Barista Magazine

OCT-NOV 2017

Serving People Serving Coffee Since 2005

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94 barista magazine situation, so I told him I didn't want to hang out with him, and yet he kept coming to the café, checked out when my car was parked outside, and I'd just be hiding in the back." Ultimately, Allie received support and backup from her manager and the owner, but it took the situation esca- lating to full-on stalking before she realized it was OK to even seek help from management. "Eventually my boss did say something to him—he wasn't allowed to talk to me or interact with me," she says. As service professionals, baristas are often taught that "the customer is always right." This assumes, however, that the barista will not be chal- lenged, harassed, or wronged for any reason, which is rarely how life on the job plays out. Here are a few tips from coffee leaders about ways to support and engage your staff about harassment. 1. Acknowledge that harassment happens. No matter that harassment is an ugly thing, coffeehouse owners and managers have to be prepared for it happening, because it probably will. By being mindful and alert, your staff is less likely to be reaction- ary in the face of harassment, and more likely to handle situations with ease. After Waking Life shut down, Sarah and Lindsey were determined to open a café in the neighborhood that would address issues of harassment and misogyny head on, which is the aforementioned Trade & Lore, now in its second year of successful operation. While Sarah and Lindsey know they can't stop harassment from happening, they are prepared to handle things when it happens. "The diffi cult and sometimes harassing behavior of the day to day is what educates us on how to better communicate with, and empower, our staff (our family)," Lindsey says. "The Waking Life incident was neither the fi rst nor the last time Sarah [Winkler] or I would encounter misogynistic and harassing behavior, but the scale of the harassment to such a large number of our community is what called us into dramatic action like starting a business together by the end of the fi rst week the news dropped." 2. Trust your staff. One of the leading reasons people don't report harassment is that they are fearful their allegations will not be taken seriously or even believed. Without question, the single most important thing you can do to ensure harassment is handled appropriately is to trust your staff and to let them know you trust them. Baristas should be encouraged to take ownership of situations, but keep their manager in the conversation so they can understand what's happened and back them up if need be. The question of trust seems simple: If you've hired a staff of friendly, competent people, you should trust them to act in ways that keep them safe. "Believe your staff when they bring an issue to you," shares Max- well Mooney, founder of Narrative Coffee in Everett, Wash. Adds Sarah of Trade & Lore, "Of course I value our guests, but our team comes fi rst. For us to function well as a team and do our jobs the best we possibly can, we must uphold our commitment to keeping a safe space. That means if a guest tries to dispute whether or not it's appropriate for them to touch someone's face without their permission [a real instance that took place at Sarah and Lindsey's café], we are OK losing their business. Collectively, we will work better without their patronage." You don't want to trivialize or minimize an incident just because no one else has reported a problem with that person, or you're not positive the person reporting the incident is accurately communicating the facts. If a barista feels at all uncomfortable in a situation, it's your job to ensure that you honor their feelings. "We make sure [baristas] understand that we are on their side, and when situations are dealt with, to follow up with the barista to give closure," says Chris Deferio of Sunergos Coffee in Louisville, Ky. 3. Create multiple points of contact. You say you have a policy about harassment already in place at your shop? When's the last time you reviewed it line by line with your staff? While you might think of yourself as approachable, you might not be perceived as that by all of your staff. Appointing multiple members of your team to act as mediators or points of contact when issues of ha- rassment arise will go a long way in making all the different folks on your staff feel safe when voicing a grievance. However, this can present challenges in coffee in particular, since many shops are small with only a handful of staff. To assume that all your staff will feel comfortable disclosing potentially infl ammatory information to one particular person is to guarantee that you'll miss something. Along with creating multiple points of contact, it's also important to make communication easy for your staff—not many baristas feel comfortable articulating their discomfort in front of their coworkers, but requesting a one-on-one meeting with the boss out of nowhere can be intimidating. At Sunergos, Chris says, "Managers maintain regular weekly one-on-ones, which has helped provide a space to discuss many concerns." By making check-ins a regular part of your work fl ow, baristas can have an open forum where the onus isn't on them to call attention to their situation, but instead for a leader to

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