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Employee Turn Over

Several years ago I worked for a small cafe/coffee shop that was owned by two sisters. This place had a terrible employee turnover rate and after about three months I was the senior full-time employee. (There were three part-timers that had been there longer.) It seemed that the primary qualification for employment at this establishment was the ability to put a good face toward the customer. Actually ability to do the job came in second. And the bosses would also do nearly anything to avoid offending anyone or making them upset.

So after working there for one year, I am pretty well set in having the opening shift of 6-2. I like the mornings, I know the regular customers, I could keep up with the lunch rush, and it enabled me to car pool with my boyfriend. My coworker and friend, M, also a full-time employee, primarily works the 8-4 shift. Being a single mom, this allowed her to get her kids up and off to school and let her be home with them for supper. We were always willing to work whatever shift was needed, but these shifts were our norm. So now, after a year of employment, the bosses hire B part-time. She decides she needs the morning shift. So she now gets all my opening shifts and I am switched to closing/evening shifts. I am not happy. After about two months of this I find another job and quit. Right after I leave I hear from M that B now wants her 8-4 shift instead. That her husband can’t get the kids up for school by himself. To which M replies, “What about me? I’m a single mom. I don’t have a husband to help me with anything!” So, the bosses give B the 8-4 shifts and switch M to a very inconsistent schedule. This also only lasts a few short months before M also quits. Right after she left, B also quits, wanting to return to a previous job.

All this hassle and losing two good full-time employees just to try to keep a newer, part-time employee happy. 0212-11

I’m always amazed at the short sighted choices some business owners make in regards to employees and retaining their best workers.   Reliable, hardworking employees are like gold and should have tenure over newbies who should prove themselves by starting at the bottom of the ladder and working themselves up.


Comments on this entry are closed.

  • PJ September 7, 2017, 10:37 am

    Totally agree with Admin. I suppose this story helps explain why there is such high turnover!

  • lakey September 7, 2017, 11:25 am

    Did OP or M speak up to whoever set the work schedule? Regardless, I do know that this happens. My sister had a part time job where one of the other part time employees couldn’t handle the job well. She avoided working at the cash register because she made so many mistakes. She also refused to work weekends. So, she didn’t have to take her turns working weekends. My sister spoke up, but they still pandered to the less qualified employee. So, my sister did what OP and M did. She bided her time until something better came along and quit.

  • Dyan September 7, 2017, 11:34 am

    oh man …I never understood this…I have been at the same job for over 13 years and a newbie comes in I want that shift I don’t want to close (you were hired to close) I said to the bosses don’t even think about changing my hours…I will not be happy and I will leave. THANK goodness they are a great company and would never do it..
    but what do these NEW people think…

    • Liz September 8, 2017, 8:13 am

      My former PT retail job was like that. Everyone was supposed to work one night, and one weekend day. Even if they worked days during the week. I was PT so I only did nights and weekends as I had a FT job as well.

      Did that happen? Nope. Before I left, a number of people were hired, who never worked a night, and their weekend schedule was dictated by them! Oh no. I also at one point got shifted from my Sat night shift, to a 12-5, which essentially took up most of my day. All because the one other employee was slow, and management didn’t’ want her on during the busy day on Saturday. So because I was actually good at my job, i was punished. But when she quit, i was able to get my Sat nights back since not many people want to work then!

      Thankfully I was able to quit for other reasons, but it really did create a lot of animosity towards those of us who did work when needed.

      • Rebecca September 8, 2017, 11:59 pm

        Oh yes, that happened with me, too!! I was good and efficient at the job, so I could work alone. Newbie still sucked at it, even after enough time had passed to get good at it. So Newbie was never put on evenings, because they needed someone fast in the evenings, who could work alone. During the day there was some overlap between the early morning people and the evening people, do Slowpoke got all day shifts. Thanks a lot. Makes you want to be less efficient.

  • Dee September 7, 2017, 2:22 pm

    Well, OP, you knew right from the start that this place was not run well, so where’s the surprise? I’m more concerned with how the customers are treated, since unhappy employees in a food service business usually mean there are things going on diners would be horrified to learn. High employee turnover in a food establishment is a red flag warning to eat at your own risk.

  • Anon September 7, 2017, 3:32 pm

    No place I have ever worked would do this “newest employee and part-timer > everyone else” thing. That’s just weird.

    They really should have had someone actually look at their business practice to see what they could improve on (instead of trying not to upset a new employee but wanting to upset old ones). Though it sounds like those 2 sisters wouldn’t have listened.

  • It's Me September 7, 2017, 8:23 pm

    I have a feeling that B is either a friend or a relative of the sisters, and that’s why they bent over backwards to accommodate her. Not that it wound up working, or else B wouldn’t have left to return to a previous job.

    • ladyv21454 September 8, 2017, 9:44 am

      That was my thought, too – that B must “know somebody”.

      • Darshiva September 15, 2017, 10:20 am

        Or maybe B knows some “body.” In a closet, perhaps?

  • Jelaza September 7, 2017, 10:39 pm

    It’s possible that long-time hard-working employees are seen by this type of employer as being too loyal and/or dedicated to leave their job, even as they’re being screwed over. Sometimes, even having all of their best employees leave doesn’t open their eyes.

  • Rebecca September 7, 2017, 11:46 pm

    Yeah, that is not OK. How is it that B got to waltz in and decide that she got the shifts she wanted?

    The only fair way to do it would be either to tell potential new hires, “We have an opening for our evening shifts” and that shift is set in stone until the morning person decides to step down, OR, rotate shifts so that no one person gets to dominate the “good” shifts. As a single person with no kids, I’ve also done my share of weekends and evenings due to “So-and-so has kiiiiids” even when I had more seniority. That isn’t fair either, that I have to take all the less-desirable shifts because of other people’s family planning choices. But either way, a new person shouldn’t get to pick and choose her shifts over people who have been there longer.

    • ladyv21454 September 8, 2017, 9:47 am

      Rebecca, I’m a parent (of a now-grown son) and I am with you 100% on the unfairness of childless people not being treated on an equal basis with those who have children. I CHOSE to have a child, and I would never have expected special treatment because of it.

  • Aleko September 8, 2017, 7:42 am

    It’s always a temptation for employees to gripe about tough strict bosses. But, as we see here, bosses too nice to say no to anyone or read them the riot act about substandard work or bad behaviour are far more damaging. With that kind of boss, it’s always the squeaky wheel that gets the grease, to the detriment of the hardworking and uncomplaining.

    I had a serious problem with a too-nice boss once. I was one of two admins in a small archaeological publishing house; a really happy place to work. My fellow admin left, and a new recruit, E, was employed to replace her. It gradually became apparent to me, working in the same room with her as I did, that E was genuinely, and I mean clinically, paranoid.

    At the slightest thing E would stomp upstairs to complain to the manager that I had been nasty to her. Unfortunately, as nobody else worked in our room and the rest of the company only routinely saw her at tea-breaks or if they had any copying or posting business, the realisation that E was really not in her right mind didn’t percolate to them for quite a lot longer. And as I was then, I freely admit, a tactless and opinionated young person with a talent for getting up people’s noses (I have worked hard at getting better), our manager was prepared to believe that she had grounds for her upset, and being a very sweet guy, would plead ‘Please, Aleko, do try to be nicer to E’.

    It was easily one of the lowest times of my life. I had to spend seven hours a day alone with this irrational woman; and really the worst thing of all was that, like many paranoiacs, she wasn’t consistent. Some days I would be the wicked witch; other days I would be her only friend in a hostile world, and she would reward me by showing me her leg ulcers and ranting – there was no shutting her up – about how evil and false all the other people in the office were.

    Eventually her mental state did become apparent to all the rest of the company, who were as appalled as I was. But as I’ve said, the manager was a sweet person who just couldn’t face telling her she wasn’t wanted. I had been hanging in there as best I could but was desperate: her two month’s probationary period, during which he could simply have said ‘Sorry, it’s not working out, we have decided not to keep you’ was nearly up, and it would be a far bigger deal to sack her later. So in the end I took the decision that I would have to help him out by acting right against my normal instincts: I went up to his office and fabricated a fit of hysterics, sobbing ‘I can’t work with her any longer! I can’t bear it! Either she goes or I’m handing in my notice!’ which allowed him to say to E ‘I’m so sorry, it’s clear you two can’t work together, and Aleko is such a longstanding and valued employee, with much regret we’ll have to let you go’.

    I offer this experience for what it’s worth. Even if you aren’t by nature a squeaky wheel, sometimes you have to act like one, or the real wonky wheels will drive over you…

    • InTheEther September 9, 2017, 9:26 pm

      You’ve also got to love the “nice” employer or manager who will gripe that X asks for every weekend off, but won’t actually tell them no.

      I worked as a waitress in a resteraunt for a couple years, and the boss was great to work for, except that he didn’t cut people off when he should of. I have 2 examples of other waitresses.
      K started a week before I did. She was married to a loser who wouldn’t get a job, and would do anything she could to get more tips. And if something didn’t directly result in tips she wouldn’t do it. The most annoying thing was snatching tables. We didn’t have assigned tables and were expected to take turns claiming them after that sat. K would run up to talk to a group as soon as they entered the building, follow them as they sat, and lo and behold, when she came to the waitress station she’d inform us that they’d requested she serve them. Then she’d give terrible service because she way overloaded herself on tables. And if you even gave her an annoyed look she’d immediately get upset and start crying how she couldn’t help that people requested her.
      She actually managed to get policy changed. At the start, every helped out with clearing dirty tables, but she kept on insisting that her tips were being stolen. She seriously made the boss go over the security footage trying to spot someone taking her tips. I remember one time she was throwing a fit four almost 5 hours straight because she totally saw then leave her $40. Doesn’t matter that the cashier pointed out that they’d left her $5 on their card. It never occurred to her that maybe having as many tables as the other 2-3 waitresses combined at the beginning of the rush wasn’t conductive to getting tips. So policy was changed to only the waitress who served that table cleaning it. In practice, we still helped each other and just left her to flounder on her own. Heck, I’d pick up people’s tips and hand it to them as they went by.
      Lastly, after the rush was over and it was time to clean up and restock she’d disappear. Generally into the bathroom with her phone. I was a captive audience once when I went in to actually use the facilities, while she was having a LOUD phone conversation with the woman her husband was cheating on her with, basically describing what a loser he was.
      The thing that finally got her fired was when the parents of another waitress came in to talk to the boss. Turns out that K had been telling people this other waitress had AIDS, presumedly so she could take her tables.

      The other lady,H, was way less hateful but just as annoying. She was about my mom’s age, widowed, and I swear had some kind of nervous disorder. I know she couldn’t help it, but this was NOT the environment she needed to be in. She would go into panic mode the second a customer showed up. 5pm there’d be 7 of us leaning against the waitress counter in an empty building (5:30-7 we needed 7 waitresses), a person/group would come in and she would rush them at the door and hover behind them as they chose a seat because OMG we can’t leave a customer waiting. And when the 2nd table of the night came in she’d rush to do a repeat before we reminded her it wasn’t her turn. Every time. She made loads of just obvious not thinking mistakes. Like deciding she needed to start filling cups of ranch right before when we were about to get busy (it seriously was like clockwork), throwing a half full bin of ranch cups into the half full bin of tartar sauce cups (we used the same plastic cups for both) because PEOPLE ARE STARTING TO ARRIVE! Requireing the rest of us to pick through and separate them back out. She spilled and knocked over a lot of stuff since she was running around like a chicken with her head cut off. She actually elbowed the head waitress in the face once and didn’t even notice. And she got orders wrong pretty much constantly.
      The worst story with her involved the soda fountain. We were allowed to get drinks from the fountain so long as we kept them below the counter. I got mine and noticed it was flat. A quick powwow revealed the CO2 canister needed to be switched out. The head waitress and dishwasher started working on it, as it was a bit of a process. H comes up and starts filling up a couple of cups for her table. I tell her the issue and that it’ll be just a few minutes until they change the tank. Sensible person would stop filling and let the table know the issue. She gives me a deer in the headlight stare and asks ‘what?’ I repeat. She goes “oh … so it’s flat?” She’s still filling these BIG cups with flat soda. “Yes, its flat. Give them a minute.” Deer in the headlights look. “Are you sure?” We can literally see them changing the canister in the closet across the room. I point and say yes. She looks at them, looks at me. “So you think it’s flat?” I tell her I know it’s flat, and this continues until she finished filling the glasses. Then she goes to deliver the drinks! I can’t believe what I’m seeing and look around me for confirmation. Luckily the cashier was back there getting drinks for a to go order and got on to H, as she’d heard the whole conversation. H poured out the drinks and we all figure she’s gone to tell her table it’ll be a minute. A fair while later me and another waitress are putting together silverware when a sweet older lady comes to the counter with 2 bottles of Diet Coke (we had a fridge of bottled drinks on top of the fountain) saying her waitress had brought it for them but she and her husband didn’t really like diet. The bottles aren’t opened so we say of course and gesture to the fridge asking what she’d like to switch it out for (they were all the same price). She dithers a bit before saying what they’d wanted was 2 cokes and did she have to get bottles? It occurred to both of us at the same time that she was from H’s table and H had never told them about the issue with the fountain, which had long sense been fixed. We let her know what the situation was and fill up a couple of glasses from the fountain for her, to her relief. As far as we can tell H had just grabbed 2 random bottles from the fridge, popped them on the table, and ran off without explaining anything.
      I left to go to grad school out of state, but I think H eventually quit of her own volition.

      These are the only 2 coworkers I’ve ever felt the need to go to my boss about, and it went on way too long because he felt sorry for them.

    • Snarkastic October 20, 2017, 5:17 pm

      II am certain we worked with the same person. Her initial was also “E”, was extremely paranoid, and would switch between thinking I was an idiot and believing that I was trying to steal her job. The constant emotional abuse I suffered at this animal’ hands wasn’t worth the $10-12/hr I was making. I lasted 9 months, but my psyche almost didn’t make it.

  • Cleosia September 8, 2017, 8:02 am

    Most places have a bid for shifts, with the shift going to the employee who has the most seniority. This bending over backwards for a new person, who generally comes in with an agreed schedule, doesn’t make any sense, business or otherwise.

  • Michelle September 8, 2017, 8:49 am

    I’ve found that most smaller businesses, especially family-run businesses, try to avoid conflict and will give the most demanding employee what they want so they don’t have to actually manage the situation. There are some small family-run businesses that do really well at managing and treating employees fairly but apparently this shop isn’t one of them.

  • JD September 8, 2017, 10:41 am

    This would drive me nuts. I don’t blame OP and friend for quitting. I went to work for a large chain department store, and they told me full-timers (as I was hired to be) always got two days off each week, and “only” had to close 2 nights (at a mall, so at nine p.m.) Our shifts were either to start at nine a.m. or come in just after lunch, whatever we were assigned each week, and they changed from day to day. It was after I was hired that I found out that part timers got to pick their shifts in this college town, mostly to accommodate their classes, and full-timers had to work around that. I ended up closing more nights because a part-timer couldn’t make it due to a class project or something, and the two days off was never in a row — I might work Sunday through Wednesday, be off Thursday, work Friday , be off Saturday, and work Sunday through Thursday of the next week. But part-timers could take 2 or 3 days in a row off if they asked. I had two young children and a commute of an hour each way, so this schedule was horrible for me. When I quit after two months (I’d found a better job), and they asked me what they could have done to keep me, at my exit interview, I (politely) told them the problem with their scheduling was a huge issue for me, and that favoring part-timers over full-timers seemed backward to me.
    At another place I worked, that also had high turnover, I had been there three years and moved up by hard work, and had a scheduled doctor appointment that I’d had approved for four weeks. On the morning of the appointment, I was called to the office and asked if I could change my appointment so a newbie who had a routine dental check up at the same time as my appointment, that she forgot to ask off for, could go to hers instead. I refused and left that job not long after that.

  • NostalgicGal September 10, 2017, 5:21 am

    I’ve been in the trenches many times over the years… the worst was the on-again off-again with a friend that owned a restaurant a block away from where I was living. Staff did everything including prep the food to be cooked and cooked it, ran register and drive through and kept the place clean and stocked (you came to counter to order, pay, and usually handed your food after paying to sit, and bus your own dishes (disposable).

    He would go through a merry circle that took about a year to play out. Hire some crew, enough to cover decent (door was open from 6 am to 8 pm, staff was there between 5 am and 9 pm). Get a manager, put them on salary and burn them out. People start quitting and causing issues over getting time off or the shift they wanted (trust me I hated the 11a to 2p as you would never get out of there and it was just the hassle shift plus it ate your day). They’d get short enough on help to hire these two people in, who were lazy and impossible and eventually everyone is gone so those two quit and he’d have himself and 2-3 employees and expect the staff to keep those doors open seven days a week. We once had someone walk in looking for work, filled them out a time card, and after they worked the shift they filled out the app. He came in the next day to find we the lowly staff had hired three people.

    So he’d start over, get another manager, get the crew fluffed back up and have them all go away again and end up with the last two. I worked part of five passes of this. I worked GREAT on the 5-8 am shift. This was set everything up, bake the biscuits, make the gravy, put the cleaned grill parts back together and start frying chicken skewers. 5-6 was set up and cook, and at 6 the lights went on and sell probably 11 gallons (we went by the gallons of gravy used) of biscuits and gravy by 8 and have five pans of chicken grilled. Boss would walk in about 7:30, check the take before he said anything about how clean the place was–if you’d had a busy morning he’d be more understanding about the main dining room conditions. He’d talk me into coming back if I could do opens and between 1-3 weeks later I’d be on the 11-2 thankless hateful (no way could you get the place clean enough in 3 seconds to be let go so you had a half an hour of running around like a chicken with your head cut off trying to get the magic 30 seconds to get approval to leave between groups leaving and making you have to start over. No cooking, no drive through, no till, just running around cleaning up aimlessly and hopelessly until lunch finally left. The new hires would get the choice shifts to get them to stay. Fifth time I handed in my key, after they were down to three people and a month later one tried to talk me into coming back so they could have a night off, I explained the cycle and said I’d had enough. Oh. If that shift was part of the 8-2 or even 11-5 it was much better than just the ‘Crazy Three’ but he wouldn’t leave it hooked up to a longer shift. I think that shift got rid of more staff than anything else there…

  • Wendy Brion September 10, 2017, 6:49 pm

    My mom had this pulled on her when she worked at the post office. She put in extremely early for Christmas Eve off…and then had it taken from her because the other, less senior employee “has four kids.” Apparently having only one kid made mom an inferior individual. She chalked it up to the *** of a postmaster, however, and stuck with it because it was an otherwise good job.

    The truth is, too many supervisors play favorites.

  • Darshiva September 15, 2017, 10:17 am

    My actual, honest-to-goodness first thought on this was “corporate sabotage.” As in, some other restaurant owner wanted to put this restaurant out of business, so they sent in a spy to figure out how to get rid of all the good employees, and then quit.

    Especially when B quit to go back to a previous job!

    OK, maybe I’m paranoid, but, geesh. This just screams PLOT DEVICE! to me.