Training the Newbie

I’ve always been curious about work — any sort of work — and what it takes to do a particular job well, and who has the motivation to be the best at what they do, with or without incentives from the boss.

I ran out to breakfast on Friday morning on my own, a last minute decision, just because I didn’t want to fix something and clean up before I headed into a series of Friday morning errands. My favorite server at my favorite breakfast place was training someone new. I watched her carefully working with the young man, and thought how much goes into being a good server in a busy eatery. People dither on what they want to order. They ask the server which omelette is the tastier, choice #1 or choice #2? Or should they have  pancakes instead, as if the server is supposed to know. They ask for changes in the daily special, even though it says clearly on the menu that the special is what it is, no changes allowed. While the server stands, pen and order pad in hand, another table is signaling for more coffee. Someone else has a credit card out, waving to attract attention and the bill. Another table has a lot of empty plates with the remnants of toast or sticky syrup or the partly eaten mound of home fries — unappetizing to be sure. New people have come in and are unsure about whether to wait to be seated.

A server’s basic task is to take the order, write it up in a way that the short order cooks in the back can easily understand, and deliver the food to the table while hot. They do that for multiple tables at once, all the while keeping tabs on breakfasts in process, dealing with credit cards and bills, and seeing to general issues like guiding new customers to simply take a seat.

Sounds fairly straightforward, until you watch someone who knows how to do it and someone who clearly as yet does not. Like most jobs, it’s more complicated than it seems. And kudos those who know how and are willing to teach. Helping someone get better at what they do is an act of kindness, in any context or setting.

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