Throughout graduate school I served and tended bar. I had been serving at a bar in Minneapolis for about a year. Knowing that the restaurant I worked at was notoriously (I’m talking slap you silly) busy on weekends in the spring and summer, I requested off for graduation six months in advance.
Two months before my big day I saw that my graduation weekend had red X’s sharpied through them. When I asked about it, my GM said that no requests for time off were being granted that weekend. My graduation date happened to coincide with Art-A-Whirl, an annual art crawl that brings thousands of people to Northeast Minneapolis. I explained that I had asked off in September for that date. She told me we might be able to figure something out. Every time I would inquire about my predicament I was met with evasion.
Three weeks before graduation I told her that I needed to know what the decision was. She asked what time graduation was at, and for what seemed like the 100th time I told her it was at 2pm. Her response was that the ceremony being at 2pm perfectly allowed for me to either come in for a few hours in the morning, or work the night shift. I reiterated that after working full time and attending graduate school full time for the previous three years, 24 hours to celebrate didn’t seem like too much to ask. Her only response was that she was missing her best friends wedding that weekend. I didn’t realize that it was a contest.
Unwilling to miss my graduation, I put in my 2 weeks notice. The GM asked why I was leaving, with a genuinely puzzled look on her face. Her reaction told me I made the right decision. After a year of being expendable I was suddenly integral to the business during one of its busiest weekends. Instead of giving me 24 hours that I had asked for six months prior, they had to pay to train in a new employee.
Servers trust management to understand that most of us are reasonable in our requests for time off. We all know people who get married, have birthdays, graduate, and die. Sometimes we cannot help that these events coincide with big events for our workplace. Mutual trust and a partnership are necessary to retain dedicated employees. Good employees leave because of such conflicts, and have another job quickly.
Mark Netsch, Founder and CEO of PerformanceScope has found this true in his research, “Getting the schedule an employee needs is an absolute requirement for employee satisfaction. Getting the schedule they need does not increase satisfaction, but not getting that schedule decreases satisfaction to the point where they will quit.”
To service employers: you cannot have it both ways. We can’t be dime a dozen, expendable and easily replaced—but suddenly essential to your business for one weekend. We know what we are to you the other 362 days a year. If you only care about us being there three days out of the year, you can bet that we’re going to move on until we find somewhere that wants us there for the entire year, no matter how busy or slow it might be.