Monday, June 28, 2010

Not Likin' Me Much

Sleep deprivation and stress seem to be turning me into a person I really don't like very much.

Time was, when I hired a new employee, I could observe how that person learned, analyze his/her talents and strengths, ferret out the weaknesses, and—taking all those things into account—almost immediately turn that newbie into a functional member of the team. Not so much anymore. I just do not have the patience.

Three weeks ago, I hired two young men—one twenty-two-years old, and one twenty. Each of these kids possessed a resume that included some months served in some kind of commercial cooking environment; and each had some degree of formal culinary schooling. On paper, they appeared to have what it took to make them successful candidates for a cook's job at the café. Yet it took less than three weeks for both of them to go down in flames.

I'll just say here and now that, after all the staffing hassles I've encountered since buying the restaurant four years ago, I take nothing, and I mean NOTHING, for granted. I no longer bring people on staff with an expectation of success. I find it hard to even stand back and wait to see what happens. My attitude is more like, "I know the highest probability is that you are going to suck, or if you don't suck NOW, you'll suck shortly down the road. Prove me wrong…!"

I hate having that attitude. I hate expecting the worst from people. Negative thinker that I have always been, I have up til now had a way of expecting good from people. Expecting honesty, respect, empathy and a knowledge of some kind of decent work ethic. But somewhere along the line, the things I just took for granted from people have become almost extinct. These qualities are not only not part of prospective employees personalities; the words are hardly in their vocabularies (and they would not be able to spell them if they were…but that's a rant for a different day.)

Recently, I've been doing a lot of thinking about my work. I realize that I have been working myself to death just keeping the doors of the café open. I'm wearing every hat, doing every job, nose to the grindstone, hardly looking up to even see or recognize the faces of the people who inhabit my world. The customers. The staff. I don't know their stories, and I can't care about them. I have too much on my plate to care about the people. And there is something drastically, tragically wrong with that picture.

I feel like, within the next, say, six months to a year, I'm going to have to make a choice. Because just opening the doors and serving food is not what I want my business to be about. I have to be able to disentangle myself from the eternal knot of bullshit that has ensnared me since I took over the café. It seems like it's been drawing me in deeper and deeper, binding me tighter and tighter, until I can't pull far enough away from it to see the Big Picture. To BE the moral business owner I want to be. To care about my staff, the customers, ALL the people I come in contact with every day. And act accordingly.

What I have to figure out is, the way people are these days, CAN I care about them? Because part of the problem is that I have a really hard time caring about people who can't or won't reciprocate in any way. Have people become so self-centered, greedy and rude that I just can't find a way to care? It's not that I expect kudos or gratitude or…really, anything positive when I go out of my way to be kind or fair or respectful of people. I just don't expect to be treated like crap…which, unfortunately, is what happens most of the time these days. It's my misfortune that I tend to treat people as they treat me. Altruistic I am not, apparently.

So what I know is that I don't like this person I have turned into since I bought the restaurant. What I have to figure out is if I can change that, or if I just have to…bail.

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