How to Manage Brewery Employees 101

Posted by Jason Gladfelter, M.A. on April 05, 2013  /   Posted in Craft Brewery Conflict Mediation

How to Manage Brewery Employees 101

So, you have your own craft brewery. A dream come true: you make beer, drink beer, and sell beer all in one setting.  You have a following of beer geeks who like your product.  Feels good, right?  Aside from financing and the occasional equipment hiccup, things seem to be going well.  If only you can get your employees to do their jobs more often, things could really pick up, or at least make life a bit easier.

You are not alone. In the age of smart phones, social media and some sense of entitlement, businesses find that their employees have more on their minds than their duties. This is frustrating for any business, but for a brewery, it’s especially annoying since the brew-house is commonly seen as a laid back, relaxed atmosphere.  But there’s still work to be done, beer doesn’t make itself. How do you motivate employees, keep them on track, and maintain this atmosphere?

Good question.  The quick answer is; “it depends on the situation”, which is true, to a point. Different situations call for unique solutions. People have their own issues, and no two are the same.  Yet, there are some commonalities in these situations. One is the fact that brewers are, for the most part, not managers. They do not have the skills, or desire, to manage people.  They are hard workers and expect the same from their employees. Another commonality is communication, or lack thereof. Human communication is a tricky gig; we each have a communication style that may not mesh well with others’ styles. Combined, these two commonalities make employee management a tough task.

As such, a complete offering of advice is impractical on this blog, but here are a few tips:

–        Keep in mind that people have lives outside of the brewery. Sometimes, distressing situations climb into the workplace, and production suffers.  This is NOT done on purpose. Employees may need assistance, and dismissing or minimizing this distress only complicates the situation

–        Remember what the subject is: work, beer, production. If an employee isn’t watching the temperature on the kettle, what’s the subject?  It’s the kettle temperature.  Say something like, “that temperature needs to be watched closely” rather than “why aren’t you watching the temp?”.  The latter will evoke defensive reaction thereby creating a tension in the relationship

–        It is important to be tolerant for reasons above, but it is also critical to maintain authority and leadership. These come in many forms, and is specific for each brewery and brew team

This advice may seem vague and complicated at the same time, because it is.  Management is never easy, but it certainly can be easier.  It just takes practice and a fundamental understanding of human interactions, communication and your team.  And, of course, there are always options on the table.

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