Today, Square 8 interviews a restaurant manager who is baffled by the behavior of a formerly stellar employee. The worker has always been dependable and efficient, and has missed only one day of work during her five years of employment. Though she has never fit in with other staff and has sometimes annoyed them greatly with “odd behaviors” she is respected as a hard worker who is willing to help out others and often comes in on her day off to cover for someone who is absent.
Several months ago, the employee began producing sub-par work. Tensions between her and the rest of the kitchen staff have increased greatly, and there have been complaints that she is not fulfilling some of her duties.
Square 8: Thank you for agreeing to be interviewed here today. What can you tell me about the “odd behaviors” you’ve seen in your employee?
Manager: The most obvious thing would be the noises she makes. A chirping or trilling sound while she’s making the bread. She talks to herself and uses repetitive phrases. When she works the salad line, for example, she likes to say the word “ticket” every time an order comes in. And, though I haven’t witnessed it myself, there have been reports of howling in the walk-in cooler.
Square 8: I see. How do her co-workers respond to this?
Manager: Most of them have gotten used to it. There is one person who will yell at her when it gets to be a bit much. New people tend to ask her why she does it, but she just says she doesn’t know or says nothing or something silly like it “relaxes” her.
Square 8: I see. Any other odd behaviors?
Manager: On breaks, she doesn’t sit with the others. She goes off by herself and kind of paces around in circles. Or she gets out a little notebook and draws squares.
Square 8: I see. Does she get along with her co-workers, or is there some hostility?
Manager: No hostility. Like I said, one or two, well maybe three of the others will yell at her sometimes, but that’s because she intentionally sets out to annoy them. It’s like a game to her, I guess. She’s obviously smart enough to do anything required, but she’ll play dumb, like she doesn’t know what she’s supposed to do next. Like, there will be a lot of orders coming in on the salad line, and she’ll be in the back chirping her head off, making bread, which could wait until after the lunch rush.
Square8: I see. What time is she supposed to start working the salad line?
Manager: No set time. She’s an experienced kitchen worker, so she should be able to tell when the restaurant starts getting busy.
Square 8: I see. Can she see the salad line from where she works in the back?
Manager: Well, no. But she can easily see the rest of the kitchen is starting to get overwhelmed. There’s no way she doesn’t know what’s going on.
Square 8: I see. The problem is that she doesn’t stop one task when it’s time to go to something else?
Manager: Well, partly. The main problem is that she’s stopped making the bread according to standards. She did a great job on it for four years. Every roll looked exactly like the last one, they were perfect parallelograms. We took pictures of them for the menu. Now she is making them too flat, or they come out in odd shapes or the wrong size.
Square 8: I see. What do you think might have caused the change?
Manager: There’s absolutely no rhyme or reason to it. She just stopped doing the job right. We don’t want to let her go, because she has a good history here, but I am at the end of my rope with this. The district manager is on my back about it constantly.
Square 8: I see. What does the employee say about this?
Manager: She always gives me the same stupid excuses. There were some slight changes in the procedures a few months back. Instead of using flour to keep the dough from sticking to the cutting board, the company now requires that we use oil. And they changed the kind of knife used to cut the rolls. None of the other bakers in the company have had a problem with this. For some reason, it’s such a big deal to her. It’s like she’s never done the job before!
Obviously this can’t be the truth. I’ve been doing my best to get to the bottom of it by watching over her shoulder at all times. But the situation keeps getting worse!
Square 8: I see. And the problem with the salad line…Did this start around the same time?
Manager: It’s hard to say. Her job was just making the bread for a long time, but she got so fast at it, we asked her to take on some extra responsibilities. One of those was working on the salad line during the lunch rush.
Square 8: I see. Was that before or after the change in procedures?
Manager: Around the same time, I think. Maybe a month or two earlier.
Square 8: I see. I will get back to you in a few days with my recommendations. This is a very confusing problem indeed and I may need some help figuring it out.
Manager: I see. Thank you for your time.