A Lesson in Professionalism : Tinder Syndrome & Playing the Long Game
Have you all read Aziz Ansari’s book? (yes, I swear this is a post about coffee)
Well, if you haven’t, you should. It exceeded my (admittedly low) expectations and I found a correlation to modern dating and the modern barista.
Let’s talk about Tinder. Mr. Ansari talks about Tinder in a way that makes a lot of sense to me. You swipe quickly through faces, having little-to-no emotional connection to them. That’s fine, as long as you’re taking it for what it is. Want some companionship for the night? Great. Want someone to spend time with for a little while but not anything serious? Great. Want a long term relationship? Well, maybe Tinder isn’t the place for you.
The point that Mr. Ansari illustrates is this. What if instead of going on 5 new Tinder dates, you go on 5 dates with the same person? The first date is fun, kind of exciting, but doesn’t blow your mind. You feel awkward, you’re unsure how much of yourself to share with this new person. You ask them out on a second date. Things are a little less awkward, you have slightly more of a rapport with this person, and have a previous experience to reference. Date #3 builds on BOTH previous dates, so there’s even more to go on. Things get a little deeper and you start to feel an emotional connection with this other human. There’s still a chance it’s not for you; a chance that one or both of you isn’t into it. However, when you go on 5 dates with one person you ultimately get deeper into your relationship rather than just going on 5 awkward, fumbly (if Trump can say ‘bigly’ I can say ‘fumbly’), not very emotionally satisfying first dates. There’s also a ‘greater risk, greater reward’ idea. If you invest time and emotional energy into this other person you work toward a deeper and more emotionally satisfying relationship, which could then result in a long term partner (if that’s what you want).
This all brings me to my point.
I feel like baristas are playing ‘coffee shop tinder’. They seem to be shopping around for the prettier, more exciting, more stimulating, or more intriguing coffee company to work for. The one that most recently ended up on someone’s arbitrary ‘best of’ list. The one with the best branding or prettiest equipment. Once they think they’ve ‘found it’ they go on one date, and then they bounce. They don’t stick it out because it loses the shiny glamour. The lust disappears, but instead of embracing the love and attachment, they leave for the feeling of lust again.
But then these same baristas say they’re looking for a ‘career’. A stable job that promises growth and development. Let me break down some of the mystique for you:
I’m also looking for that.
People seem to think that because I own something my life is simple and decided. I’ve been on dates #5-infinity with Amethyst, and I’m pretty much married to it now. There’s a beautiful freedom in being on this side of commitment, but I’m playing the ultimate long game. I don’t often wish my job on anyone. There’s a lot of sleepless nights, anxiety, frustration, and fear. Most of the time I’m hanging on by a thread. I’m not upset about it, and I’m slowly coming to understand the ups and downs, but there are certainly days where I want my old mentality back. There are days that I wish I could pick up and move, join the Peace Corps, tour with a band, backpack through Europe, and all of those other things I used to dream about.
But, most days, I have what I want. I have something to pour all of my love and creative energy into, rather than giving some here and some there. I have something that I’m proud of and that I’m happy to continue investing in. I have a job where I can take ‘vacations’ (I say that loosely at this stage in the game) from and come back to totally psyched about. I don't have these things solely because I own Amethyst, I have these things because I've made an emotional investment in Amethyst. As an owner, I could walk away. I could sell it, I could decide I want to own it but not be involved. I don't want that. I want to be in it. I want to love it with all that I've got, and that's a decision I've made as a person, not as an owner. My staff is a great example of this. They know I'll give them the space and time they need when they need it, but they generally come back ready to work. When I ask them to show up, they show the fuck up. Their love and commitment is exceptional, but I'm fully aware that they are the anomaly, not the norm.
I wish 22-year-old me had thought about this. I left a job that had a lot to offer me for the bigger, prettier, shinier thing. It turned out to be the right decision for me, but it shows two things. First, it shows that this idea just needs to be talked about. I never care if someone disagrees with me, I'm just happy to hear people talking about these topics. The second thing is that there needs to be a certain exchange with employers to make this work.
Employers need to communicate their plans for the future. Do you feel like someone is great at training and would make a great staff trainer? Put the bug in their ear for when that position becomes available. Don’t make promises you can’t keep, because no one knows how things will eventually shake out, but don’t be too secretive, either. It’s a tricky balance, but a really important one. The workplace is an exchange between employees and employers. No one is doing anyone any favors, but everyone is working toward a common goal : building a successful business.
What I’m saying is that I’d like for more people to treat their barista jobs with a little more emotional integrity. It’s a risk. It may work or it may not, but at least you actually tried rather than bailing when you found something ‘cooler’. I’ve never worked a conventional ‘office job’, but it seems to me they work pretty similarly. You start out as an unpaid intern for 6 months to a year, do a great job and get offered an entry level position. You show up every day and do your job well for 2 years and then get promoted when a position becomes available, work for a couple more years doing that, and get promoted again, or get an offer from a different company. That doesn’t seem like a crazy trajectory to me, but for some reason baristas who plan on staying on the retail side don’t see the longevity in their chosen ‘career’.
In a previous post I outlined how it feels when someone quits. It sucks. It hurts. It can be hard as an employer to understand when someone is leaving for a job that fits them better, and that is not the situation I’m talking about. In order for our industry to move forward, baristas need to think about the long game. Do you want a one night stand or a long term relationship? A fun fling or a partner? There’s nothing wrong with either, but you have to understand the impact that you have. It’s much bigger than you might think.