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Dealing with an irrationally irate admin. assistant. Looking for advice

post #1 of 10
Thread Starter 

Hello fellow Chefs,

Looking for some advice.  I just started a position as the FDS of a Senior Community.  Par for the course with positions like this in senior care communities, I walked into a huge mess in my department.  I've been there for 9 days and cannot seem to get on top of the mountain of tasks and disasters that plague this department.  Instead of doing my job, I am having to do put out fires all day long, just so the residents can get some kind of meal.

I have to deal with an Admin. Assistant that has a challenging personality.  She has a temper which is easily provoked.  Last night, my dining staff was late to start service.  I found them all around her desk, discussing payroll issues and other things.  I spoke to them sharply, telling them they needed to get on the floor immediately.  I'm trying to establish some authority within my department.  I have an excellent repoire with the staff.  They respond to a strong leader.  This dining services department has been without a manager for almost a year, and I'll say it again,  I walked into a HUGE mess.

This admin. assistant took personal offense to me calling them away from her desk.  Later, she, very angrily, dressed me down in front of the Exec. Director while I was in a meeting with the her (the E.D.).

I tried to talk to her, even kind of joking about it, but also trying to get my point across that during service time, my staff needs to be on the floor ready for service (a dining room full of 128 hungry, senior residents can get ugly, VERY fast).  She responded so angrily, that I just dropped the subject.

How do I proceed with this personality?  I need to establish some ground rules and expectations I have for the dining staff, but feel it could be difficult if I have another manager undermining that.

I'm also looking for some advice in general from some pros that have worked in the senior care field.

post #2 of 10

Do you have a regional manager that you can reach out to? I've been in similar situations where sometimes you need them to advocate for your department. 

 

It's tricky in that every department almost seems like a separate company. Especially if food is contracted out and not part of the rest of the company (not sure if that's the case for you)

 

At the end of the day, to the residents, nothing is more important than mealtime. Not meds, not activities, not therapy. So hammering home that nothing disrupts meals period can be a challenge. But it is the responsibility of the facility to provide a homelike environment and mealtimes that match up to what you would find in the community. Nobody in a diner or restaurant waits for meals because the short order cook is talking to HR.

 

I don't know the company that you work for, but some have an "All Hands On Deck" policy which means when it's mealtime everyone in the building makes themselves available for dining room transport, feed assist. passing plates or trays. No breaks, no hiding in your offices, your tasks are on hold. You may find success pushing that. It's a difficult concept to argue against (though many nurses will), and can really save your labor numbers.

post #3 of 10

That is a very great concern you have. I have learned in my lifetime that anger is an insecure response to any outside source. She is showing you through her emotional outbursts that she is insecure in her position and intimidated by your position as to what that directly means to her. Remember that you had said they did not have anyone like you in your position for over a year so she probably took it upon herself to 'bee the boss' so to speak. She of course, has no idea what she is doing so when you show up in the picture this puts her so called 'authority' to the test. 

 

She called that meeting subconsciously to challenge your authority and to see if you had the balls to stand up to her......and you did. She just wasn't expecting it so she threw a tantrum to try and belittle you into giving up your position of confidence.

 

We see this played out over childhood over and over. The unfortunate thing about us humans is that until we learn to grow up and deal with our own insecurities we will continue to put the responsibility on others' shoulders until that person kindly says to them to 'deal with their own shyte' sometimes exactly like that.

 

Now, to deal with this (what you are describing) very irate woman who is extremely insecure, you are going to have to face that HEAD ON. There is no two ways about it. Being nice will be seen as weakness and she WILL use that against you. This advice is coming from a woman. This means you will have to carve out some significant time, have a plan of action, go to her head (or both your head bosses or HR) to convey your approach just in case she gets out of hand and says anything that can be very detrimental to you. This is all to back YOU up. Then go and hash it out with her. Stay strong, confident and determined in the face of her anger. Do not give up or walk away in spite of it because then she wins. Get it based out all in a day. There will be hurt feelings on her part however, this is YOUR job and she needs to grow up and learn to deal with her appropriately. Period. 

 

As a woman it really gets my panties in a twist when I hear about women like you describe "blaming the world and taking out their anger at it" on others. Time for her to grow up and shut up if she can't be nice!

 

Hope it all turns out for you ;)

post #4 of 10
Thread Starter 

Fablesable, you nailed her personality exactly!  Thank you for the advice and perspective.

JohnnyHotcakes, the idea about "all hands on deck" is excellent.  You are correct.  The residents LIVE for meal-time.  And meal-time over the past year has been little better than prison food.  

It is heartbreaking that these residents are in the last stages of life and they have been receiving such poor quality of food and service. (I've lost 5 residents in the past 9 days.  We are an assisted living/ personal care residence.  Many are in hospice.).


How should I proceed or get the notice out that my guidelines or 'rules" for the dining department must be established and honored?  I was thinking I would send a carefully, but firmly worded email to all the managers including the Executive Director and the Regional Director.  I feel this would work better so that I could get my points across, without being bulldozed by the irate manager.  I don't want things to escalate into a screaming match.

post #5 of 10

In addition to the excellent advice given, I'll add this. 

     Let it devolve into a screaming match if necessary but a one sided one. Stay calm. If the assistant chooses to scream, your calm demeanor will make her look all the more foolish. If possible, make sure you always have witnesses. Keep it professional and focused on the clients well being and the improvement of services. As much as she may want it to be a wrestling match over who is in charge, you are best served by being as much Spock as possible. Remember that everyone else will be looking at your behavior to see how they should respond. 

     By all means send out emails, post notices, whatever informs everyone of the standards you are implementing. Keep it universal. I suspect very quickly everyone else will get on board and she will find herself isolated. So she will have to straighten up or leave. You most likely won't have to put up with it one way or the other for very long. 

     I have found that in all cases, holding employees to improving professional standards in a straightforward, clear manner never comes back to bite you. After all, is she ever going to win the argument that her unprofessional behavior is defensible and appropriate? Or that meal times can be late and serving crappy food is a good thing? 

post #6 of 10
Thread Starter 

Such great advice from fellow professionals!  Thank you!  I have decided to send a mass email to all the managers.  

post #7 of 10
I'll add that meal time is very important to seniors, I cook dinner most nights for my 86 year old father who is wheel chair bound and in poor health. Last night was simple, meatloaf, roasted sweet potato & homemade creamed corn, with all the mmmmmmm's you would have thought we were at a $150 plate dinner. Tonight is pan fried oysters, he can't wait for dinner.
post #8 of 10

Thanks Chefbuba, now I can't wait for your dinner either.

post #9 of 10
Thread Starter 

Chef Bubba, that is the exact direction I am hoping to get my kitchen crew in.  Right now, their specialty is burnt toast and hockey puck burgers.  It's been a tough two weeks.  My seniors come from very simple backgrounds and just want simple, comfortable food.  My corporation has other ideas.  It's the constant struggle, isn't it?

post #10 of 10
Quote:
Originally Posted by chefwriter View Post
 

In addition to the excellent advice given, I'll add this. 

     Let it devolve into a screaming match if necessary but a one sided one. Stay calm. If the assistant chooses to scream, your calm demeanor will make her look all the more foolish. If possible, make sure you always have witnesses. Keep it professional and focused on the clients well being and the improvement of services. As much as she may want it to be a wrestling match over who is in charge, you are best served by being as much Spock as possible. Remember that everyone else will be looking at your behavior to see how they should respond. 

     By all means send out emails, post notices, whatever informs everyone of the standards you are implementing. Keep it universal. I suspect very quickly everyone else will get on board and she will find herself isolated. So she will have to straighten up or leave. You most likely won't have to put up with it one way or the other for very long. 

     I have found that in all cases, holding employees to improving professional standards in a straightforward, clear manner never comes back to bite you. After all, is she ever going to win the argument that her unprofessional behavior is defensible and appropriate? Or that meal times can be late and serving crappy food is a good thing? 


The "SPOCK" technique also works on the quiet passive-aggressive types also. The key is to stay calm, professional, and provide them the opportunity to shoot themselves in the foot. By keeping the focus on the customer, the aggressive/passive-aggressive hostility just makes them look like buffoons... and soon enough management will notice what is going on.

 

p.s. Bubba... you have my mouth salivating also!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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