Barista Magazine

FEB-MAR 2018

Serving People Serving Coffee Since 2005

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Page 84 of 109

"Employees, especially younger baristas, don't always know what the boundaries are or that they have the power to stand up for them- selves" Diana says. In training, staff are taught that whenever they are made to feel uncomfortable, for any reason, they have the power to use a phrase to excuse themselves from the situation. Diana calls it a script, though she admits that it's not as rigid as that. Employees can fi nd their own way to deliver the message of, "I'm uncomfortable with this, let me fi nd someone else to help you." Employees are free to use this sentence, or one like it, and then immediately remove them- selves from an unwanted conversation or interaction. The next step is to escalate it to a manager or shift lead. "It's not in a barista's pay grade to have to deal with harassment from customers," Diana says, "but it is in mine. I can step in, assess what's going on, and make the executive decision about what to do with that individual." Undercurrent's training program also includes an emphasis on staff looking out for each other. Baristas are told to pay attention to one another in the café, and be on the lookout for uncomfortable body language. For example, if an employee notices a coworker being repeatedly pulled back into conversation at a customer's table, they are encouraged to approach and ask if they can help with something, giving the coworker an opportunity to return behind the counter. All cases of perceived harassment are record- ed in writing so the café management can keep track of people who have exhibited that behavior in the past so they may be banned from the café. These situations are always different, Diana admits, and play out on a case-by- case basis. Still, Undercurrent maintains a zero-tolerance policy. In the big picture, she says, the overriding goal is to be sure her employees are being cared for. She presses the point that there's too much emphasis on taking care of the customer in many businesses, especially coffee businesses, and not enough attention being paid to the needs—and the boundaries—of the employ- ees. "Managers exist to empower employ- ees, then employees can serve our custom- ers," she says. Having an offi cial sexual-harassment policy in place at your coffee company not only makes sense, it's good business, as well as a safety net for you and your employees. Such a policy is the best way to protect everyone at your company from being put in an uncomfortable situation or being held re- sponsible when someone defends their bad actions on the "blurred lines" to which the lack of a policy inevitably leads. It's simple to create a general policy, and more than that, it's important. You could take a short meet- ing with a lawyer, or even just buy a boiler- plate policy online. The experts and lawyers with whom we spoke for this article, however, urge business owners to spend some solid time on the language of the policy so that it clearly applies to your specifi c business and your employees—it's worth the extra effort. Take your commitment a step further and incorporate the concepts of the policy into staff training, and make sure everyone on the team understands exactly what is and isn't allowed at your business. The more clearly articulated a sexual-harassment policy is, and the more emphasis put into making sure everyone is aware not only of the details but of the ramifi cations for violating it, the better, stronger, and more effective a café owner or manager you will be. Additional reporting by Sarah Allen 85

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