Are Your Low Expectations Holding Your Employees Back?

Nov 24 2014

Staff Training Restaurant Management

Most people would agree that our expectations color our views, if not our performance. But can your expectations influence your employees’ job performance? Maybe it already does.

Human beings are complicated creatures. We tend to do what we were hired on to do, and no more than that – regardless of our actual abilities. So, if you’re setting your expectations too low, you could actually be hurting the performance of key members of your staff. You might also be handing them an uninspiring job rather than a chance to reach their true capabilities.

Why Expectations Are Set Too Low Expectations often remain low for two reasons. You may feel like you don’t pay your staff enough to receive their best efforts. (Incidentally, studies have shown that money is not the most effective motivator for good job performance; positive relationships are.) Or you may think that your employees are too young or too inexperienced to meet anything other than simple goals.

What if your restaurant managers tend to be young, with little experience? This notion that people have to be over a certain age to handle responsibility is flawed. Other than meeting your state licensing and work laws, it shouldn’t be a factor in your expectations of your staff. Why do we say this?

History is full of evidence to the contrary. Think about this:

  • Up until the industrial revolution, young children would participate in their parents’ employment. Farmers’ children drove carts, tended to animals, or helped with work in the fields. This meant responsibility, but no one thought that they were too young to handle it.
  • An even more recent – and inspiring – example is the NASA moon mission control crew. Their average age was 26.
  • Currently the average age of a U.S. Navy aircraft carrier crewmember is about 20 years old; they are trusted with billions of dollars of high-tech aircraft, as well as pilots’ lives.

Realistic Expectations Set Up Better Employee Performance

Once you get past your own mental hurdles, you can reassess what you expect from your employees. The key here is to be realistic: not every dishwasher will work their way up to become a five-star chef; not every member of the waitstaff will be a top-notch salesperson. But if you give your employees the opportunity and direction to succeed, they may surprise you with what they can do.


Poor communication and a lack of tools can signal low expectations. Instead of being caught in a negative mindset, give your employees what they need to perform well. Start with two easy steps:

  • Set Clear Guidelines. Often, people may hold back from making a decision because they are afraid to make the wrong decision. You can mitigate this by setting up clear guidelines for your staff to follow. For example, your assistant manager may be hesitant about ordering new inventory. A good rule of thumb is that any task which can be accurately documented in two or three paragraphs will be realistically achievable. If your activities are too complex, break them down into individual steps, each with its short description. Instead of giving a directive to “Manage Inventory Effectively,” break that process into its supporting actions – take inventory, review specific reports for variance, and have the instructions on how to react to those outcomes.
  • Provide The Physical Tools Needed To Do The Job Properly. Often, giving workers the right tools is the easiest route to a positive outcome. Rather than fretting about the amount of sauce served on a plate, why not simply provide your team with a 2-ounce ladle and say here, use one scoop of this per serving? Portioning worry solved.Rather than thinking negatively – my staff is too young; it’s only a summer job; they can’t possibly care about their work – give them clear guidelines to follow and the tools they need to do the job right. You may be pleasantly surprised with the results.

When it comes to technological tools, Ctuit’s RADAR restaurant management software gives you the apps you need to make this kind of management easier, including checkbook widgets, parsing, sales forecasting, and reports.

Rob D'Ambrosia

Rob D'Ambrosia

After recognizing that restaurant operators needed to leverage technology to serve their Business Intelligence requirements, Rob founded Ctuit Software in January 2000. From casual to fine dining concepts, Rob has experienced the full spectrum of front and back of house positions. He has installed POS systems and consulted for small and medium restaurant chains. Rob’s technology background is equally extensive having worked hands-on with computer systems and authoring both hospitality and IP telephony business applications.