Analysis Paper #3 1 Kenyon Stanley Dr.

White COMM 604 28 Feb 2011 Analysis Paper #3 When I was in my early twenties, I worked as a bartender at The Keg restaurant steakhouse and bar. The Keg is a Canadian company and operated differently than other organizations whose mission it is to serve food to the public. The managers of The Keg put a lot of effort into building cohesion amongst the entire staff, while in other restaurants managers would use competitive motivation tools to rally workers into action. By examining the rituals, stories, performances and values of The Keg this paper will attempt to explain how and why The Keg¶s nontraditional workplace culture has contributed to the success of The Keg. According to E.M. Eisenberg & H.L. Goodall Jr. (2010), ³rituals dramatize a culture¶s basic values«for accomplishing tasks´ (p.105). The Keg had many rituals, some formal, some informal. One of the formal rituals was our pre-shift team meeting. During the meeting, management would assign sections to the servers and quiz the front of house staff about the specials and other menu items. Additionally, the manager would inform the staff about any overstock of items and encourage the team to suggestively sell such items. Interestingly, in other restaurants, management would hold competitions for the highest guest check average or offer monetary compensation for the individual who sold the most of a particular item (e.g. bottles of overstocked wine). The Keg differed from other restaurants in that the entire team was rewarded goal achievement. On one occasion, management erroneously ordered 10 cases of an expensive wine instead of one. Management encourage the food servers and bar staff to ³push the high

Analysis Paper #3 2 dollar Merlot´. Normally, 10 cases of this expensive wine would last a year. The staff rallied and we sold the wine out in one month. Although the bar staff sold the most of the wine, every employee from dishwasher to bartender was rewarded with a paid ski trip to a local ski resort. One of the informal rituals at The Keg was the after shift socializing at the bar. Although other restaurants forbid employees to drink after shift in the establishment, The Keg encouraged its employees to do so. The management believed that the socialization would build cohesion amongst the different work groups. It worked. The informal and formal rituals at The Keg helped bond the workers together to create a reality that was collective instead of competitive. There were many rituals at The Keg and in addition to the creating the reality, the rituals also provided the plots for the many stories told between the workers. According to Eisenberg et al (2010), stories communicate to employees the culture, values, expectations and consequences for violating written and unwritten rules and norms. In the restaurant business, there is usually a high turnover rate. Surprisingly, The Keg had a low turnover rate. Employees generally liked the different environment and enjoyed the many perks that the company provided. However, as with any job, sometimes people quit or got fired. Although management tried to keep the details of a terminated employee from the staff, the staff usually found out by discerning the events through storytelling. On one occasion, it was conveyed to us that a long-term employee had been terminated. We were all very surprised because the employee was a high performing and liked by everyone. The management was tight lipped about the whole ordeal and refused to answer questions about the employee²he was just gone. Soon after he was fired, the employees were socializing at the bar after the restaurant closed and we were telling stories about our recently departed colleague. The terminated employee liked to play practical jokes on us. Although the jokes were generally tactful,

Analysis Paper #3 3 sometimes his jokes teetered on the inappropriate. When we began recounting his jokes, one of the employees recalled a practical joke he played out on his last night of work. The worker pretended to be gay at one of his tables. His flamboyant change of character amused his fellow workers and even one of the managers thought it was funny as well. However, one customer who observed the server¶s behavior didn¶t find it so amusing. Three days after our colleague was terminated, a corporate memo came down to all stores dictating a no tolerance policy regarding discrimination in the workplace. An emphasis was placed on sexual orientation and the drafter of the memo even included a (supposedly) hypothetical situation that mirrored the actions of our former worker. The departure of a long term employee, the story behind his termination and corporate¶s response recreated the culture of our work environment. Specifically, this event served to change the performances of the organization. According to Eisenberg et al (2010), performances are the creative communication behaviors used to construct cultures. The Keg used many different performances in creating its culture. Perhaps the most interesting performance utilized at The Keg was the method they employed of training and indoctrinating new employees into the Keg family. The Keg intentionally used the term sponsor as opposed to trainer. A sponsor is responsible for communicating the rules, monitoring and evaluating growth. Regardless of how long or short it takes for a new hire to learn the menu, a sponsor stays with the new hire for thirty days. As my sponsor said, some things about The Keg culture can¶t be taught and have to be experienced. After 90 days, the sponsor meets with management staff and they collectively determine whether or not the employee is a good fit. It¶s during this initial phase that a new hire must intentionally adopt the cultural norms and build a connection with fellow teammates. For me, I made sure to attend the after shift cocktail hours and help others around me who may be struggling with

Analysis Paper #3 4 keeping up. There were servers who were initially hired that were competent servers but clearly not willing to help out. The people who didn¶t look out for the interest of the team were let go on or prior to the 90 day evaluation period. Although management refused to disclose the reasons behind any employee¶s dismissal, our conversations usually contained the phrase, ³not a good fit´. The Keg¶s method of evaluation was a great tool in creating a culture that rewarded employees who displayed a collective mindset and punished individualism. The collectivist culture was embodied in the entire organizations value structure. According to Eisenberg et al (2010), ³Values represent a (more or less) shared set of beliefs about appropriate organizational behaviors´ (p.106). On the Keg¶s website there is a section called ³The Keg Story´. In the story, the organization boasts that they encourage their employees to have fun and be themselves. My experience at the Keg is consistent with the website¶s claim. Although The Keg did reward collectivism and punish individualism, the organization valued the contributions that diversity brings to the company. Although our location was centered in a predominantly white upper class community, the staff and management differed in age and race. Because the organization demanded each store to be producing cohesive units, as cultural differences came to light the team identified and embraced the differences as part of our dynamic team. Embracing these differences allowed us to operate as an open system, flexible and ready to meet the challenges of an ever changing environment. As with any close team, conflict does arise. At The Keg, whenever any team member had a disagreement with another, it was agreed that the disagreement would be settled after work during the employee cocktail hour. Most of the conflicts occurred between servers and cooks. In most cases, the conflicts were resolved over a couple of drinks and the team grew from the experience.

Analysis Paper #3 5 In conclusion, exploring the rituals, stories, performances and values of The Keg has given me a better perspective about my experience working at The Keg and other restaurants. The Keg was a wonderful place to work and if I was in my early twenties, I would work there again. I made lifelong friendships there and look always stop by for a visit when I am in the Seattle area. Because of their low turnover rate, some of my former colleagues are still working at The Keg. This is highly unusual for the restaurant industry. The rituals, stories and performances The Keg employs all contribute to the collective value structure of the organizational whole and individual restaurants. The Keg¶s work hard/play hard attitude ensures that management receive the highest level of effort from their employees while providing an opportunity to build meaningful connections between management and staff.

References Eisenberg, E.M., Goodall, H.L., Jr., & Trethewey, A. (2010). Organizational communication: Balancing creativity and constraint (6th Edition). Boston: Bedford/St. Martin¶s.

Master your semester with Scribd & The New York Times

Special offer for students: Only $4.99/month.

Master your semester with Scribd & The New York Times

Cancel anytime.