Saturday, September 26, 2009

Left Behind

Back in June, I made some moves that I believed were risky, brave, and eminently forward-looking. I hired myself a chef/kitchen manager, and a pastry chef. With the idea of taking the café to the “next level.” Knowing full well that some of the precious long-term employees I had clung to would not be going to that next level with us. You stop, you think, you swallow your trepidation and you take that big forward step. You know there will be consequences.

Now that I think about it, the fallout was already falling when I made those momentous hiring decisions. It was, in fact, one of the things that pushed me to make the moves I did. One by one, the backbones of my crew were themselves making decisions. To move on. To kiss us goodbye and leave us behind. In truth, I decided to take us to the next level because it was that or…I don’t know what. Run the restaurant by myself, I guess.

In May, the Good and Faithful “D” informed me that she would be going back to school in the fall. And of course, it couldn’t be a normal school, where you could take classes AND work, and get your degree or certificate in, maybe two or three years. No…it had to be one of those “career” schools with the intensive programs that eats up the students’ every waking hour, transforms them and releases them fully accredited and thoroughly exhausted into their chosen field of endeavor after a mere 6 to 8 months.

Time and time again, my “girls” remind me that I am their boss. I am not their friend, or their mentor, or even someone whose feelings matter, or whose opinion they value. I have so utterly failed to make that connection with the girls who work for me. And it feels like shit. What do you say to someone upon whom you have depended heavily—probably much more heavily than was wise—when they up and decide to move on? “Bye, see ya…have a nice life?”

And, yet, I could do that, if it looked like the parting was going to be a smooth and amicable one. But that would not be “D.” Her personality is such that, when she decides to move on, she completely emotionally disassociates from whatever she is moving on from. She's no Audrey Hepburn, but her personality is every bit "Holly Go-lightly." She wants to project the impression that there are no bonds, no chains, no attachments…everyone (meaning SHE) is free to walk away from any relationship at any time, no hard feelings, no regrets. The more serious the entanglement, the more aloof she becomes at the dissolution of it. Untouchable. Unreachable. Gone.

The end result of this is…though she will not actually start school for another two weeks, and she plans to continue to work part-time during the first ten-week term, “D” is already gone. The amazing young woman whose trust I thought I had won, and whose loyalty I believed I had inspired, at least in some small way, has disappeared. In her place is a disrespectful petulant malcontent with a serious case of “short-timer’s disease.” And it just…hurts. Deep in my heart, it hurts.

It will be a sad chapter in the history of the Old Town Café, and in my personal history, if the time comes—as it appears that it will—when I am relieved that “D” has finally walked out the door, never to return. She has been my right hand, my go-to…the Good and Faithful “D.” It will be hard…SO hard…to watch that relationship end in such a sad and ignominious way. But it honestly looks as if I have no choice. I have been pitched out of a taxi into an alley, in the rain.

Unfortunately, I don't anticipate "D" suffering a change of heart and coming back for me...


  1. In the food industry usually a notice that an employee is leaving means go now- Do not hang allow "D" on feeding other employees discontent- Say farewell early and go on with you business! God luck!

  2. Can't do it, Danelle. Sure, my "business sense" tells me to show "D" the door ASAP... But when someone has stood between yourself and failure time and time again in the last three years, you don't treat them like that. It just isn't ethical.

  3. Sorry to hear about D. Two steps forward, one step back and a half step sidways. Still, loyalty should go both ways. Should, doesn't usually. Hugs, lots of hugs.

  4. Jackie--

    I can't control what other people do, or what other people feel. I can only do what I think is right, and follow the course of the ethical business person that I want to be. I'm not looking for gratitude, friendship, undying loyalty or devotion. I just want to be able to look at myself in the mirror and know I have done the right thing.