Don’t Second Guess Your Career – Ask HR Bartender

by Sharlyn Lauby on August 30, 2012

Even if you’re not a bartender, I think we can all relate to this story:

I recently graduated bartending school and currently work as a barback at a dive bar. I love the job, my co-workers and the customers but I’m looking to catch some bartending shifts. My boss finally asked me to do some OTJ training which I was pumped and said yes!!

I started training and even came in on my own time to further train. I was doing really good making Long Islands, Long Beaches, White Russians, etc. The register part wasn’t easy because it’s an outdated system. After a week, my boss calls me and says I can’t train anymore – he wants me to only do barback responsibilities.

He also mumbled that we’ll see what happens in the future. I don’t know what he means by that. I asked all the other bartenders and they said I was doing great. I can’t get a read on what happened.

In your opinion, does it look like I will ever bartend at this place or am I just wasting my time – minus the experience factor (because it will look good on a resume).

There are quite a few unanswered questions here about the bartending arrangement but let me wear my human resources hat for a moment. It’s great to give employees the opportunity to demonstrate their skills in a new position. It can be very motivating for the employee. It can also serve a valuable business purpose – by having already trained personnel. If the business gets busy unexpectedly or someone calls in sick, another employee can step up to the plate quickly.

career, manager, leadership, employee, HR Bartender, training, performance, Robert Smith

That being said, I’ve found the most successful arrangements have some structure around them. For example:

  • If an employee is going to work in a second position, companies need to define the pay, schedule, training etc. associated with the other role.
  • Companies should also tell employees the performance standards associated with the second role. It’s a different position and the expectations should be clearly communicated.
  • Also consider putting some parameters around this second role. Something like “We’ll try this for a month and evaluate it.” After which the company and employee decide if the arrangement is working and how to handle it moving forward.

For employees, having two different roles can be a challenge, even when they’re somewhat related. Employees need to remember:

  • Until the company tells you otherwise, the position you were hired for is the primary one. While getting a chance at a new role is exciting, the primary position cannot suffer.
  • The company operation will come first. And unfortunately that might mean changing the arrangement. Possibly even without warning.

Bottom-line, if you have a question about the direction your career is going…talk to your manager. Other employees really don’t know the answer. Find a time to have a private meeting. Ask thoughtful questions about what the future holds. Let the company know you enjoy working there. Be prepared to hear the worst – don’t threaten to quit if you do. Once the conversation is over, think long and hard about where you want to go from there. As this reader points out, it’s possible the experience could be worth sticking around.

Image courtesy of Robert Smith

{ 4 comments }

Recruiting Animal August 30, 2012 at 6:12 am

What`s scary here is that the boss was mumbling. He doesn`t want to speak clearly.

That could mean that he doesn`t like her work and is afraid to say so. Or that he doesn`t have room for her on the bar right now and is embarrassed to cut her back to a job she doesn’t want.

I tend to favour the more negative possibility. Something is wrong here. He doesn’t like what she did but doesn’t have the guts to say so.

The solution then is to start looking elsewhere. The problem is getting a good reference. So whatever is going on this girl is going to have to speak to the mumbler, get him to enunciate and then, probably, argue her case.

She also has to plan on using the other bartenders as references.

Every career coach tells you not to say anything bad about your last or current boss in an interview. The whole focus is always on hiding information. Instead, they should be telling you how to speak frankly without seeming like a bitter crank.

TheEmploymentYenta August 30, 2012 at 9:06 am

I advocate for having a mentor vs a coach…you may think this is one of the same but, in my world a mentor is someone YOU pick , a coach is someone that THEY pick. While I agree with RA, the mumbling manager is problematic. But, are you always going to run away from a problem manager. Learn to “manage your manager”, it’s an art that’s well worth the effort. As I always say, let them smile when they remember you.
TheEmploymentYenta recently posted..From the Coffee Cup of EY….

Sharlyn Lauby August 30, 2012 at 2:28 pm

@Animal – Thanks for the comment. I used to work with a manager like this years ago. The employees nicknamed him “mumbles”. At some point, we had to share that with him. Correction: I had to share that with him.

@Employment Yenta – I think both mentors and coaches can be valuable. And I agree – they are different. But let me say as someone who coaches for a living, rule number one is that the client must choose me. Otherwise the relationship doesn’t work. Thanks for the comment.

Pulasthi Wanniarachchi September 11, 2012 at 5:29 am

Better to see Work Life Balance Solution

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