to tell you. I can only guess that she considered her position as restaurant supervisor important enough, that she respected her colleagues highly enough, that she had pride in herself and her work enough, to plan ahead and make an effort that nobody expects of anybody these days.

It humbles me to think of what she did and no amount of management training that I’ve undergone regarding the organisation and motivation of staff would have led me to expect that a member of our team would go to such lengths.

But then I’m lucky enough to work at Oldfields with people like this.

Originally posted March 2010

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