Bernie Goes on a Bender
In the early 1980s, in Atlanta, Georgia, I experienced an important moment of enlightenment about turnover and retention of employees.
I love diners and it is my custom to have breakfast on my way to work. I always eat at the same diner. Over time, I get to know many of the employees, and they get to know me. So it was in Atlanta, during the time I was corporate director of human resources for a prominent hotel company.
One morning, as I walked through the door, Shirley poured my coffee and put in my order. She did not need to ask me; I always had two eggs over easy, with grits, toast, and bacon, crisp. As I took my seat at the counter, I noticed that one of the cooks was not there and had not been working for a few days. So I asked Shirley, “Is Bernie okay?” She replied that he had been absent and had not called in. It was evident that she was worried.
A couple of days later Bernie was back on the line cooking my breakfast. Naturally, I asked what happened. Bernie had gone on a drinking binge (my father would have called it a “bender”) and had finally surfaced in a small town many miles away. Someone from the diner had gone there to bring him home. The other employees were very angry with him. In fact, Shirley was not speaking to him.
This was my dramatic ...