Communication Case Study 2

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    Case Study 2 Inconsistent Messages from Irma and Garland

    Consistent Communication as a Motivator

    One common complaint employees voice about supervisors is inconsistent messages meaning one supervisor tells them one thing and another tells them something different. Imagine you are the supervisor/manager for each of the employees described below. As you read their case, give consideration to how you might help communicate with the employee to remedy the conflict. Answer the critical thinking questions at the end of the case then compare your answers to the Notes to Supplement Answers section.

    Irma is the assistant manager for a family owned restaurant and her counterpart in the evenings or on weekends she has off is Garland. Garland and Irma have distinct management styles but each seems to get the job done, but in a different way. Irma tends to be a by the book kind of gal and will strictly enforce all policies and procedures with all employees, no exceptions. On the other hand, Garland is more laid back and doesnt mind flying by the seat of his pants.

    The restaurant has a big event coming up for the weekend. It is an 80th birthday party for Grandma Smith and the Smith family has reserved the large party room to accommodate the 150 guests they are expecting. Irma will be working the event on Saturday but has the day off on the Friday before and Garland will be working.

    On Friday, the day before the event, Leroy Smith calls into the restaurant to make sure everything is set and talks with Cora, the hostess for the day. Leroy reminds Cora that they will be bringing in their own birthday cake so they will need plates and forks for serving it. He explains a good friend of the family will be making the cake and bringing it over.

    Cora remembers something Irma told her about not bringing in outside food so she relays the message and her concern to Garland. Garland pats Cora on the shoulder and tells her not to worry, its only a birthday cake and we wouldnt want to ruin Grandma Smiths birthday followed by, you know how uptight Irma can get at times. Cora is confused and doesnt know what to do; shes worried about what might happen when Irma comes in tomorrow. So, she persists and asks Garland if he wants her to call Leroy back and tell him he can not bring the cake. Given the closeness of the event and what Garland believe is a silly rule anyway (no outside food allowed in the restaurant), Garland brushes off Coras concern and again tells her not to worry.

    The next day, Cora comes to work, although she would rather have called in sick knowing that Irma will likely be upset with the cake situation. Cora and Irma are scrambling to get set up for the 80th

  • Communication Case Study #2.docx 2

    birthday party when a woman arrives with a large cake and proceeds to march through the dining room into the kitchen. Cora follows her and puts it into the walk-in cooler noting the delicious looking custard frosting. Irma sees Cora and asks what shes doing. Cora indicates its the cake for the birthday party and that the friend of the family who made it, just delivered it. Irma blows up, What do you mean she just dropped off the cake for the party?

    You know we dont let people bring in any food from the outside. Cora is mortified, and states, Garland told me yesterday they could bring the cake in since it was so close to the event and we couldnt get a cake made in time for them.

    A follow-up to the story: A few days after the event, Garland gets a call from Leroy Smith. Leroy states over half of the party goers have come down with food poisoning and he is sure it was the food they ate. Garland tries to respond intelligently and states he will look into it.

    A week later Garland learns the cake was the culprit. Some left over cake had been served to friends not attending the party and they became ill also. The cake contained a custard frosting and had not been properly refrigerated prior to delivery to the restaurant.

    Given the scenario above, consider the following critical thinking questions.


    1. What effects do inconsistent messages by supervisors have on employees?

    2. What solutions might be considered in addressing the problem described in the case?

    3. What Standard Operating Procedures would be helpful for the operation to implement and enforce?

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    Notes to Supplement Answers:

    1. Inconsistent messages by supervisors can affect employee job performance, morale, and motivation. Employees are uncertain of the expectations when they receive mixed messages from supervisors. In Coras case, she did not know how to proceed or what to do. She was concerned and did not want to show up for work the next day.

    2. Potential solutions to the problems presented in the case:

    a. Provide orientation and training to supervisors and managers regarding the importance of consistent communication to employees and between managers.

    b. Help employees understand why communication might be different among supervisors/managers, for example distinct management styles.

    c. Strive for consistent communication with employees by implementing communication tools including brief manager/supervisor meetings, communication notebooks, and use of technology (ie. computers, texting, cell phones).

    3. Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) serve as the written documentation of best practices and serves as the framework for organizational policy and structure. SOPs identify the who, what, why, when, and how of foodservice practices for employees. Part of the supervisors role is to assure SOPs are in place, communicated to employees, and followed. For this case, three helpful SOPs would:

    a. Visitors in the Kitchen: When the women arrived with the cake, she could have been welcomed and relieved of the cake so that Cora could take it back into the kitchen. A copy of this SOP is attached or found at: .

    b. Outside Food. The birthday cake came from an outside source; it was not purchased by or prepared at the restaurant. Ingredients and storage requirements are not known. Therefore, having an SOP Outside Food is helpful. A copy of this SOP is attached or found at: .

    c. Responding to a Foodborne Illness Complaint: Garland did not know how to respond when Leroy called about the potential foodborne illness outbreak. Having a policy and procedures on handling these complaints and informing employees and supervisors/managers are important. A copy of this SOP is attached or found at: .

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    Standard Operating Procedure

    Visitors in the Kitchen

    Policy: Visitors in the kitchen are kept to a minimum, and when visitors are present, they must adhere to the food safety practices followed in the kitchen.

    Procedure: Employees and managers must:

    1. Limit the access of visitors in the food production areas. 2. Provide hair restraints for all visitors to the food production areas. 3. Ask all visitors to wash their hands following the foodservice operations procedures.

    The restaurant employees and restaurant manager will:

    1. Post signs to inform all visitors of the following procedures: Limited access to restaurant production areas Location of and proper use of hair restraints Location and proper use of handwashing sinks.

    2. Observe to ensure that procedures for visitors are followed. 3. Monitor visitors in kitchen.

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    Standard Operating Procedure

    Food from Outside Sources

    Policy: Managers must be informed and approve all foods brought by a customer for consumption in the restaurant, a birthday cake made at home. Customers bringing food into the restaurant for consumption must complete an Outside Food Request Form that identifies where the food was prepared, the use of any common allergen, and name and address of the food preparer. Any foods brought into the restaurant for onsite consumption must be in ready-to-eat form.

    Procedure: Employees receiving a customers inquiry about bringing in food from an outside source must contact the manager on duty. The manager will handle all special requests.

    The restaurant manager will:

    1. Ensure the consumer completes the Special Food Request Form prior to delivery of the product. 2. The Special Food Request Form identifies the product, key ingredients and use of common

    allergens, storage requirements, service needs, and location of product production or vendor name. The manager reserves the right to deny the request based on information provided and restaurant needs. For instance, the manager might perceive service of this product poses a high risk for foodborne illness and/or the restaurant may not be able to provide needed storage space or service.

    3. The manager will communicate approval or denial to the customer within 48 hours of the request submission.

    4. The manager reserves the right to deny any previously approved request should information about the product delivered be inconsistent with the product information provided.

    5. The manager will communicate necessary handling instructions to production, storage and/or service staff.

    6. The restaurant is not liable for any contamination of the product or any illness to customers who consume the food.

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    Date of Request: ___________________

    Customer/Group: _________________________________________________________

    Contact Person: __________________________________________________________

    Address: ________________________________________________________________

    Telephone: ________________________ E-mail: _________________________

    Name of Event: ___________________________________________________________

    Day and Date: _____________________ Time: __________________________

    Number in Party: ___________________

    Product(s): ______________________________________________________________

    Key Ingredients:__________________________________________________________


    Common Allergens: ___ Eggs ___ Soybeans

    ___ Milk ___ Wheat Products

    ___ Peanuts ___ Seafood

    ___ Tree nuts (walnuts, almonds, etc.) ___ Shellfish (shrimp, lobster, etc.)

    Storage Requirements: _____________________________________________________


    Service Instructions: _____________________________________________________


    Vendor/Source: ___________________ Telephone of Vendor/Source: _____________

    Address of Vendor/Source: _________________________________________________

    I assume responsibility for any contamination of the product or any illness to customers (my guests) who consume the food described above.

    Signature: _________________________

    Outside Food Request Form

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    Manager Use Only

    Potentially hazardous ingredients and common allergens: _________________________


    Customer Notified: ___ Yes ___ No Request Approved: ___ Yes ___ No

    Liability Communicated: ___ Yes ___ No Staff Involved Notified: ___ Yes ___ No

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    Standard Operating Procedure

    Responding to a Foodborne Illness Complaint

    Policy: All restaurant employees will respond to a complaint of a foodborne illness promptly and will show concern for the individual making the complaint.

    Procedure: When a complaint is received related to a foodborne illness, employees will:

    1. Indicate concern for the individual and let that person know that the complaint will be referred to the restaurant manager.

    2. Contact the restaurant manager if she/he is onsite. 3. If the restaurant manager is not on site write down the information about the complaint using

    the Foodborne Illness Incident Report.

    The restaurant manager will:

    1. Talk with the individual making the complaint. Get basic information required to complete the Foodborne Illness Incident Report.

    2. Try to resolve the complaint in house. 3. Remove all food from service. Store suspected food item in refrigerator in separated, dated

    container labeled DO NOT EAT. 4. If a foodborne illness outbreak is suspected call the local Health Department to report the

    possibility of an outbreak and obtain assistance with the foodborne illness investigation. 5. Document:

    a. Symptoms b. Names and phone numbers and address of customers and employees affected c. Physicians names and phone number

    6. Work with the media should they become involved.

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    Foodborne Illness Incident Report

    Date Occurred: ________________ School:_______________________

    Time/Meal: _______________

    Childs Name: _____________________________________

    Parents Name: _____________________________________

    Address: ___________________________________________

    Telephone number: __________________________________

    Physician contact information : _______________________

    Health Dept. contact Name & Date: _____________________

    Suspected Food Item(s) & Manufacturers Product Information:






    Summary of Incident:




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    Bag, label, date, and indicate current storage location of food:



    Supervisor Signature: ____________________ Date: __________________________

    Results of Investigation: