The Waiter is Wrong, The Pastor is Wrong…But is Applebee’s?

Have you ever heard the expression, “two wrongs, don’t make one right?”    There’s been a constant buzz about  Applebee’s terminating an employee who posted a receipt where a patron, who just happens to be a pastor, wrote “God gets 10% why do you get 18%” on a receipt.   The ridiculous thing about this “pastors” action is she wrote zero in where the $6.29 automatic tip was inserted and still paid her portion of the bill which was $34.93 (which actually includes the tip), but I won’t call her stupid, that would not be polite.

Removing the fact that this person is a pastor, (which is irrelevant to me, but it seems to be “the main reason” people are so upset) anyone who serves a party of 20 people deserves a tip – - and a nice one if they deliver on the service.   After all, isn’t that what T.I.P.S. stand for ? To Insure Proper Service.  In most restaurants, it is customary for the wait staff to receive an automatic 18% for parties over 8.  That’s not Applebee’s specific, but just a socially accepted “expectation”.  I’ve never been a waiter, but I know I’m funny about how my eggs are cooked. :)

All over social media and the blogshere, people are outraged that this employee was terminated behind this, but let’s remove emotion and look at this from another perspective.  As a 20+ human resources professional, I try to refrain from making decisions without gathering the facts.  Since I have zero documentation on what happened (other than second hand accounts), let’s consider the possibility of  things we don’t know, let’s start with these three:

  • WE DONT KNOW…The track record of the EMPLOYEE  (suppose she was already on a final warning?)

Make no mistake about my position, the pastor was 100% wrong, but the employee is 100% wrong as well.  We know nothing about this employee other than she was terminated “as a result of her decision to post the receipt on a social media website”.  Truth is, she may not have been the best employee.  It’s quite possible that the restaurant already wanted to get rid of her (for whatever reason) and her actions of posting a “company record” to the Internet gave them just cause to terminate.  Even if the employee was a model employee, her actions have now brought negative press and unwanted attention to Applebee’s.   Almost every blog I read were people saying, “they would no longer patronize Applebee’s as a result of the termination“.  No matter the level of compassion we have, the employees’ action is causing a direct and negative response to the company’s bottomline.  Do I think Applebee’s will shut down behind this?  No, but they may receive some fallback and some loss income at least this weekend, those 2 for $20 meals rock!

Always remember your actions off the clock can affect what happens when you return back to work.

  • WE DON’T KNOW…The guest services policy of the EMPLOYER (what happens in Applebee’s, stays in Applebee’s)

Even if Applebee’s doesn’t have a “what happens in Applebee’s stays in Applebee’s guest policy”, the receipt was not the employee’s to post.  It is company property. It is a financial record that belongs to Applebee’s and it should not have been “recorded and posted to the Internet”.  I know that people do it all the time, in fact, I just shared a receipt on own social media FB page on Jan 30, 2013,  but, I’m not an employee of the restaurant (and my comments about the receipt were positive).  Regardless to the company policy, the employee doesn’t own the right to that receipt, it’s property of her employer.  Her job as an employee was to get it signed for payment processing and turn it in.

Always remember if it’s issued by the company, it belongs to the company. 

  • WE DONT KNOW…What potential damage will the pastor receive (as a result of the employee’s actions)

By posting this receipt to the Internet, the employee of Applebee’s has subjected the pastor to identity theft.   According to a report from USA Today, the receipt posted on Reddit.com (the originator of the story) shows the FULL SIGNATURE of the pastor.  The employee had no right to share the pastor’s legal signature on any social media site.   It leaves the pastor vulnerable to thieves.  Anyone could copy the signature from the Internet, scan it, and use it inappropriately!  And guess who can get sued for that?  Applebee’s!  If the employee had posted about it and not showed the receipt or cropped out the signature, I may inclined to say she just erred in judgment.   To expose someone’s signature on the Internet does violate their privacy in my opinion (had this done to me in college where a roommate scanned my signature and added her name to my bank account, then cleaned it out…NO FUN!) I have to assume that is where Applebee’s drew the line also.  Another blog comment, I read was “the pastor caused this employee to lose her livlihood“.  Well, I disagree with that.  The employee lost her livlihood as as a result of making a poor decision.  At some point,  the employee has to be held accountable for her part in this.

Always remember anything in the wrong hands is a weapon. 

In the service industry, this is a classic case of  “The Customer is Always Right”, even though we all agree the pastor is WRONG!  Sometimes, “we the people” forget that an action causes a reaction!    Countless employees have and will continue to be terminated for things that are posted on social media sites.  So I’ll share a tip with the readers of this blog that I’ve shared with my network many times, “don’t post anything on a social media site that you don’t want mom, management or the media to see!  It might be your “personal page”, but the Internet is PUBLIC!”

In closing, if I were the HR Director for Applebee’s, I MAY NOT have terminated this employee if this was her first offense but my decision would be based on the hard facts and company policy.  My recommendation would be that the employee be placed on a PIP (Performance Improvement Plan) and receive additional training.  In my professional opinion, I totally understand Applebee’s position and would support their decision to terminate.

I hope the employee has learned an invaluable lesson that everything is NOT for social media especially, business transactions that rightfully belong to an employer.  As for the pastor stating that she is ashamed for her ministry, well, she should be ashamed that the world knows she’s too cheap to tip $6.29.

So what do you think….?

*****Revised*****video added

Hair today, Gone Tomorrow…was it worth it Rhonda Lee?

There’s a ton of buzz surrounding Rhonda Lee, the KTBS Meteorologist “fired over defending her hair”…but IS that the real reason she was fired?  If you haven’t read the story,  you can read it her on Yahoo.

Personally, I think she looks fantastic with her hair and find it becoming on her.  Apparently, the station didn’t have a problem with her hair either.  The station had a problem with her responding to the viewer -or viewers repeatedly.  As a certified HR Professional (and a black woman)….I understand the position of the station. Rhonda knows her public persona is subject to all kinds of comments. She had a choice to engage or not engage with the viewer who posted about her hair. Really, who cares that a viewer doesn’t like her short hair?

According to the story on Yahoo, even though Rhonda states she was not at the meeting where the social media policy was discussed, I’m sure she was aware of the “unofficial social media policy” as the story states she was “warned about this repeatedly”.  Which indicates there was previous conversations (plural) about Rhonda’s “social media practices”.

According to the story on Yahoo, “Ms. Rhonda Lee was let go for repeatedly violating that procedure and after being warned multiple times of the consequences if her behavior continued,” KTBS-TV executives said in a statement posted on Facebook on Tuesday, after Lee appeared on CNN. “Rhonda Lee was not dismissed for her appearance or defending her appearance. She was fired for continuing to violate company procedure.” 

If that is true, then I stand with the station on the termination.  Okay so this is probably NOT the response that many of you were expecting from me,…BUT…as a 20 year human resources professional (and an black woman)…let me say this.   Rhonda is a high compensated employee HIRED TO BE A PUBLIC PERSONA for the station.  Every time she opens her mouth publicly,  it is essentially a “response from the employer”  With that being said…she did not have to respond.  Again, I say, WHO CARES THAT A VIEWER DOESN’T LIKE HER HAIR?  It’s not a secret that there are double standards in every class of people…black/white, men/women, young/old, rich/poor…as in this case, I totally believe that Rhonda Lee has a right to be who she chooses to be. But I also know the station was paying her boo-coos of money to be who they needed her to be.

Sometimes we forget that social media and our expressions on social media are not a “free” as we’d like them to be.  There have been so many cases in the media about employees being terminated over Facebook and other social media outlets.  Sometimes we have to learn to hold our peace.  I believe this was one of those times.

The issue I have with this whole story is “the station” didn’t have a problem with Rhonda Lee’s hair and she could have (and should have) IGNORED the Facebook post and this whole nightmare would have been avoided.   Personally and professionally, I didn’t find anything “wrong” with her response,

“Hello Emmitt—I am the “black lady” to which you are referring. My name is Rhonda Lee. Nice to meet you,” she wrote on October 6, in the comments. “I am sorry you don’t like my ethnic hair. And no I don’t have cancer.” 

“I am very proud of my African-American ancestry which includes my hair,” Lee, 37, continued. “For your edification: traditionally our hair doesn’t grow downward. It grows upward. Many Black women use strong straightening agents in order to achieve a more European grade of hair and that is their choice. However in my case I don’t find it necessary. I’m very proud of who I am and the standard of beauty I display. Women come in all shapes, sizes, nationalities, and levels of beauty. Showing little girls that . Little girls (and boys for that matter) need to see that what you look like isn’t a reason to not achieve their goals.” 

“Conforming to one standard isn’t what being American is about and I hope you can embrace that,” she concluded. “Thank you for your comment and have a great weekend and thank for watching.”

However, I am not her employer and since another employee of KTBS (Rhonda’s Employer) was also fired for defending himself online (see Chris Redford’s Story here), this appears to just be the policy of the station and not racial motivated -but a practice of KTBS.   Sometimes we have to dig a little to find the truth. Many times those of us in the HR Profession are accused of siding with the employer (we don’t we are just tasked with enforcing the policies and procedures set by the organization), as I’m sure I will be due to my stance on this but this termination appears to be justified.  Again…her employer CLAIMS Rhonda was terminated for “repeatedly violating that procedure and after being warned multiple times of the consequences if her behavior continued!”  If Rhonda was terminated on this for her first offense, I would be outraged but repeatedly and multiple stands out to me.  Let’s remove the profession for a moment and look at this from another point of view, how many times will you tell your child repeatedly not to do something before you punish them for it?  Rhonda is not a child, but I think you get my point!

One thing we have to learn in this world, is we don’t HAVE to defend a lie, ALWAYS prove to be right, or ALWAYS make a point. That is where Rhonda Lee made her error.  Yes she has a right to defend her appearance, but why?  She choose to embrace who she was on the inside as she claimed in her response, of being comfortable in the skin and HAIR God gave her contribution to society and that should have been enough.  Personally, I think Rhonda could have made a stronger statement by not even giving thought to the Facebook post.  After all, it was just his opinion, it wasn’t worth her job!

She’s an employee of the company and she didn’t have to be “in the meeting” to hear the unofficial social media policy” I’m sure she heard about it and I’m sure that she knew about about Chris Redford being terminated for defending himself online as well.  As an employee who is a public figure, (the news for Pete’s sake) Rhonda should have known it wasn’t worth it. She went to battle but lost the war!

Rhonda Lee is an intelligent, educated black woman who knows that her VERY public position means everyone wont like her…her hair…her smile…her voice…her skin color… and to that..she should have said.. SO WHAT and kept it moving. In this day and age, people have to remember….the employer is paying you to be who they need to you be during the hours of “9-5″.

Setting Prices As A New Entrepreneur

I spent the weekend in the Los Angeles area (a place I once called home), and had a fantastic time At The Helm, a unique event for women in business where entrepreneurs, small business owners and community leaders join together for a powerful day learning and business growth. It was refreshing to see such a diverse group of women, learning, leaning and gleaning from one another. I met the organizer of the event Alaia Williams, CEO, One Organized Business, a few months back while doing some online networking in the Ambitious Diva Facebook group and we have just began our journey (she will be contributing to CAREER Magazine soon, so stay tuned).

During one of the break out sessions, Haneef Jordan, Owner, Touch My Closet (another member of the Ambitious Diva group) asked a question about setting prices as a new entrepreneur and I shared with the group the formula I used to set prices when I first began my business, well over 10 years ago.   Almost immediately, I realized that I had a similar conversation with Colletta Abernathy  just last week as she was sharing with me some new services that she will be adding to her virtual assistant business, Tru Level Concepts.

As a new entrepreneur, one of  most challenging areas will be defining your worth and communicating your value to potential prospects.  It’s easy to “throw out” a price based on what you  feel you should be paid, but to be effective, you will have to understand your target market, how they do business, what the competition is charging for the same/similar services, and most importantly how to sell your business to a new customer base.

Setting prices as a new entrepreneur seems to be an on-going conversation, so I’m re-sharing this video with a formula for “setting prices as a new entrepreneur”.

If you are an aspiring business owner or setting up your side hustle, take a peek at this video and it will give you some starting points on how to set prices. While understanding your time/value are important, here are also a few things to consider:

1. You have experience/skill as an employee, but you still have to learn how to become an entrepreneur
2. Set competitive pricing because people will search competitors sites and compare pricing/services.
3. Don’t sell yourself short, but be realistic about your prices. You can’t pull prices out of a hat.

If you are in need of business development consulting, feel free to visit the StephanieHarper.com website and drop me a  note and the best times to reach you via the “Let’s Connect” form!

bump industry standards, pay me my damn money!

Well *sigh*, I’ve told you all before that I am an emotional blogger (but I am a believer that there is always a lesson to be learned)…so here we go!

I was invited to attend a TweetChat for Speakers, which I thought was pretty cool!  There was a ton of information shared, some that I agree with and some that I didn’t.  But that’s what you expect in a public forum.

Being a human resources professional, I completely understand that there are “industry standards” in every industry!  Speaking being one of my streams of income, I also understand that when you effectively build your brand, you have the freedom to create your own set of rules for your playground!

During this tweetchat, we began to talk about fee’s.  The featured guest said, “industry standard is getting 50%.  Then you invoice for the remaining 50% and expenses after you speak!”  Well, I guess she wasn’t stranded in West Virginia with no way back to Atlanta.  But I was!   Very early in my speaking career, I agreed to do a five-day career camp for an organization in West Virginia.  My fee,  $5000 + expenses (airfare and hotel ONLY).

  • Mistake #1:  I did not secure my date!

Yes, I had a physical date that the camp was to take place.  But I failed to be compensated for removing myself from the office or missing out on other opportunities if for any reason the camp was cancelled.

Lesson #1:  I now require 25% of my fee (which varies by event and organization) to be paid before I “save the date” on my calendar!  This is a non-refundable fee that covers me in the event the organizer cancels and I have turned down other opportunities.

  • Mistake #2: I did not count the cost!

Yes, we had a contract, but I didn’t have any money to prepare for a 5 -day career camp, there was a good 10+ day preparation period.  I wrote the curriculum, developed a teacher key, created a student workbook, and researched activities, which included taking the participants of the camp to neighboring businesses.   No one paid me for the 10+ days of prep or to design and print all the workbooks.   I guess that was my contribution.

Lesson #2:  Contracts should include any expenses incurred PRIOR to the event.   Once you arrive at the event, you are have already completed 90% of the work.  The other 10% is just your delivery.

  • Mistake #3:  I got on the airplane without all of my money!

Because of the relationship I had developed with the organizer of the event, I was willing to work with the organizer on the $5,000 fee.   I looked at this as an opportunity for us both.  She could have her camp and I could create a product (and yes, my 5 day camp is now a product #winning).

Lesson #3:   Get your money upfront!  Not only did the organizer not have all the money for my hotel, they also did not have the money to fly me back to Atlanta…OR PAY ME!  We ended up driving from West Virginia to Charlotte, North Carolina (6 hours) only to spend the night at the home of the organizer so I could get a flight from Charlotte to Atlanta the next day.

So back to the tweetchat!  When I shared that I get 25% of my fee before I save the date, the featured guest (who was obviously interested in selling her services) felt that I was arguing with her, but also felt it was appropriate to tweet about it!  (Can you say unprofessional?)

See there was no argument, on my behalf.  That’s how I run my business. Simply sharing with other aspiring speakers IN A PUBLIC FORUM that they too can shape their speaking careers, and not just conform to “industry standards”.  That’s being helpful, right?  NEWSFLASH:  You do not have to be boxed in by industry standards, that may not work for your bottom-line.  See I wasn’t there to sell my “hell.. I mean help speakers service”,  I was simply on the chat to share some of my journey.

Not only did I take issue with her unprofessionalism by tweeting something negative about me outside of the forum, but she also called me nutty and said the moderator ignored me!  (now she’s unprofessional, disrespectful, and a liar…more tweets coming).

Lesson#4:  Don’t let your electronic footprints kick you in the butt and the mouth! ( a huge thanks to my Ambitious Diva Friend, Tami Briggs who reminded me all Tweets are also stored in the Library of Congress!)

While the fee was really the biggest thing that we didn’t see eye to eye on, apparently the guest decided to have another side line conversation about me which also showed up in my Twitter feeds and Google alerts.   When I called her out about it, she blatantly lied and said that she was not talking about me, but politics.  Well, call me Ms. Politic Harper!

Lesson#5:  Tweets are public and show up in feeds and Google alerts!

Yes, I will be the first to admit.  I was boiling hot!  So I fired a few tweets back…but none as nearly disrespectful, nor unprofessional and well…I’m not a liar, sometimes…brutally honest to a fault, but not a liar!  I just politely let her know, I had the screen shot of the conversation!  So basically, she could tell her story walking because you can’t dress a lie. Once I sent her a copy of her screen shot, her conversation ceased…at least publicly!

Lesson #6:  When people show you they are! Believe them! (did you see the tweets too?)

No, my goal with this post was not to slam anyone (she and her buddy successfully accomplished that all by themselves).  Those of you who know me and my brand, you know I am all education, empowerment and excellence, I love to help others reach their career aspirations, which it why I take an interest in “addressing misguided information”.   My goal with this post is educate on the importance of monitoring our electronic footprints.  Time and again, we have been warned that things we put in writing can become public documents – - and they can be very damaging!

So for all of you looking to break into the world of speaking, YES there are rules in EVERY industry, but you still have room to create your own path and blaze your own trail!  You do not have to be confined to a box and shipped wherever people decide to send you (speaking bureaus…well some).   And yes, set your own rules which include telling people, “bump industry standards, and pay me my damn money!”

I learned from the trip to West Virginia that I am responsible for getting my money on my terms, but if I don’t establish what they are, I’m likely to never get them (or get them over a period of 6 months, as that’s how long it look for me to get all of the $5,000 owed to me).  I learned from last night’s tweetchat, that when people are slinging poop, just sit there and observe, but don’t tell them the poop stinks and or you might get hit!

Rules without Relationship cause Rebellion!

Saturday, I was heading to a birthday brunch for my very first friend, Lisa.   She lives about an hour away so I decided I would tune in to SGN The Light (ironically, the first radio station to ever interview me and tell 2.5 million listeners that I exist).   Often, when you get a room full of women together, there is drama (have you seen Basketball Wives?)  So I thought I’d would get myself prepared Spiritually and mentally by tuning in to some good Gospel music for the drive.  However, there was no music.  Just preaching!   Ironically, the message that was on was being brought by Dr. Claybon Lea, Jr. (whose father was my first Pastor and the man who baptized both Lisa and I together in 1978).  I thought…hmmm… this must be a sign!  Once Dr. Lea began his message, I was at full attention!  His sermon topic was “Rules without Relationship cause Rebellion”

While I certainly didn’t intend for this blog to be a “bible lesson” this was just too good not to share.  One of the Scripture references Dr. Lea used was Colosians 2:7 and it’s full of nuggets that will help us in both our personal and professional lives.

Col 2:7 rooted and built up in Him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.

To best relate this to  workplace relationships… let’s go over some key words found in that verse.

Root[ed]:  The part of the body of a plant the develops; begin to grow.
Built:  To Increase or develop toward a maximum; prepare in stages
Strengthen [ed]:  To make or grow stronger
Taught [teach]:  To impart knowledge of or skill in; give instruction
Thanksgiving: An expression of thanks; a public acknowledgment

As I drove down the road, I though, hmmmm, I wonder what would happen in the workplace if people would simply :

  • Began a relationship with co-workers instead of saying through word and action, I’m the boss.
  • Take the time to grow relationship in stages and grow them for maximum result instead of writing people up for insubordination, just because they are mad about something.
  • Build each others workplace confidence instead of seeing everyone as competition (which makes the team and the organization become and grow stronger as a whole)
  • Impart knowledge and skill into others instead of withholding information as a form of job security.
  • Say Thank You and publicly acknowledge those members of the team who help them pull things off.

 

I just think if we get back to understanding how vital relationship building is we would stop through titles and demands around and realize , if you don’t treat people right, they will rebel against you and your rules.  That includes your company, your brand, your products and every esle that is attached to you.  The bottom line is people do business with people they know, like, and trust. Relationship building is crucial in both personal and business affairs.   The Rules of “Relationship” haven’t changed along with trends and the ups/downs of the economy.  One thing that has remained the the same is relationships built on the ‘What’s In It For Me? Model” DO NOT WORK!     Relationships that are built on mutual respect and understanding will always garner a positive response.

If you are new to the company, new to the team, new to the department, new on a particular project, new to a networking group, etc – - be kind, be respectful, and in some cases, just be quiet.   It helps to understand the culture of a thing before trying to change it.   If you haven’t added anything to the pot, please don’t criticize what others are brewing, or better yet…don’t criticize what’s in the pot until you’ve tasted it!

Oh and the birthday bash was beautiful…and full women with awesome Spirits.  Pure fun!

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