Saturday, April 07, 2012

management advice overheard in chinese restaurant

Six or seven years ago, I was eating in a chinese restaurant.  I overheard a conversation that struck me to this day.

The speaker was a woman in her late 30s, eating at another table with a companion.  They seemed to know the owner.

She said, "Ping used to be a waiter here at this restaurant.  The owner really takes care of his employees. He gives them good food to eat for the meals.  When they're sick, he visits them at home with medicine.  Then Ping was offered 10% higher salary by another restaurant, and he quit and went to work there instead."

"The other restaurant didn't treat him well.  They wouldn't let the employees eat the nicer food.  When he's sick, they didn't check in on him at all."

"After a month, Ping called up this restaurant owner and asked to come back.  The owner declined.  He said, 'I treated you like a human being, but you don't treat yourself like one.  Don't come back.'"


I was struck by how much we undervalue feeling loved in our job.  All those gestures of caring clearly mattered a lot more to Ping than the 10% salary, but he didn't consciously value them until they were gone.

I also was surprised that the owner is so relentless.  Ping is sorry!  If you take him back, he'll probably be extra loyal, now that he knows the grass is browner on the other side.  Why shut him out?

Maybe the owner already hired replacements and now has no open headcount for Ping.


Jeremy said...

Loyalty goes both ways.

Anonymous said...

Also might be a good lesson and example to the other currently employed employees. If you leave, it's for good.

mamund said...

The restaurant's current employees are the target of this lesson, not Ping.

Yishan said...

Mamund knows what is going on.

The restaurant owner's management style mirrors that of great Chinese rulers: be absolutely generous to those who are loyal, but relentlessly harsh to those who are not.

Wanda said...

Ping might not have realized that other restaurant owners weren't as nice to their employees.

Philip Ngai said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Philip Ngai said...

My reaction is the owner acts as though the caring relationship is with an employee (thus the rejection of Ping's desire to come back) rather than with a human being (which Ping still is even after leaving).

Compare this to the tale of the Prodigal Son.

Thus I side with Mamund, that this policy is ultimately for the benefit of management. That it may sometimes make management appear to care about the employee is incidental and of no importance by itself since it is not true.