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Turf war

post #1 of 13
Thread Starter 
Maybe turf war isn't the right word, but after working this weekend, it sure feels like a war.

I manage a kitchen/seafood restaurant which is attached to a store/market and a wholesale seafood business. It's slow until good weather brings the people out, so for the winter, I've run it with very few employees, putting in many of the hours by myself.

Recently, a new guy was hired to build up the wholesale end of the business. You'd think that his and my paths wouldn't cross much, but lately that isn't the case. Things have been uncomfortable since he arrived. I'm the only woman there except for one part timer who works one or 2 shifts a week, and lately it's felt like an old boys club. No offense to any of you old boys out there...

I was told by the owner that I did not answer to the new guy; that our jobs were totally separate, but that we all had to work together since we were short staffed. Fine with me, but not so fine with the new guy. When I asked him to pitch in with some of the drudge work, he told me that the kitchen and retail were "insignificant" to him. That his job was making the money and that the rest of us were baggage (in so many words). I said "Fine" and left it at that. There's not much I could do short of running to the owner and creating more problems. At least I knew where I stood with him. That same weekend, he told a teenager who works there, that I was threatened by me. I haven't told my boss either of these things yet, but I may still, depending on how things go.

He also said on a number of occasions that he didn't know a thing about food or retail and wasn't anxious to learn. Even better for me. This weekend he took an experienced person off the schedule for a catering job that I'll be out of town for, leaving only himself and a kid in the building to handle a meal for 30. When I confronted him, asking why he was involved in my arena, he told me that I didn't understand his position there and that I should get used to it. I told him that I don't answer to him, and he just smiled. I could have smacked him, but I was trying to be mature... I should mention that the owner is out of town for a couple of weeks.

To make a long story even longer. I said that if that was the way things were, I would stay until after my boss gets back, and then I was gone. He was a little taken aback and said that he never intended for me to quit. (just to get in line, maybe??) I took everything of mine out of the kitchen (cookbooks, tools, etc)for fear that if I left them after that confrontation, I may never see them again.

Just as I was loading the car, my boss called and spoke to a friend of mine who works there and must have asked how things were going. He replied that things weren't going well at all, that I had just packed my car and was quitting. He got me on the phone and stressed again that I DO NOT work for the new guy and to please not quit- to wait until he gets back and we can all sit down and talk. It's been my feeling that we should have had this sit down right in the beginning as we are both managers. The boundries would have been clear from the start.

So today I went in and he was contrite. I guess my boss called him back and had a little one on one. I took the high road and suggested we try to make it work until the boss gets back and apologized for my part in the episode. I thought an apology would go a long way toward making amends. I should add here that he didn't apologize in so many words, neither did he accept my apology. My question is this: How do I handle this jerk or should I even bother to try? My husband has been after me to quit rather than put up with all the crap, but I hate to give him (the new guy, not my husband) the satisfaction.

Any advice? Thanks for listening.
post #2 of 13
Oh boy, how I feel for you!

I just walked out of my job 2 days ago because of the "boys club". Sexual discrimination, harassment, pay inequity, etc. The whole ball of wax.

I have no advice to give you. I stuck it out for a year before reaching this point. My boss was unreasonable and there was no recourse but a legal one, and I just don't have any more time to waste on him.

I was one of the quitters.

You have an advantage in that you seem to be appreciated by your boss. He just doesn't want to see the kinds of obstacles you are facing. You spelled it out for him rather effectively by almost quitting.

This new guy has obviously been warned. He may just hang himself in the end. If you love your job, try a little patience for now. Document everything. Play the game and avoid confrontation. I know how stressful it can be, believe me. I wasn't always able to keep my mouth shut, and it came back to bite me in the butt. Once you lose your cool, they feel they have the upper hand. Just don't let them walk all over you...

Best of luck.
post #3 of 13


Hi! If I may........

Sounds to me like this guy likes to have his way. When I walk into a new job I make sure my immediate boss explains to everyone what my dutes and position are. Remember this as a lesson.
Documentation is a big thing too(I'm assuming that this meeting is for all three of ya'll). Outline what you have typed and explain to your boss, in front of the "jerk", what the problems are and ask what are the solutions. Make it very clear what you think the boundries are and all that entails. Try to be specific. If you want to do a psycological thing to throw the "jerk" off, have the questions listed on paper and as you ask each question and as it is answered, check it off and move on to the next. Always throws people when you do that. :D Also keeps you focused on what your goal is, which, I assume, would be to keep this guy off your back.

Just my 2 cents..........
post #4 of 13
Thread Starter 
Thanks Anneke and Spoonbread, for your advice. I PT'd Anneke because I wasn't able to post, but I'll repeat what I told her since it illustrates what a disfunctional situation I'm in.

He hired a fry cook for me knowing I was looking for someone I could leave in charge some evenings as I work from early in the day until closing and I'm not willing to do that again this summer. He told me that he had a guy coming in for the fry cook position and I said I'd be happy to talk to him. Turns out the guy was already hired by the jerk although the new guy will work directly under me.

When the poor kid showed up for work, I wasn't going to put him in the middle of my war with the other guy, so I showed him around and had him start by helping me to make a soup that is a staple in the shop. As he was quartering onions for the processor, I watched him scoop up onions AND onion skins and attempt to process them. I stopped him and he said "Oh, you don't use that part?" Now, I understand that fry cooking isn't rocket science, but I don't see how I be expected to leave him minding the kitchen during the busy season if I have to start by teaching which part of the onion goes into the soup. I also had to show him how to cut veggies without cutting off the tips of his fingers.

Turns out he hasn't had any experience in a kitchen (but is very willing and able to learn, so he says) but is a friend of the jerk. Big surprise there!
post #5 of 13
If it were me, I would tell the kid, very nicely, "Thank you very much but I don't need you at this moment"..and hire someone else. Look, it's obvious this guy is gonna be a pain and step on toes, and if you want to run your place, you've got to run it. Let the kid go, hire a line dog that rocks and tell the jerk to talk to the boss, not to you. It's your area, not his. Now that is what I would do, but there are ramifications that happen if you do that, for instance, just the added stress in general! I get the feeling that it's gonna be like that anyway. Sometimes you gotta make a decisioon, is this job worth it or not? And if so, then do what you gotta do.
I hope this helps. I've been in that situation before, twice, and once I won the battle, once I lost and quit. No matter what, remember it is all exprience, and it prepares for other situations ahead in this career.
post #6 of 13
Thread Starter 
You're both right. I have to decide whether or not the job is important enough for me to fight for or if I should move on. I know me well enough to know that I'll fight for it even if moving on would make more sense, if only so I don't give the jerk the satisfaction of winning this battle.

I know the owner is there for me, but I also know know that he doesn't like confrontation and strife and will try to appease EVERYONE. That tactic is what brought us to the point we're at now. While he's away, I'm going to continue to document everything, remain non-combatitive, and as Anneke suggested, look for a UN negotiator. I am also going to lay out in writing exactly what my duties have been since I started there, and the extra duties I 've taken on because they needed to be done and there wasn't anyone to do them. (that doesn't mean that I always took on the jobs, but that I saw what was needed and designated someone to do it.)

The real bottom line is that although my husband supports me, he's starting to push me move on for a number of reasons. The biggest and latest reason is the new feeling of men verses women in the building and since I'm the only one, it's a losing battle he's not willing to see me fight. The ratio of won't change until the season starts and I'm able to hire more women.

Thanks again. Things may come to a head this weekend. I heard that the owner is coming home from vacation early. (:eek: on the inside, and :cool: on the outside....)
post #7 of 13
How many people do you hire when the season starts? Hiring women to balance out the gender equation can be a dangerous tactic, and you could be accused of sexual discrimination. You're better off hiring someone qualified, male or female, who is respectful and understands that authority is not a function of gender. Besides, if you hire men, the jerk will never be able to resort to the girls club excuse. You want to show him that you're perfectly comfortable working with men, you just don't like working with misogynists.
post #8 of 13
Thread Starter 
I'll hire on about 6 people when the season starts. Last year, I had 3 guys, 3 girls, and one woman who became my right hand. I wouldn't intentionally hire only women as I like a mix in the kitchen. I've always worked very well with men unless the talk became more than just friendly banter. When it becomes overtly sexual or discriminatory in nature, I start to have a problem. I've tried to explain to people who've never worked in food service that things that are said in a kitchen setting would most likely cause problems in an office. That's a question for another thread - it would be interesting to hear what others think of that.

Anneke, I'd like to hear more about your situation. It sounds as if it was impossible to continue to work there. As I've said, my husband has had it with this my job, and can't understand why I stay there. That's simple; I'm too stubborn to be driven out! I'm lucky that if I have to leave, I can. If I were the major breadwinner, I'd have to be more concerned with the mortgage than the principle of what's going on at work. If that weren't the case, I'd be out looking right now, because I'm not sure I'll win this battle and sudden unemployment wouldn't be a welcome change.

So the documentation begins today. As soon as I sign off here, I'm going to type up what's gone on for the past few weeks and some questions for the meeting which should be held this week. I may even place an ad in the newspaper looking for a fry cook as spoonbread suggests. That ought to create a stir...

Thanks again for all your help.
post #9 of 13
Good Luck and keep the faith!
post #10 of 13
Same here!

My situation is different. There was never any conflict of authority. It's a restaurant setting, and I was the only female in the kitchen. Our chef (and owner) mislead me at my job interview. He tried to come across as a very liberal minded guy who had respect for women etc etc. What he really meant was that as long as women behave like women should, they'll do well. That is to agree with every one of his unsollicited opinions about non work related topics, stroking his ego and thinking it's cute when he vehemently encourages his male employees to hit on the cute 16 year old employee who doesn't have a clue what is being said behind her back. Lets just say that I wasn't given any special regard or consideration for being a woman, and 95% of the time, the topic of conversation was sex and porn, and usually instigated by the boss himself. One the day that I quit, my work environment was littered with porn material which, though he didn't bring it, he tolerated it and viewed the material freely.

After unsuccessfully attempting to discuss this like adults, I just clammed up and learned to keep my head down. I was never married to the idea of having a life long career with him, so I figured as long as I still loved the job and learned something, I'd just keep my head down and do my work. THis was interpreted as a 'severe personality problem' on my part, and any little mistake would warrant his wrath, formal notices, etc. Meanwhile, the guys made plenty of mistakes which were tolerated and even met with giggles.

You know, I think there have been threads about this in the past, direct and indirectly. Personally I'm quite sick of rehashing this again because there just seems to be no solution. Women and other minorites put up with so much crap and are silenced by this Kitchen Confidential culture that isn't going away. It seems impossible to survive unless one is willing to give up on their principles and their integrity. WHy can't work just be work? Shouldn't there a limit to how much one has to be "one of the guys" before they are ostracized?

I loved my crew. I don't hold them responsible for any of it. They should have known better, but ultimately it's the boss who has to decide what is acceptable behaviour and follow the labour laws. As much as they were shocked at the terrible treatment and public humiliation my boss tried to inflinct on me, not one of them would stand up for me in court if I decided to sue. Nor do I really expect them to; like me, they also have to think about their careers.

Pardon the frustrated banter. I'm that much closer to giving up on the industry. Like you Lentil, I too am too stuborn... For now I feel that I've lost a battle in a war that no one sees or cares about.
post #11 of 13
Anneke, I feel your frustration. I am a male chef, but I have worked with some of the best female chefs in the US ( Susan Spicer, Barbara Tropp, I even cooked for Julia Childs), and , as a chef, I don't look on gender but how wella person can handle the job. But the reality is that there is the gender factor in the kitchen. In my kitchen, I won't allow it, but in some kitchens it does happen, and I think not as often as it used to, but it still does.
Hopefully, all of this stuff will be passe'.
post #12 of 13
Thread Starter 
Hopefully, all of this stuff will be passe'.[/QUOTE]


But just how long does one have to wait until women are treated equally in a kitchen? I think it's the last bastion of male domination in the workplace (well there's the CEO tier, but let's not get into that...). Spoon, it sounds like your kitchen is excluded from that generalization. But Anneke is right; the chef sets the tone and is responsible for the behavior of rest of the crew.

It must have been terribly hard to get up for work every day knowing that you'd have to face treatment like that, Anneke. It's such sheep mentality, though. If one or two guys simply stopped playing along- they don't have to take a big, political stand, just stop laughing or move the porn out of sight. Small gestures that may have made a bigger difference in the workplace. After all, these guys have wives or girlfriends that they wouldn't want to see be treated like that. The bully always has an audience that appreciates him or he wouldn't be able to bully. Didn't we all learn that on the playground?

My sister works in the insurance industry in a big office setting. There was one poor guy who complimented a woman on her outfit. He didn't drool or stare at her chest or anything, he just told her she looked nice that day. That was the kind of guy he was. She complained to HR and he had a complaint put in his file. He was crushed. Strange that a guy who compliments a woman on her appearance gets a blotch on his permanent record, but a chef that allows men to harass a woman with porn keeps his job.

My situation is different in a lot of ways. I'm a cook in a kitchen that doesn't dominate the business. The wholesale business is bringing in most of the money this time of year and that's where the jerk is so he feels like the rainmaker right now. Things will change during the height of the tourist season, but that won't be for a couple of months. To him, me and my department are just baggage at this point and he's doing everything in his power to make me look bad. Last week for a catering, I ran my cost by him since he buys the lobster. He shrugged and said "Fine", but I got a call from a friend who told me that he was complaining that I charged less for an extra lobster than we paid for it. I charged ten cents less so for the whole job, it cost the company $1.50. (There's a per person charge for the dinner, but extras are tacked on later and it's where we can make up the difference as the price of lobsters can change daily.) Of course I realize that it also cost what we would have made in profit, but one would think that he would have mentioned the price difference when I ran it by him. I suppose it looks better for him if he can bring it up later. I'm thankful I have a friend there who'll give me the heads up.

Well, this isn't getting me ready to go to work. Thanks guys, and good luck Anneke.
post #13 of 13
Thread Starter 
I had my meeting with the owner yesterday. I asked that only he and I meet first. He agreed, and it went well. I think it was actually harder for him since he realized that his new guy has told him some "untruths" in recent weeks. For instance, new guy told the boss that I "had a hissy fit" over towels he took from the kitchen. As we have dozens, I don't mind sharing.... I actually pointed out to him where the towels are stored closer to where he'd need them to save him going all the way back to the kitchen. Small potatoes, but an illustration of this guy's attitude.

I also told the owner that the new guy had flaunted his knowledge (or alleged knowledge)of the dwindling bank accounts, my boss looked a little crushed.I felt sorry for him.

The long and short of this is that my job description hasn't changed, contrary to the new guy's edict; the new guy's job description has been narrowed, and I don't have to use the "experienced" fry cook he hired. I probably will train him just to show what a team player I am, but he sure won't be a fulltimer in my department.

I almost hate to admit this, but all the way to work, I was giving myself a peptalk so I wouldn't cry during my meeting. When I get angry, I sometimes move quickly from anger to tears in a split second. Then I get embarassed and it just gets worse. I absolutely hate that about me! Anyway, I was soooo calm. The typed notes kept me on track-thanks for that idea, but the encouragement from you all was what kept me from acting like an idiot.

Next is the meeting between the owner and the two of us...
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