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Posted: December 19, 2013

Chef Laura: Shake out the welcome mat

Striking the balance of reciprocal relationships

Laura Cook Newman

This Christmas Eve, you may be hosting your Italian family for Feast of the Seven Fishes.  After 72 hours the leftovers need to go, and possibly your cousin Vinny, too.

Ben Franklin gets credit for the quote “Guests, like fish, begin to smell bad after three days”.  Granted, hygiene standards were a bit more lax in the 1700’s, but this founding father’s wisdom still rings true today.

You go where you’re invited; you stay where you’re welcome.

I don’t think Ben Franklin said that, but I like it anyway.

That adage is pertinent whether you’re a houseguest, joining a rec league baseball team, or contemplating accepting a new job. 

Have you ever started a job where you were treated like an A-list celebrity during the interview process?  Then a couple days into the new gig, you felt more like Kathy Griffin. 

  • Some companies get it right.  They treat you like the belle of the ball during the interviewing, hiring, and on-boarding process. 
  • Other companies get it wrong.  The interview gave you the warm and fuzzies.  But no sooner than clocking in, the welcome mat is rolled up and stowed, making you feel like a houseguest on day #4.
  • Most companies fall into the “other” category.  They initially give you the love; then their love grows indifferent, or worse, cold. 

The employer/employee relationship reminds me of the host/houseguest dynamic.  In both cases, the union must be mutually beneficial, or pack your bags – literally and figuratively.

With a strong Martha Stewart chromosome embedded in my DNA, I like to be a welcoming hostess.  Beyond the standard fresh linens, clean towels, and a roof over their head for a few days, I take it to the next level.  There’s a basket full of travel size toiletries, 5280 Magazines to flip through and a carafe of water (in Colorado, a must).  Essentially, I’m that employer who is doing it right.

Good houseguests also have a role.  Basic decencies include: tidying up after themselves, pitching in where needed (yes, you may wash the dishes), and thanking their host during their stay.  These houseguests are welcome to visit me for a weekend, anytime.  Mi casa es su casa.

I’ve have some visitors who also take it to the next level.  They bring a small hostess gift, take me out to dinner one night, and they strip the bed at the end of their stay.  One of my favorite guests even puts their used sheets and towels in the washing machine!  In other words, they are the houseguest equivalent to Employee of the Month.

When I’m super gracious to my houseguests, they start doing little extras as well.   They make their beds to be respectful, they take out the trash to be helpful, and they buy wine to keep everyone happy.  The relationship quickly evolves from “courteous” to “symbiotic”.

Back at work -- are employers required to bend over backwards for their employees to make them feel special?  Isn’t providing a paycheck enough?  Perhaps. 

But if you want stellar employees that go above and beyond when asked, a little initial back-bending helps. And if you want to keep your employees engaged, even those veteran ones, shake out the welcome mat from time to time.

As for employees, don’t forget to uphold your end of the arrangement: pitch in on projects, clean up mistakes, and please don’t stink up the place.

Happy Holidays, everyone.  Here’s hoping your houseguests stay for three days, and your employment relationship lasts a bit longer.

Laura Cook Newman is a professional Chef and Training Manager for a Fortune 500 food manufacturer. She earned her chops at Johnson & Wales University, has an MBA in Marketing and hosts a blog for behind-the-scenes insights on the food service industry. Contact her at www.ThreeHotsAndaCot.net

Enjoy this article? Sign up to get ColoradoBiz Exclusives. The opinions expressed in this article are solely that of the author and do not represent ColoradoBiz magazine. Comments on articles will be removed if they include personal attacks.

Readers Respond

this is fantastic for many reasons! I've worked for employers that have dropped the courtesy ball after the interview process... and I've been a fantastic, symbiotic house guest! By Ta Tee on 2013 12 21
So true! Had to Google feast of the 7 fishes. Pretty cool tradition. By Keith on 2013 12 20
Good points about hosting and the privilege of being a guest. It's back to Ms. Manners for me... By Pigpen on 2013 12 19
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