Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek.
I'm not sure these things should ever be done by text.
But that was the case here and it didn't go well.
A hostess at a New Jersey restaurant texted her manager at Café Seventy-Two in Ewing Township, New Jersey:
Someone close to me just passed away, and I'm trying to find a cover for my shifts so I can attend the funeral service rather than call out and leave you guys hanging.
Presumably, she wasn't talking about leaving the restaurant in the lurch that night.
Still, as North Jersey.com reports, the hostess also texted the manager, Katie Sanford, an article about the friend -- who'd been killed by a driver under the influence.
You might expect Sanford to at least be sympathetic.
The hostess surely didn't expect this reply:
Oh wow thanks. Just don't come back to work. I like you but I'm sick of all staff not taking their job seriously and just f****** expecting me to cover all of your shifts. I have a business to run at the end of the day. And a family.
You see what I mean about handling these things in person?
The minute something like this is written down -- even if this is what the manager was thinking and even if there was some truth in what she was thinking -- it becomes a fight.
Worse, the manager sounds like she's at her wit's end and the hostess's request is in the wrong place at the wrong time.
The hostess tried to sound reasonable:
I'm not expecting you to cover my shift, I simply asked if someone was allowed to host. I am a college student that shows up on time for my shifts, so taking this job seriously isn't questionable. I'm looking for a cover before calling out. It doesn't get more responsible than that. Letting someone go because of a death is unethical.
I'd rather assumed ethics was a concept from a bygone age in which people considered, well, other people.
The tenor of this message, of course, might come across to many as: "I'm telling you I'm not going to come to work, but I'm still trying to do the right thing."
We are, after all, talking about a young person dying.
Sanford was unmoved. She explained that if there was no cover for the shift, she'd fire the hostess. The manager added:
I don't feel bad for you so don't pull the college student unethical card. It's not the first time.
And now we've devolved to a place from which there's only a precarious return.
It sounds like respect has been lost and all that's left is thoughtless, frazzled friction.
Once this texting exchange was released into the wilds of the internet, the restaurant suffered.
It was forced to remove its Facebook and Instagram pages. It was flooded with negative Yelp and Google reviews. Business was affected. The police had to increase patrols around the restaurant, after it received many hate calls.
Welcome to today's world.
The manager's husband and co-owner Ben released this statement:
Although this interaction was displayed completely out of context by a friend of the employee and drastically misrepresents Katie and our establishment, we recognize that there is nothing that excuses it.
He insisted that the text exchange had been presented in a very selective manner and that the hostess wasn't, in fact, fired.
From the restaurant owners' point of view, however, what can you do? Once the texts are exposed, you know how it looks, even if it isn't (entirely) as it seems.
Wisely, Ben Sanford's statement added:
We carelessly let the stresses of family and business replace the professionalism, respect and empathy that every employee and person deserves.
That sounds like exactly the sort of honesty that was required, regardless of all the details of the interaction.
There's no excuse for reacting to a death with anger.
It's impossible to know the true nature of the relationship between the hostess and her manager, or, indeed, how the manager treats other employees.
But if the hostess had talked to the manager personally, the outcome might have been different. Worse, for the manager to lose her composure by text leaves a permanent record. Everyone will know how she communicates.
Arguments can be forgotten, especially in the restaurant business. Texts posted online live forever.
Naturally, we've all devolved to a means of communication where texting has replaced speaking.
Yet tone and nuance can go horribly astray. This seems to have happened here. Texts can also land at the worst moments. You might at least be able to choose a good time for a personal conversation.
Café Seventy-Two's Yelp ratings appear to be recovering.
And it can't be that the Sanfords are entirely terrible managers. One Yelp reviewer offered these words:
The staff make this place. No idea how they can serve so many people in such a small place so well.