Dear Harry and Louise,
I work as a server at a high-end, much-sought-after
restaurant in Washington. I worked my way up to server after serving
as a hostess for a month. While I don’t see myself as a server
forever, it’s a good way to make money until I head to graduate
school. The manager who schedules all of the servers keeps
giving me the worst shifts: midweek lunches, the occasional dinner.
I have requested to have more weekend nights when I could make
much more money. She always explains that she still sees me
as a server in training. She does not consider me “broken in”
yet. She makes these comments despite the fact that I am good
at what I do, and the customers are more than happy with my
Yesterday, she told me that a local TV anchor (and a
bit of a DC celebrity) was coming for lunch and would be sitting in my
section, but that she was going to give that table to Frank,
another server who’s older but not better than me. I was furious.
I asked her why. Frank has not been working there much longer
than I have. I have also seen Frank and my manager heavily flirting
with each other, and they left together one evening as I was
finishing a shift.
After she gave him the VIP table, I was talking with another server.
“She’s sleeping with him,” my coworker said. “Everyone knows.”
Everyone but the general manager and the owner. I know both of them. Should I bust the manager? Talk to her? Keep my mouth
• • •
Restaurants are cauldrons of cuisine and conflict,
from what my friends report. The pressure on the waitstaff, especially
at a high-end joint, is intense. Does it surprise me that a
manager would play favorites? Nope. Or that she’s sleeping with
a staff member? Not a bit.
My devious side suggests you mess with the manager’s head, either by flirting with Frank or by spreading the rumor that they’re
But my logical side says it’s better to be
professional. Don’t go above her head. Don’t confront her. The best
course is to
withdraw from this toxic stew. Keep the job as long as
necessary, look for another, hasten plans to hit graduate school. And
smile–especially at Frank.
• • •
You don’t see yourself as a server forever. Remember
that part. This is where my nonconfrontational nature guides me: Stay
out of the drama of the restaurant. Do your job, and do it
really well. Don’t ask any questions about the personal lives of
the people you work with, even when it is intriguing stuff.
Your manager may not fully trust you to handle the
heavier workload of those weekend shifts. It may make her life easier to
rely on the servers who have more experience. Even if she is
with Frank, it will come down to what makes her life easier.
All managers are not built the same, but most of them want to
work with people who present them with the fewest fires to put
out. Be that person. You will be seen as the reliable one, the
one who does not engage in restaurant gossip. Eventually, your
manager will realize that giving you more and better shifts
does make her life easier. There is certainly nothing wrong with
reminding her you’re available for those desired shifts when
she finds herself shorthanded.
This does not mean you become distant or unfriendly,
but it will accrue to your benefit to stay above the drama. If you
up a friendship with someone who works at the restaurant,
arrange to spend time with them outside of the restaurant. This
is your temporary place of employment–not your second home.
Your devious side will create more drama and likely lead to your losing your job. Keep the job, and head to graduate school
as soon as possible.
• • •
How about that! We agree.