Not the answer we were expecting

I could see it in her eyes… my wife wanted to ask a question. The majority of our conversation since sitting down with our burgers and fries from Five Guys had been their consistent level of service and product, especially with a young workforce. On this day, she counted 13 employees behind the counter – at the grill, at the fry station, taking orders, filling orders, and delivering orders. Each one had a job to do, and they all did it. Linda wanted to find out why.

If you’ve read any books on workplace performance or employee motivation, you would probably conclude from this scene that all the employees were really happy and that if you were going to try to emulate this in your business, you would start with making everyone happy. That’s certainly a tactic I’ve written about, which is what made the answer to my wife’s question so surprising.

She asked an employee who was sweeping the dining room floor if he liked his job. (By the way, he was doing his job well.) He said, “No.”

What? No is his answer? How can this be??

Turns out this guy used to install granite counter tops. His story is similar to many others… business dried up and he took a job to pay the bills. Even so, he is doing it well enough to make his customers feel like he wants to be there.

Certainly he is internally motivated to survive and make a living, but something about the Five Guys culture is not allowing him to slack off and do the absolute minimum just to get by.

I’m not sure what that is, but I would imagine it has to do with treating employees like people and enforcing consistent expectations. We often hear about an employee that “is only there for the paycheck”, or “has been that way forever, they will never change”. I’m sure we’ve all dealt with people like this, and a trend that I’ve seen is to allow them to get away with mediocre behavior because they aren’t motivated. I could be wrong, but I would guess that your policies don’t contain one set of standards for people who are motivated and one set for people who aren’t. Yet, they may be getting enforced that way.

I imagine a conversation going like this, “Tim, I understand that this is not your dream job, and that when the economy comes back you will probably leave us. In the meantime, you’ve made the choice to be here and I appreciate that. While you are here, I am going to ask that you give us 100% effort, and I will promise to support you and make sure you have everything you need to do your job. Please keep me posted on the counter top business, and if we need to adjust the schedule here and there to help you get that going again, please let me know.”

Did you hear that?  Setting expectations for 100% effort, setting the stage for help and support, and oh, by the way… showing genuine concern for the employee as a human being! What a concept!

Like I said, I have no idea if this took place or not, but it would seem to me that something has to be going right for someone who doesn’t really like his job to be doing it well.

If anyone from Five Guys is reading this and wants to share how you do it, we’re all ears!

Thanks for reading!

One thought on “Not the answer we were expecting

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