Healthy Family | Home Safety | Health and Wealth | Relationship Issues | Career Advice | Growing Family
Get the SixWise e-Newsletter FREE!
Google Web
Free Newsletter Subscription
Get the Web's Most trusted & Informative Health, Wealth, Safety & More Newsletter -- FREE!


Share Email to a Friend Print This

How We Treat Waiters and Waitresses Says a Lot about Us
by Rachel G. Baldino, MSW, LCSW for

I've written quite a bit about practicing The Golden Rule in our relationships with our loved ones, but in this article, I want to draw the circle a little wider, and emphasize the importance of using The Golden Rule with everyone we encounter in our daily lives, particularly those who provide us with goods and services, such as waiters and waitresses.

For instance, the other day, my good friend and I were having dinner at a popular chain restaurant. The wait staff was clearly having a crazy evening. Orders were getting mixed up, people were running around… and everywhere you looked, tempers were flaring.

When our waiter-who could not have been much older than seventeen-brought us what turned out to be the wrong dinners, he looked as though he might cry. We reassured him that it was okay, these things happen, and we didn't mind waiting a little longer for our meals.

A little later, our young waiter's manager came over to our table to thank us for being so nice to her flustered new staff member. We said not to worry, all would be well; and then the three of us got into a little conversation about how people treat waiters and waitresses.

restaurant waiters

CEOs view the way people treat waiters and waitresses as an indicator of both character and leadership ability.

60-70% Rate of Rudeness

When we asked her how many customers, percentage-wise, are rude or ill-tempered toward their waiters and waitresses, she answered, "In all honesty, I've been working here five days a week for three years, and I'd have to say it's around 60-70%. You have your executives-and wannabe executives-who come in from all the different companies around here, and they seem to think we should view it as our privilege to serve them. They barely look at us, they never smile, and then they leave a dollar tip, if that. It's almost as if they think we are sub-human, and in order to feel important, they have to treat other people badly."

I have to say that my friend and I were shocked and saddened by that 60-70% figure, and I sure hope that it's an exaggeration, for all of our sakes.

But alas, it appears that we are, in fact, getting progressively ruder and ruder-and treating one another more and more shabbily-all the time.

According to, 79% of adults who took part in a survey about rudeness say that "a lack of respect and courtesy in American society is a serious problem," and that the problem has only worsened in recent years.

When asked what they thought is making people ruder, the survey participants cited several issues, including "overcrowding in malls, stadiums and other places. Others said Americans' increasingly busy lives are making them ruder."

In addition, when the survey participants were asked their opinion on the best way to respond to rude people, 36% favored "killing the rude person with kindness," or responding to rude behavior by acting overly polite, while 20% said they prefer to point out a rude person's bad behavior, and 42% simply prefer to walk away from a rude person.

And when put the question of why were are getting ruder to Harvard professor Robert D. Putnam, the author of the landmark sociological book Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community, he attributed this steady increase in rudeness to our ever-growing social isolation. He further believes that the deterioration of what he terms our "social connectedness" has been caused by the rising use of television, automobiles, suburbanization, and other social forces, all of which conspire to push us further apart, rather than drawing us together.

How You Treat Waiters/Waitresses Indicates Leadership Abilities

In a recent USA Today article by Del Jones on how we treat waiters and waitresses, it seems that many CEOs have long relied upon something they refer to as "The Waiter Rule."

CEOs who subscribe to this so-called "Waiter Rule" contend that the way people treat waiters and waitresses is an important indicator, not only of their overall character, but also of their potential to lead and manage effectively.

In other words, according to Jones, who interviewed several company bosses for this article, "They acknowledge that CEOs live in a Lake Wobegon world where every dinner or lunch partner is above average in their deference. How others treat the CEO says nothing, they say. But how others treat the waiter is like a magical window into the soul."

CEOs have found that customers who treat their waiters well tend to make the most effective workplace bosses, in no small part because they are able to coax the most productivity out of their employees, simply by treating them with the respect that they deserve. According to Jones' article, "'How executives treat waiters probably demonstrates how they treat their actual employees,' says Sara Lee CEO Brenda Barnes, a former waitress and postal clerk, who says she is a demanding boss but never shouts at or demeans an employee."


Not only does it feel great to treat wait staff as we wish to be treated, but just think, it makes us CEO material as well!

After all, who among us has not waited tables, or scooped ice cream, or worked a cash register, or asked customers: "Do you want fried with that?"- if not right at this precise moment in our lives, then at some earlier point?

It costs nothing-and yet it feels so darn good-to practice the Golden Rule deliberately and consistently, and to treat everyone we meet with all of the kindness and respect that they are due as our fellow human beings.

Recommended Reading

The Real Friend Test: How to Understand Who Your Real Friends Are

The Unethical but (Mostly) Legal Retail Shopping Tactics of "Devil" Consumers

How To Make All Your Relationships Work


Survey Finds Rudeness Is Getting Worse

CEOs Say How You Treat a Waiter Can Predict A Lot about Character

Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community

About the Author contributing editor Rachel G. Baldino, MSW, LCSW, is the author of the e-book, Loving Simply: Eliminating Drama from Your Intimate Relationships, published in 2006 by, and the print book, Welcome to Methadonia: A Social Worker's Candid Account of Life in a Methadone Clinic, published in 2000 by White Hat Communications.

Her articles have appeared in Social Work Today, The New Social Worker, New Living Magazine, and other publications. After earning her MSW from the Boston College Graduate School of Social Work in1997, she provided counseling services, first at a methadone clinic, and later at an outpatient mental health treatment facility.

Ms. Baldino has been quoted about managing anger in relationships in Kathy Svitil's 2006 book, Calming The Anger Storm, which is part of the Psychology Today Here To Help series. She has also been quoted in such magazines, newspapers and online publications as For Me Magazine, Conceive Magazine, The San Francisco Bay Guardian, The Albany Times Union, The Tallahassee Democrat, Bay State Parent Magazine,,,, The Newhouse News Service, and Indianapolis Woman. She lives with her husband and children in Massachusetts.

To get more information about this and other highly important topics, sign up for your free subscription to our weekly "Be Safe, Live Long & Prosper" e-newsletter.

With every issue of the free newsletter, you’ll get access to the insights, products, services, and more that can truly improve your well-being, peace of mind, and therefore your life!

Share Email to a Friend Print This