Tuesday, September 21, 2010

"Why Don't You Just Make 10 Louder?" "....But This One Goes To 11"

Dan, I must say - you have a real gift for making hard working employees feel unappreciated. Why even bother faking the apologetic behavior about my schedule last week if you were going to duplicate it this week?

Luckily, this is it for me - and while I know that I am working in an industry where I am considered an "expendable" employee, it still sucks to have your manager actually make you feel that way.


So yeah, I wrote this to one of my managers after receiving my final schedule at Chili’s. I copied my General Manager as well (Randy, as you know him from my previous blog). After I gave my notice earlier this month, my schedule got increasingly worse and after getting what I considered to be an apology from the server manager at my job for my botched schedule, I opened my email yesterday to find that my final four days were just as poorly assigned as the week prior. Needless to say, I was a bit frustrated.

A few people have questioned me as to why I care so much. After all, I’m leaving so what does it matter. Some of my frustration comes from the fact that I’ve been with the company for about four and a half years, opened the store I’m currently in, became a Manager for a while and have previously been active as a Trainer. Additionally, I have always worked hard for the company, donated my time to help them with special art projects and overall, upheld the service standards that they claim to be so concerned about. So yes, it makes me a little angry to realize that I’m just another employee when it all comes down to it.

However, this is not why I sent the email. I sent the email for the same reason I have this blog and for the same reason why I chose to do so many things in my life.

In my previously mentioned leadership program that I was a part of, one of the things that we were supposed to come up with was our stand for the world. It wasn’t until I was coaching and responsible for other people’s breakthroughs that I realized what my stand for the world was and always has been. I take a strong stand that everyone in the world gets to have a voice and that their voice matters. I think a lot of this comes from being part of a family that doesn’t like to talk about things. For many, many people, being silent is perfectly acceptable. For me, it absolutely isn’t.

Nothing makes me happier than when I see people share something authentically that I know they’ve been keeping inside for a long time. There is something that is absolutely magical to me about releasing this kind of energy. I’m not sure why so many people are unwilling to talk about the things that bother them, or that they love, or that they wish they had or didn’t have. Sharing on this kind of intimate level is what gives me faith in the human race. However, what I have found more often than not is that people pick and choose who they wish to share with and what information they feel like divulging.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been an open book around my friends. I tell them exactly what’s on my mind and give my opinion about things exactly as I feel it in my heart. I’ve caught a little bit of grief from this, but for the most part, I’ve been able to establish meaningful – even if only brief – connections by behaving this way. And I have found that when I am sharing simply for the sake of sharing and not because I am trying to impress my opinions onto someone else or speak from a place of righteousness, I get a beautiful reciprocation.

It’s pretty rad.

Unfortunately, I have not felt as comfortable being this open around my family. As a result, I have spent most of my adult life withholding information from my parents and brother or flat out lying about things because I don’t feel like they would approve of my opinions or behavior. I found that I was doing this so often that I was actually splitting my personality up into two Tinas – the one that my friends knew and the one that my family knew. This was okay for a little while… until I realized how passionately I felt about my stand about having a voice.

I am at a point in my life where it’s not only important for me to share how I feel about things, about my experiences, fears and successes, but I have actually found it to be unbelievably compelling to watch the results of my vulnerability take the shape of new relationships, stronger bonds and an enormous respect overall for those around me.

This way of thinking does not bring me an endless supply of rainbows and puppy dogs. In fact, I feel like a complete stranger around my family these days. It’s awkward, uncomfortable and I am finding it a lot easier right now to avoid any kind of contact with them. As I mentioned before, I am the most open and comfortable with my dad, but find that even he doesn’t really want to talk much these days.

Ani Difranco is a musician my friend turned me on to. In one of her songs, she writes “I like you so much, I talk to everyone but you…” I wonder often if this is the challenge I have with my family…

But this is truly who I am. And I believe so strongly in having a voice and using it that I’m willing to be uncomfortable and face the repercussions of a society that likes to “look good” a lot more than it likes to be authentic.

Ani Difranco also wrote… “If you don’t ask the right questions, every answer feels wrong… I was a terrible waitress, so I started writing songs.”

Well, I’m not a terrible waitress. I’m a good waitress and an even better employee. I’m trustworthy, honest and genuinely care about the results of my restaurant. I deserve to be treated with the same respect that I’ve given the company since opening day. And when this doesn’t happen for me or others like me, you better believe I’m going to say something.

And I don’t care if my last day is a week from tomorrow (not that I’m counting down or anything), my voice gets to be heard because it matters. All of our voices matter. This is my stand and my song.

That’s why I wrote the email. That’s why I write these blogs. That’s why I upset my family and that’s why my friends love me. And at the end of the day, when my contact lenses are out, my makeup is washed off and I’ve loofahed the hell out of my skin, I crawl into bed and know that at least for today, I’ve honored my stand and used my voice.

A lot of people talk a big game about always telling the truth and being honest. I find that many of these people have no idea what it’s like to share authentically until they are face to face with someone like me. Because it’s not about telling things like you think they are, it’s about telling things like you experience them. This is where the power of the human connection lies. It’s not about being right. It’s simply about being heard.

Universe, please give me the strength to increase the decibels of my own voice. It’s loud but not yet loud enough. I still get hung up on looking good and not wanting to upset my listener. In my tenacity to turn the volume up, may it also increase the volume of all those voices around me who are fighting to be heard.

Give me this strength, please... because even if they make 10 the loudest, I still want to go to 11.


  1. One more thing, thank you for being the best trainer I've ever had at all my jobs in the service industry the last 6 1/2 years and for having the patience when I struggled at first, I mean it!

  2. I had to leave you a comment and say that I'm glad you wrote that to our manager. I too am EXTREMELY upset about how the scheduling has veered off the curve and crashed down the side of the cliff the last year and a half. There are lots of servers who not only have put in the test of time but bettered themselves and have an excellent work ethic and a super kick ass availability who comes in if possible to cover shifts, stay late, be the model employee and take pride and ownership of the restaurant etc... I'm pissed to say the least about it all. It seems that everyone is lumped into a category where everyone contributes the same and gets treated the same and a lot of times the exact opposite. Several years ago I was the head of a department in a megaplex movie theatre where I oversaw the scheduling of our employee staff for a short time. Approximately 85 (would have been over 125 in the peak season). I categorized them all and the best staff not only got what they wanted to be scheduled but they received the most shifts usually in our busiest times and a reward system was put into place to allow them certain privileges to be used. Weekly I would talk to the other 20 or so managers and get feedback on who I needed to move up or down the list. And we also weeded out the bottom 10% who needed to find other jobs for obvious reasons. I wish Chili's could take notes of other business practices and use them. And may I end this here with one last thing you Tina are 100% NOT expendable. Don't ever think that, whatever job you may hold in the future. I've worked with you for a long time you give a damn about your job and you shine above so many people. Chili's is going to loose BIG when you leave. We all know that everyone can be let go including management at will that's a given. But when you have someone like yourself leave a job it’s so hard to make that up. I know this because at that movie theatre our whole management team noticed a difference in how the day went at work when good people quit. Chili's is no different. And for that there ARE some people that are not expendable. We will miss you at work make sure you check in on us from time to time.

  3. And this should totally be the introduction to your book. Just saying. :)

  4. Its this Chili's Tina. South Strip just doesn't represent the Brinker family. I have worked at four Chili's and one On the Border. All of the rest treated employees like they were special. Managers would call us at home and ask us about our schedule before they posted it, got feedback from others about who was doing their best, let fellow bartenders vote on who should be added to the bartender family, etc. I had my GM in New York call me in Michigan and ask me to come back, that they needed ten people to replace and equal one of me. I remember that phone call, it might have been ridiculous to think ten people could equal one of me but it was nice to hear. The same GM called the GM in Michigan at On The Border and told him he needed to hire me (the Chili's out there wasn't Brinker) and that I needed to stay in the Brinker family. He got me into one of the top ten On the Borders in the country. The GM at On The Border didn't want me to leave either. He said he would create a Catering Management position for me if I stayed. I would have too if I didnt want to move to Vegas so badly. The original Chili's I worked at hired me five times. I would leave for the summer and they always took me back the second I returned. When I would visit NY that Chili's would have me work just for the holidays I was in town if I wanted. I am still friends with those managers in Michigan & New York. I have worked in many restaurants and always thought Brinker was a wonderful company to work for, until I came here. Now again I just think this Chili's is different but it makes me sad that I have worked for Chili's on and off since Oct of 2000 and they could care less. I am just a number on a check here. You know what, I am glad though. I never would have developed the ambition to go for my dream of having my own business doing what I love, working when I want to work, and helping others to do the same! So thanks Chili's. I am glad I didn't get stuck in management where I hate hearing the sound of my own name and plotting how to burn the place down.