Addressing Lackluster Employees

Lackluster EmployeesCritically important today in hospitality is your objective to inspire staff members to contribute to the success of your business. The role they play is paramount. Addressing lackluster employees does not in any way mean employees are inept (having or showing no skills).  Let’s address those who are humdrum, uninspired, flat, spiritless and bland which better represents lackluster team members.

While not a behaviorist or human resource professional, I have come in contact with well over 100,000 team members from my operations perch over  the past 35 years at multiple levels, including Restaurant Manager, General Manager, Director and VP of Operations.  So this is my take...

Right Team on The BUS:  Selecting and training the right individuals from the “get go” can provide a strong case for stockpiling inspired talent. I have always looked at (3) key factors when hiring great talent.

  1. Selection - Your track history follows you as does the successes and accomplishments from those jobs.  Your background does not lie.
  2. Environment - Can you compete in this fast paced, hectic and challenging environment along with a schedule that would certainly challenge most professions?
  3. Training - Are you able to learn the methods and execution points which define that brand or restaurant.

Don’t Overreact! Yet React: Lackluster employees are not necessarily bad employees; they may require additional training and direction. Overreacting too quickly and giving up on team members who could still become outstanding contributors may require you to look deeper at their issues.  Take a hard look at these team members and determine if they fit and why they are not performing at the level you require. Examine three areas that may provide some valuable input as to what’s going on! 

  1. Don’t Know:  Team members who don’t know how to perform will become timid and may provide flat performance.  This can be fixed.
  2. Don’t Care:  This is the most difficult to address, yet the answer is relatively simple.  You do not have time to fix “don’t care”.  Those team members must move along.
  3. Can’t Do:  You simply may have your team member in the wrong role that may need a change in job function or additional training in his/her current role. 

Tacit Approval will Cripple You:  When you allow uninspired or bland employee performance to continue without addressing it you’re signaling to your entire staff that those behaviors are OK.  While I mentioned you should not overreact, you certainly need to react.  Create a culture that encourages and teaches all team members how to execute an awesome guest experience.  Continue to recognize those who do it well reinforces your message and can play a key role on inspiring all team members. 

When It’s Time to Coach:  This model (1-2-1 time with lackluster employees) may work well for you as it has for many.  

-          GOAL - What do you want from this discussion?

-          REALITY - Briefly, what’s happening? What have you tried and were there results?  Is the goal still realistic for the team member?

-          OPTIONS - Describe what success would look like.  Would the team member like to hear recommendations and suggestions?  How might the team member go forward?

-          WAY FORWARD-- Can you move forward on any of these actions? How will the team member move forward without obstacles?  What are next steps?

We have covered some key topics with respect to addressing, coaching and resolving lackluster employees.  Don’t give up too early in the game, yet address performance quickly so it does not fester and permeate throughout your team and cost you valuable resources.  


For a free operations assessment contact George Barton at [email protected], call 321-662-0641 or visit


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