Constant grinding as a professional thrusts you forward in your industry, stepping out of your comfort zone allows you to grow and achieve what may seem to be impossible. Regardless of which modality you use to express your creativity, consistency is key. Being a chef for over 20 years, I have been grinding my entire life, taking on nearly every position as a culinary industry. From the kitchens of restaurants to catering companies and then transition into making a career as a private chef, food stylist and culinary school director.

As an independent contractor, my task is being resourceful on a daily basis. Without a set schedule, a designated prep area, or health benefits – I am forced to rely on my own problem-solving skills to pave my own way. The streets taught me that opportunity favors the bold, and although this is a true statement, you must have the foresight to achieve your goals. Entering the culinary world can be a difficult task, but Entrepreneurial Chef can be a resource to help answer your questions along the way. My monthly column will aim to do just that, utilizing my over two decades of experience to offer insight on select topics.

This month’s topic – difficult employees. If there is one thing I’ve learned from the business, it is how to work with or manage difficult employees. Most of the research I’ve come across suggests avoiding such employees, but why would I want someone to work with me like this in any environment? As an entrepreneur that is looking to build and run a team of individuals, it is detrimental to learn how to handle discrepancies in the workplace. Throughout this article, I will cover the road less traveled – dealing with a difficult employee for the betterment of the company.

If you find yourself avoiding the certain employee, and the problem seems to be affecting the staff’s energy and entire workplace flow, you will benefit from try method on how to deal with this issue clearly and easily. First, decide whether the difficult employee has the potential to be mentored or is too toxic for the business. If the former, these suggestions will serve you well.

If the difficult employee shows signs of needing special attention – i.e., continuously taking opportunities to cause a disruption in a group environment; to prevent such behavior, speak to the employee first and get their feedback on a new task or development for the restaurant. This will achieve two things – not only will it allow the employee to feel like they are in control of the situation, but they will also understand that they were privy first to the information making them feel like an asset to the team.

Although conflict is inevitable, professionalism must be maintained. Bringing together both parties to make up an agreement of terms is a method that can prove to be invaluable for your team’s synergy. Creating a common ground allows compromise and understanding. If a compromise isn’t an option, unfortunately, the toxicity must be cut out.

Avoid excluding the difficult from group meetings and company events. Offering positions of leadership in a team-building outing may encourage them to abstain from certain bad practices and create bonds with coworkers that would otherwise not come about organically.

Any complaints that are voiced by the staff or by the difficult employee themselves should be logged for review upon employee evaluations. Tracking issues over a period of time could show a pattern, or expose that the shortcomings of the employee.

Utilizing these tips may help you achieve what the difficult employee needs and how they should be dealt with. Search for a hidden need of the difficult employee, rather than harping on the negative aspects. Trust your instincts, read the person and cater your method to the specific individual. Keep a record of development and review periodically. If the employee can be mentored, as they grow, the synergy will begin to mend throughout the team allowing for upward growth for your establishment.


About the Author 

Chef Sedrick Crawley is a renowned culinary coach, chef, and mentor with decades of management experience. By combining his passion for success in culinary education, marketing savvy, and interpersonal skills, he has guided many culinary professionals, restaurants, and businesses into the future.


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