Managing Latte’s

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“Look at all of this trash on the floor!” I heard someone say as I sat down with my coffee. I looked up and saw a middle aged man scowling at anyone that dared to make eye contact with him. He started with his hands in the air, but when no one looked at him, he slowly moved them to his hips. He shook his head from side to side as he looked around at the mess. “This is the kind of BS that I am talking about here,” he said. A younger woman who was busy making sandwiches spoke up.

“No one is throwing trash on the floor,” she said, her back toward him. “The trash can is full and we don’t have time to deal with it right now.”
The middle aged man’s eyes grew wide and with two giant steps was beside her. He pulled the trash can out from under the counter.
“Look,” he said. It was nearly empty.

Another woman came out of the back room and stood in the door way with a broom in her hand. She too was shaking her head in disgust. “No one has any respect for other people round here,” she said and then she started sweeping. The young woman shook her head in exasperation but didn’t turn around.
“I also filled all the napkin dispensers for you,” the middle aged man said to the young woman making sandwiches. She looked back at him with a confused look on her face.

“You filled them for me?” she said. “You didn’t fill them for me. I don’t own this place. This isn’t my coffee shop. You filled them for us.” The middle aged man made an intelligible grunting sound and with his nose in the air, walked into the back room.

I looked around, wondering where the manager was, or perhaps, if the middle aged man was the manager, or the assistant or something; I hoped not. A few minutes later, my plane boarding, I gathered up my stuff and headed out. That is when I saw him.

The guy behind the counter, the one who waited on me, who was waiting on everyone, was wearing a name tag that said “Manager.”

I stopped and watched him. Big smile. Very friendly. Fast. To his left was an older woman busy making latte’s. On his right, a young woman making sandwiches. Behind him, through the doorway, I could imagine the middle aged man all worked up, still complaining to anyone and everyone who would listen.

I wanted to wait; to talk to the manager; to ask if he had heard the bickering and was ignoring it out of newness and fear, or if he was carefully choosing his battles, but my plane was boarding.

~Ralph Peterson is a syndicated columnist, consultant and author of the book “Managing When No One Wants To Work,” (Four-Nineteen Press, 2014). Contact him:

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