I haven’t been a big fan of the recent trend of bar pros taking a break from work in favor of other more lucrative careers. And now, I’m being asked to sympathize with them.

On a personal level, I cannot imagine what it is like to be sidelined from the world of bars because of an injury. As a bartender, it is important to understand that there are certain things that can happen in the course of a shift that will leave even the strongest of individuals undone—and possibly unable to continue their career. As a result, many bartenders will take little to no time off from work to avoid the stress of relocating their lives for work.

In the past, they’ve been called the “working poor”, the “working poor”, the “working poor”. And, the ever-popular “working poor”. The number of older Americans who are unemployed has been increasing for over three decades, at a rate that could only be described as alarming.. Read more about liquor newsletter and let us know what you think.

As pubs and restaurants reopen, proprietors are having difficulty filling positions. Camila Ramos, the owner of Miami’s All Day eatery, told The New York Times in April, “I couldn’t find anyone to employ.” According to a Bloomberg story published last month, more than half of U.S. hospitality professionals do not want to return to their previous positions.

Why is it so difficult to persuade employees to return?

Aside from urgent concerns such as health hazards, poor income, and a lack of benefits, several hospitality workers are hesitant to return to their previous positions owing to a lack of empathy in the industry.

“We’re expected to be sympathetic towards our customers as [front-of-house] employees,” says Ben Wald, Yuco’s director of bar programming. “So, for ownership or management to turn around and not have the same degree of empathy is simply wrong, particularly now.”

Wald quit a corporate bartending position because, in order to deal with his stressful work environment, he developed an unhealthy connection with alcohol. He claims he was once chastised for asking time off too far in advance, that he had to wait until the week before his desired dates to find out whether he could go, and that he was blamed for bar problems unrelated to his position while gone.

This event influenced the way he thinks about employment opportunities.

“When I was looking for a new position, I inquired about the significance of work-life balance, how far out schedules would be published, the process for time-off permission, and professional growth goals,” Wald explains.

Ben Wald bartender YucoLawrence Whitten photographed Ben Wald, a bartender at YUCO in New York City.

Alex Jump works in the hotel industry, but he’s been in similar circumstances before.

“I was a bar manager in my early 20s, and there was a sudden death in my family that required me going out of town for a week,” says Jump, now the head bartender of Death & Co Denver and host of the podcast Focus on Health. “When I returned from the trip, the owner of the restaurant sat me down and told me that my actions were not representative of a person in mourning, and that my trip with my family had burdened everyone else at the restaurant.

“I doubt this discussion would have happened at all if this owner had empathized with what my family was going through and how we decided to grieve this loss,” Jump adds.

Would a shift in workplace dynamics help to alleviate workforce shortages in the hospitality industry? While greater pay and benefits are critical, several academics, mental health specialists, and hospitality employees think that empathy may help the sector grow and thrive.

Empathy: An Introduction

Empathy, according to Carl Rogers, a psychologist and author of Client-Centered Therapy (1951) and On Becoming a Person (1961), is seeing the world through the eyes of others rather than seeing your own world mirrored in theirs.

To be empathetic, Rogers said, you must be really interested in the people around you. The word is often mistaken with compassion, which refers to being affected or aware of another person’s feelings. Empathy, on the other hand, requires strong, real emotional bonds.

While greater pay and benefits are critical, others think that empathy may help to build a more sustainable business.

It’s also become a buzzword in the business world.

Dr. Helen Riess, founder and CEO of Empathetics Inc., states, “Businesses have grabbed on to the term because they are aware that it is a human need and ability that is essential for a successful company and society.” She’s also the author of The Empathy Effect and an associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School.

“The most common misunderstanding about empathy is that it entails giving in to whatever others say they want rather than knowing what they really want and need,” she adds.

For its annual State of Workplace Empathy Study, Businessolver, a SaaS-based benefits technology company, polls CEOs, human resource professionals, and other workers from six sectors and four generations.

According to the findings of the 2021 study, just one out of every four workers thinks their company is adequately compassionate.

In the research, there are a lot of hierarchical differences in perceptions. Only 58 percent of workers think their boss freely addresses mental health problems, compared to 86 percent of CEOs.

At the Bar, Empathy

Group dynamics at bars may be complex. The crew engages with each other and their customers to create a pleasant experience while providing food and beverages. In the meanwhile, tourists engage with the staff and, on occasion, other visitors.

Whether you’re a food runner, general manager, first-time visitor, or bar regular, empathy will be at the heart of all this communication in a healthy atmosphere.

Typically, the tone is established from the top down.

“In my view, being sympathetic as a leader fosters a culture of understanding and ‘safe places’ for staff,” says Taylor Duggan, beverage director for Skopos Hospitality Group in New Jersey. “It enables us to get at the core reason of why a team member may or may not be performing up to expectations in a manner that is productive and re-creatable,” says the author.

She gives the example of a manager who notices a dirty bar during service and positively confronts the bartender after closure.

“Fixing something in the middle of a service is reactive, and you may inadvertently approach the issue negatively,” adds Duggan.

She recommends asking empathetic questions such, “What can we do to help you become a cleaner worker?” Do you find yourself feeling overwhelmed during worship? If so, what’s the reasoning behind it? Could we provide you with extra or alternative training to assist you in feeling less overwhelmed?

Duggan thinks that when it comes to visitors, empathy implies engaging everyone with an open mind.

“It’s about having a discussion to make a visitor feel comfortable and welcome, and then finding a method to improve their experience for that moment,” Duggan adds. “You can’t accomplish that unless you pay attention to their needs, which are communicated both verbally and physically.”

In bars, there are many scenarios that require empathy. A client may be concerned about another group’s disregard for mask requirements, while a bartender might find it difficult to keep up with their colleagues’ fast work. Each issue has the potential to develop into a fight, or it may be handled peacefully if everyone practices empathy.

One bartender may be reassigned to a slower shift or get extra training from the management. They may even intervene gently to suggest that a visitor wear a mask on behalf of the institution.

Empathy and Achievement

Even the most well-intentioned bargoers or hospitality workers have challenges when it comes to effectively practicing empathy.

According to Riess, “research indicates that empathy is greatest for individuals who are the most like us… for people who have suffered in comparable ways, and for people who have a same goal.”

Empathy and compassion, on the other hand, may be taught. According to Claire Cain Miller of The New York Times, they are learned talents rather than inherent characteristics. “People may take efforts to recognize their prejudices and go beyond their own worldviews to attempt to comprehend those held by others.”

Hunt and Alpine Club bar MainePortland, Maine’s Hunt + Alpine Club / Photo by Peter Frank Edwards

When visitors and employees at the bar feel noticed and actively listened to, they almost instantly share a richer, more useful set of information with the rest of the group. Bar managers and other leaders must promote this practice in order to guarantee that it is followed on a regular basis, as well as to recruit and train personnel appropriately.

According to Riess, “empathic leaders will recognize what impacts the pulse of their companies.” “It is one of the most essential characteristics of great leaders, as well as one of the most difficult to come by.”

She thinks that throughout the interview process, bar owners and operators should ask the appropriate questions to assess if prospective managers would build compassionate workplaces.

“Asking the person how they would respond to some typical conflict that arises in the bar industry with coworkers, patrons and outside authorities will provide some insight into whether they are able to take the perspective of others, or whether they are quick to form judgments, become defensive, or have a lack of curiosity about what may be going on for the other person,” says Riess.

Good leaders, she claims, will motivate their employees by addressing what matters to them and establishing environments that make people feel important and valued.

“Listen to your employees, and most importantly, actually listen, rather than listening while formulating answers to their remarks,” Jump advises. “Creating a secure environment where employees feel valued boosts team morale and productivity.”

With empathic leaders at the helm, bars and restaurants can become safer, more sustainable workplaces. Many workers say that bars like Death & Co, Portland Hunt + Alpine Club, Smuggler’s Cove, and those within Skopos Hospitality Group have created positive environments for them to prosper and succeed. It’s a sign of growth in an industry struggling to re-emerge and evolve.

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