Not now... I have a headache

Ever had a hangover? Worse yet, ever had to work with a hangover? Not pretty. You're achy, you're fuzzy, and you're definitely not in the frame of mind to give great service.

How many of your restaurant staff — front and back of the house — show up for a shift in this condition?

I recently enjoyed lunch on the shores of beautiful Lake Tahoe. It's an extremely popular destination for tourists and wealthy visitors from nearby San Francisco. The labor market consists of young people looking to earn enough money to live all summer and ski all winter. They're young, generally inexperienced, and hate to get up early after a late night of fun.

The result? Few smiles, low-quality work, and managers who scramble to recover from the less-than-stellar service. The manager I met in Tahoe looked over in exasperation and said, "Not only do I have to pick up the slack, but I have to make sure they at least pretend to be happy to be here."

Bottom line: hangovers hurt — everybody. You can't stop the partying. So what can you do about it?

My suggestion
Adopt the "designated driver" mentality when scheduling. If you can drink responsibly, why not work responsibly?

Young people these days are accustomed to choosing a designated driver. I suggest you choose a designated team to work the early shifts. For example, give Team A one weekend of working the early shift as the "designated team." This gives the other teams' members the chance to sleep in and come to work later in the day. Team A knows that they'll have the next weekend (or two) when they can have a jolly good time.

Not everyone needs the morning off to recover from a hangover. Some people, myself included, just aren't morning people. We appreciate an opportunity to sleep in, enjoy a cup of coffee, or go out to breakfast.

Other solutions
Take a tip from the fantastically successful television series, "Survivor." Grant an Immunity Certificate when an employee exhibits outstanding performance. This is like a "Get Out of Jail Free Card" in MonopoIy. An employee in need of a reprieve due to an unplanned night of reverie, a cancelled flight, out of town visitors, or a sick child, can use the Immunity Card to cover their shift. You'll need to refine the rules to fit your situation, but trust me, your employees will figure it out. They've been on both sides of these situations, and I'm sure you'll get lots of great variations on this theme. It only works for you if it works for them.

If you like this idea, we've created Designated Team Guidelines and an Immunity Certificate  that you cna use to introduce these concepts at a pre-shift briefing, management meeting or staff meeting.

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