The sign on the front door of the restaurant told a significant story. And, it was photographed recently at the front door of a barbecue restaurant near my home in a resort area. The owner-manager claims he pays wages above the norm, hours are only four hours Tuesday-Thursday and eight hours on weekends; the restaurant is bright and cheery; and its barbecue is touted as “The Best” in the area.

Now, here is the best part. Clientele are largely upscale guests from nearby large gated communities willing to leave big tips for good service. And, he is forced to temporarily close his restaurant because he can’t find wait staff. What’s wrong with this picture?

It remained a puzzle until the guy who mows my lawn give me another angle on this crooked picture. “My son’s girlfriend got a job there,” he told me two weeks ago. “She was excited about the good pay, short hours, and a good shot at some nice tips. But, she left after a week.” When I asked him to solve the riddle of the turnover, his answer was short. “Mean manager!” he said. Last week when he was back to trim the hedges, I probed for a bit more detail. “Well, Ellen told me the store manager barked orders, scolded new employees if there was the tiniest mistake, and only cared about how fast orders got from the pick-up counter to the table.”

The more he spun his tale the more the real picture emerged. The restaurant manager treated employees more like servants than co-owners. Since his focus was on efficiency, not on service excellence, the manager treated employee precisely the way he expected employees to treat customers. There was no mentoring, just “don’t screw up.” There was no patience nor role modeling. And, in today’s “word of mouse,” social media mania the message spread very quickly…beware of the “mean manager.”

Some of my neighbors enjoy reminiscing about the good old days when young people worked hard. They too quickly chastise today’s youth as being high maintenance, self-centered, and unwilling to work hard.

“They all want a dang trophy,” is their popular lament.

But, I have watched way too many young employees demonstrate a strong work ethic when treated with respect, kindness, supported with training, and provided the same service excellence their employees are asked to demonstrate to customers.

Give your employees the best that you have and the best will come back to you!