Dear Leila: What To Do About Bad Bosses?

By Leila Wagner |

Whether it’s a fine dining restaurant or a neighborhood dive, restaurants and bars are the back-drop for many of our lives’ most significant (and insignificant) moments. We’re here to let our hospitality expert answer your most vexing questions.

If you’re drowning your sorrows in the bottom of a glass or the bottom of a tip jar, Leila Wagner is here to help sort out your problems. Have a special situation for Leila? Email her already: leila@

This week: Leila dishes out advice to some folks with bad bosses.


Dear Leila,

Our manager steals from the tip pool. I love the job, but this is some BS. What should I do?

Pressured in Portland

Regardless of the details of the situation, my gut reaction is that you should start looking for a new job immediately. Whatever company culture allowed for those types of shenanigans to thrive is probably not one you want to endure or be associated with for a moment longer. Yes, it’s possible that this manager is the single toxic operator in an otherwise pristine work environment. However, I doubt that’s the case, and I doubt it’s worth even another day of having your tips (which allow you to put a roof over your head and experience some kind of livelihood in this otherwise miserable world) compromised by a sticky-handed rogue.
If you are determined to stay (which, again, I really do advise against!) my advice depends on whether this manager is covertly stealing tips from the tip pool or if this is something that is sanctioned by the owner of the establishment. If it’s sanctioned by the owner of the establishment, do some research into the laws regarding tipped employees in your area. Depending on which country or US state you live in, managers receiving tips may be illegal. There have even been successful class action law suits about this very issue in a few states. A quick google search should turn up more info on the laws in your area, and if appropriate you can submit a complaint to the Department of Labor to get the ball rolling.
If the manager is covertly stealing from the tip pool, you probably have a better read than I do on whether alerting the owner would make any difference. I like to believe most good business owners would want to know if their on-site management were secretly stealing other employee’s tips, and would do something to put an end to it. There are so many factors here–does everyone know this is going on; how many people are in on it; how long has this been going on, etc. Whistleblowing can blow up in your face for a variety of factors — if the owner and manager are friends; if the owner thinks you’re a shit-stirrer with no proof; if the owner is a shoot-the-messenger type; if the owner believes in protecting the management at all costs. Then again, it’s OK if it does blow up in your face because you took my initial advice and already have a few job interviews lined up–right?
The bottom line is, we have jobs in order to make money. Loving a job and finding it fulfilling will help with your tips (and your overall happiness). Still, in the absence of monetary compensation for performing that job, what is “loving the job” really worth? This is why you should look for a new job. One where your manager is not stealing your tips. Also, during the interview process it’s not a bad idea to ask questions about the tip structure and what kind of accountability and transparency they have behind that before accepting a job.
Dear Leila,
My owner hired an employee because he’s hot. But this guy is a total, fucking, incompetent prick. It’s hurting my tips and making me work harder. 
Lost in Los Angeles
This one is easy!
Ride him hard on every single point of service, no matter how minuscule, until he wishes he was never born. Once his spirit is broken he’ll either quit and be someone else’s problem or he’ll get his shit together and be an amazing coworker who performs to the highest standards.
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