What the gesture of "catching flies" can say about the entire organization


I visited this chain of cafes regularly. I liked the decor, the arrangement of space, the shelves with books. The idea of free coffee for every book a guest brought was also a hit in my opinion, it built customer loyalty and commitment. Like in many other such facilities, a loyalty card, with every 10th free coffee, fair enough. The cafe's offer consisted of snacks in the form of sandwiches and cakes. I
quickly realized which sandwiches are made on the spot. By asking the staff about the menu composition I know immediately if someone is involved in what he/she does and whether he/she has his/her share in the preparation of dishes. When this is the way the gesticulation is alive, the breath is full, the smile of satisfaction on the face. Yes, people who worked there alternately came at six in the morning and made homemade sandwiches. As a rule, I do not eat sandwiches, but these looked tasty and fresh. The offer of sweets was impressive, especially cakes with cream aroused my admiration. Several times I tried a chocolate-covered cheesecake- delicious. It was during winter time, but then came the spring, and after came the summer. Heat came in with summer, and flies appeared with heat. There were no refrigerated sites or refrigerators in the place. The sandwiches and cakes were lying on the tidy surface, but looking like potatoes in a greengrocer's. I stopped eating the cake, all in all it suited me, I started to limit the consumption of sweets, due to my diet regime, so the flies helped me to maintain discipline. Sandwiches with such solicitude prepared by the staff after a few hours in the heat did not look so fresh any more. Matter of curiosity and concern, I asked whether the owners have any plans for the near future to buy refrigerated sites or refrigerators for easily perishable products. To my surprise, the staff reacted with raised shoulders and unfolded arms, and when I asked again I noticed dropped head and eyes, shaking head from side to side and moving their hand like catching a fly in the air. Interesting I thought, it says a lot about the communication system in the company and about the relations between employees and management. Why do not they put up refrigerated display cases? They save on equipment or on electricity? What must happen to change their policy? Does the board and management of the company not visit its facilities? Does not talk to clients? Or maybe the president should employ incognito there and listen to what clients and employees say?- I thought. I've definitely avoided cakes and snacks, including sandwiches. Only coffee rusks. Rusks were lying on an open pate, but flies missed them with a choice of Parma ham sandwiches, and cream cakes. I also visited other establishments of this network, they were in good points, the staff have to say was friendly. Young girls and boys. I used to work in gastronomy myself, also outside of Poland, during studies, 30 years ago, and I respect this work. Winter tea in different varieties was really tasty, rusks, and oat cookies were also nothing to themselves. Once I came to the cafe really hungry after a long meeting, the sandwiches looked miserable, but it seemed to me that one of the sandwiches looks somehow better, more fresh from others. - It's hard, I thought, I was in a hurry to my choir rehearsal, I was hungry mercilessly. Before I took a bite out of the sandwich, I looked at it closely. The sandwich was cold, the middle ice cold, the soggy roll. Somebody kept the sandwich in the fridge, probably under the freezer in the back. I turned back the sandwich, a knowing look, I was a frequent visitor so there were no problems. Here's what the staff do when the communication fails, and the management is deaf to suggestions and requests, they find their own solutions, not always "kosher" ones.

After some time, none of the staff paid attention to the flies, they were simply repulsed before serving cakes with cream, the employee who made sandwiches from six in the morning disappeared maybe she left the job or went to another establishment of same company that was still trying to keep the standards? Lack of management and management's involvement in the issues raised by the employees translated into lack of commitment and learned ineptitude very fast. The toilets began to resemble these train stations. I have browsed the branches of this network less often. Eventually, what was inevitable happened. Ten people in the hospital, including children. Suspected salmonella. The CEO (he looked to be truly concerned and deeply sad) speaks during a media appearance: One of the suppliers did not keep hygiene standards. - They do not audit suppliers, the first thought crossed my mind. The President's speach seemed useless, the next day there were already twenty people in hospitals, in a moment -thirty and after three days -forty and all over the country. SANEPID (polish sanitary authorities) visited café establishments and found numerous irregularities in the storage of products. The Board has announced to all that they will purchase new refrigerators and refrigerated display shelves, adapted to store food sensitive to high temperatures. Perhaps they will also look better at their suppliers standards, SANEPID probably also visited the toilets and gave some advice in the final report (These are quite expensive reports- they prepare as far as I know). So there is a chance to improve and the coffee chain should stand -up from the crisis.

40 people in the hospitals, probably a hundred or more who have been treated out-patient. Internal and external communication was provided by the media and SANEPID, cheap advertising – no doubt. And a reflection came to me. Wasn’t it enough to visit the premises, and observe the gesture of raising your personnel shoulders, shaking their head from side to side, looking down at their feet, and waving their hand in the air in the “catching flies” gesture of resignation and desperation?

Grzegorz Krowicki

HR and Management Consultant with over 20 years of experience, career coach, and a certified Feldenkrais method practitioner and teacher.