Tales of Yummy Food, Chefs & Bullying

In the food industry, it has long been a tradition that the rougher the treatment of kitchen staff, the better the food. This mythical storyline, more recently perpetuated through TV shows depicting screaming chefs, legitimized bullying as an accepted practice, a ‘right of passage’ of sorts.

Throwing heavy objects, yelling, public humiliation and swearing are only a few of the typical kitchen behaviours.

According to Britain’s Times Online, the Andrea Adams Trust, a charity dedicated to tackling workplace bullying, “gets more calls from kitchen workers than anybody else”. (for an intriguing history of this legacy, visit the full article)

So, is it possible that culturally-embedded bullying indeed produces world class food?

In the International conference on Workplace Bullying that I recently attended, Ståle Einarsen, the Norwegian world leader in the field, described a little study in which he and some colleagues examined this myth. Some 207 superiors and employees in 70 restaurants were studied for the level of bullying in the kitchen, then compared with rating of their food.

Can you guess what they found?

As it turns out, bullying does not bring about better food. In fact, the best Michelin-rated restaurants demonstrated the least amount of bullying. They also found that “bullying was negatively related to job satisfaction, commitment, employees’ perceptions of creative behaviour, and external evaluations of restaurant creativity level“. It was also “positively related to burnout and intention to leave the job”.

Hmmm… certainly five-star food for thought. Bon apétit!

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