Should You Fine Employees for Poor Performance?

11There’s a lot to unpack, but in many ways, the picture here to the left speaks for itself.

What a doozy.

When I came across it on Reddit a few weeks ago I couldn‚Äôt resist the urge to share it here and analyze some of the problems but also some of the good intentions this manager probably had when they sat down to make such a document. Let‚Äôs start with the positives‚Äîbecause that list is a much shorter one.

  1. The manager here is being upfront with their employees. They are laying out hard and fast rules that dictate expectations of performance from the employees.
  2. The way this system is set up, only the employee performing poorly will be reprimanded, and it will be proportionate to the offense they’ve made. Too many times a whole team will get in trouble when only one or a few erred, or one employee did tremendously worse than others, and yet the whole team gets punished the same. This method ensures only those who have done wrong are affected.

In those areas, I’ll hand it to the manager. Maybe their intentions are not the worst. Everything that comes through in translation though is the perfect example of terrible people management.

One of these things is not like the other…

Avoiding checking your phone during a shift and being polite to customers by saying hi and bye are tasks that I can sympathize with any restaurant manager wanting their employees to perform. But then there’s the straw one…

Call me forward thinking, but I don’t see the blanket offense there is in offering any male who happens to be dining in the restaurant a straw. Y’know, that thing that you sort of expect to get when you’re at a restaurant. I would say from a server’s perspective, it’s almost a force of habit that drives them to offering straws to those who are dining in the restaurant. Charging your employees until they break a habit, particularly a habit that is an industry standard, might put you into a “Top 20 Terrible Managers” listicle.

Too distracted to perform well…

Even if we give the manager the benefit of the doubt about the straws—maybe male customers were overwhelmingly complaining about receiving straws from their servers—you can’t ignore the amount of pressure a list of fees such as this would place upon an employee. Rather than focusing on doing their job well in a holistic sense, servers will now be peeking more over their shoulder, being so focused on maybe messing up that they’re not paying enough attention to do anything right.

I can picture it perfectly in my head: a server realizing they got busy and forgot to say goodbye to a table they were serving, before shouting “Goodbye!” as the customers leave in a fake and desperate attempt to make sure they don’t lose $1, while getting distracted from their task at hand.

No choice in the matter…

By and large the most cringeworthy part of this is the signature request. It’s a catch-22: if the employees do sign their name, they are bound to the ramifications in a way that they will not be able to fight back against under any circumstances (after all, they agreed to it, didn’t they?); if they don’t sign their name, I would bet they won’t have a job any longer. Giving your employees an ultimatum between checking their phone occasionally and losing their jobs will also probably make you end up on that top 20 list.

Back to my original question…

So, should, employees be fined for poor behavior? It’s up to the manager in a situation like this, but you can learn all you need to about a manager who feels the need to take these measures: they are a manager who does not know how to coach employees into better behaviors and so they take the shady approach into forcing the bad behaviors out of them.

More importantly what a list like this tells me is this is a manager who has lost complete control over their team. Rather than coming up with reasonable solutions to fix these problems, they have resorted to most desperate measures that, in the end, don’t position them better as a manager, and probably extracts such disdain from employees that they’re going to do everything in their power to lash out and press the manager’s buttons even more.

To answer the question in summary: do so at your own risk of being the worst type of manager there is.

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