I came across a fascinating story in USA Today last Friday. The article was entitled CEOs vouch for Waiter Rule: Watch how people treat staff. I was shouting Amen just after reading the title. Writer Del Jones hit the ball out of the park with this one. Christians, lace up your steel toed boots because this could be a toe-stomper.
Here is an excerpt from the piece written by Mr. Jones…
It’s hard to get a dozen CEOs to agree about anything, but all interviewed agree with the Waiter Rule. They acknowledge that CEOs live in a Lake Wobegon world where every dinner or lunch partner is above average in their deference. How others treat the CEO says nothing, they say. But how others treat the waiter is like a magical window into the soul.
Bad Christian comment…I suggest you filter all of these comments through your grid as a follower of Christ. How you are representing Him to those who serve you?
The CEO who came up with it, or at least first wrote it down, is Raytheon CEO Bill Swanson. He wrote a booklet of 33 short leadership observations called Swanson’s Unwritten Rules of Management. Raytheon has given away 250,000 of the books.
Among those 33 rules is only one that Swanson says never fails: “A person who is nice to you but rude to the waiter, or to others, is not a nice person.”
Swanson says he first noticed this in the 1970s when he was eating with a man who became “absolutely obnoxious” to a waiter because the restaurant did not stock a particular wine.
“Watch out for people who have a situational value system, who can turn the charm on and off depending on the status of the person they are interacting with,” Swanson writes. “Be especially wary of those who are rude to people perceived to be in subordinate roles.”
Bad Christian comment… Is there anything more disingenuous than the situational value system? And could there be a more damaging trait for a follower of Christ to demonstrate? James wrote the beta version of the Waiter rule.
My dear friends, don’t let public opinion influence how you live out our glorious, Christ-originated faith. If a man enters your church wearing an expensive suit, and a street person wearing rags comes in right after him, and you say to the man in the suit, “Sit here, sir; this is the best seat in the house!” and either ignore the street person or say, “Better sit here in the back row,” haven’t you segregated God’s children and proved that you are judges who can’t be trusted? Listen, dear friends. Isn’t it clear by now that God operates quite differently? James 2 The Message
But don’t we too often do exactly that? The story in USA Today continues…
The Waiter Rule also applies to the way people treat hotel maids, mailroom clerks, bellmen and security guards. Au Bon Pain co-founder Ron Shaich, now CEO of Panera Bread, says he was interviewing a candidate for general counsel in St. Louis. She was “sweet” to Shaich but turned “amazingly rude” to someone cleaning the tables, Shaich says. She didn’t get the job.
Bad Christian comment….YES. YES. YES. Regular readers of these humble ramblings know that I rarely use the dreaded all caps. But this deserved it. I am sick of people who play the “who are you to judge” card when we are talking about basic civility and manners. If you are uncomfortable telling them they are not living up to Biblical standards how about just lowering the evaluation standard and tell them they are being a jerk by any standard of decency. It is especially important for Christians – and especially those who make a living by being Christian – to be kind and gentle to those who can do nothing for them. I remember thinking how cool I was because I was in a group with a powerful and well known Christian executive. A custodian recognized this man and tried to make conversation. This big time executive blew him off and embarrassed him in front of the group. I will never forget the look in that man’s face. I hope I never forget the look on that man’s face. And I never looked at this powerful leader I had once admired in the same way. Fair? Probably not. But it is honest and it is a reminder of how people are always watching. Being a Christian is like being a parent. Far more is communicated by our actions than our words. And that drives me to my knees.
CEOs who blow up at waiters have an ego out of control, says Dave Gould, CEO of Witness Systems. “They’re saying, ‘I’m better. I’m smarter.’ Those people tend not to be collaborative.”
Such behavior is an accurate predictor of character because it isn’t easily learned or unlearned but rather speaks to how people were raised, says Siki Giunta, CEO of U.S. technology company Managed Objects, a native of Rome who once worked as a London bartender. “Sitting in the chair of CEO makes me no better of a person than the forklift operator in our plant,” she says. “If you treat the waiter, or a subordinate, like garbage, guess what? Are they going to give it their all? I don’t think so.”
If we modeled the Biblical teachings of Jesus in this area our message would be so much more readily received. Instead we too often have the Sunday Morning Massacre of Christians leaving a tract and not a tip. The joke among many wait staff is funny but discouraging.
Waiter: What is the difference between a Christian and a canoe?
Answer: At least a canoe can tip.
A little time spent surfing and I had come up with dozens of stories from frustrated waiters and their Christian customers (note to rapid responders…if this doesn’t fit you just relax. I know that not all Christians are bad tippers). Here is a typical waiter rant talking about a fellow waiter.
Seems he’d had a big top (sixteen or so) of church-going Christians and they tipped him a piece of paper asking him if he’d been saved.
A $90 tab, whiny kids and demanding ****s and for his trouble he got a piece of paper, a piece of paper, essentially, because who the (bleep) is going to see your point of view when instead of honest remuneration (about $18) you give a worthless flap of scold?
I don’t pretend to be someone who spews chapter and verse but I’m pretty sure “Screw thy server” isn’t anywhere in the Good Book.
I can assure this frustrated waiter that screw thy server is not a Biblical concept. Think that is a bitter pagan response? How about this heartfelt plea from a brother in Christ who has witnessed the phenomenon? This is excerpted from a writer named Guy Malone.
There was a glorious Christian concert at the Arena tonight. Everybody was blessed… well, except for the waiters working downtown that is.
I am both a Christian and a Server at a downtown Nashville restaurant. One of the most personally embarrassing ordeals I ever go through at work is when there is a large, highly publicized Christian event, and “my people” come out en masse to eat. Only because I walked into the break-room during a gripe session and found her in mid-sentence, a fellow server asked me an honest and long-deserved question, “Why are religious people the worst tippers?”
It’s true. As a whole, Christians are thought of by restaurant workers to be among the absolute worst tippers of any single identifiable group. Sundays after church, and during events like the one mentioned, Christians go out in large numbers, perhaps unaware of how poorly they are representing the gospel to a very specific and largely “unreached” people group – their servers. This is not a letter from a waiter complaining about how some people tip though; this is a letter from one Christian to others, to inform them of the horrendous damage many of us do to the Christian witness on a regular basis.
Ouch. We should be humble and repentant. I believe in the power of the gospel message. And I am sure that many of the stories from above were from people trying to do the right thing and communicate the hope they had discovered. But may I suggest that the “Good News” is best packaged in generosity. Wrapped with kindness. Adorned with patience. And maybe even while leaving a hefty tip. How are you treating those who serve you? Will you be able to hear the words of Matthew 25? The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’