This Is My Real Job

Sometimes, the needs of the business take priority over our personal interests.

Some time ago, in my first year as a General Manager (GM) for a large coffee company, I was at a development meeting with my District Manager (DM) and we were discussing labor and scheduling. He observed that I had several part-time employees on staff and questioned why I did not instead have one full-time employee in their place. We offered full benefits to both part-time and full-time employees so there was really no cost savings to hire part-time employees. His concern was that we could better serve an employee with full-time hours than part-time and that we might lose good workers if they did not get enough hours.

I explained that I had hired a young, female employee, in her early twenties, who was working full-time, but that she had recently changed her availabilty to part-time, just over twenty hours a week. This caused me to hire another young part-time worker to fill in the hours that the original employee was no longer available for. The result was two part-time employees where one full-time employee used to be. This concerned my DM for two reasons. First, he questioned why an employee would intentionally reduce her hours from full-time to part-time. Secondly, we were now paying full benefits to two people, doubling our cost, for a position that could be filled by one person. He asked me why the original employee had limited her availability. I did not know.

My DM asked me to call the young female employee over to where we were sitting in the cafe. When she arrived at our table, he introduced himself to her, invited her to sit down, and then he chatted with her for a while, easing the tension. Eventually, he got to the question at hand and asked her, “Why did you reduce your availabilty to only twenty hours a week?” “I have another job,” she replied. “What is your other job,” my DM inquired. “I work in a hair salon in the evenings,” she told him and then continued, “This isn’t my real job. I want to be a hair stylist.” “Oh, I see,” he replied, “Well, this is my real job. I hope you understand that we would prefer to give your hours to someone who feels the same way.”

-Robert Van Valkenburgh teaches Taikyoku Budo and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu at Kogen Dojo

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