I stopped by the bakery yesterday and found a bunch of strawberries that weren't mine. I asked my bakery manager if she knew anything about them, and she said that one of my bakers had asked her a few weeks back if he could use the kitchen to make desserts for a friend's wedding. She told him he should ask me. Since he didn't do that, I feel he does not respect me nor his manager, and I no longer trust him.

First of all, I know the first mistake I made was not making this clear as a company policy. However, since my manager did tell him to ask me first and he did not, so I think it was fairly clear that this was something he would need permission for. So the first issue is to let him know he has broken my trust, and he will have to rebuild that if he wants to continue working with me.

So I've decided ultimately my policy is that employees are not allowed to use company facilities for competing businesses. If they want to pursue freelance work on their own time using their own facilities, I'm going to say that's fine. But philosophically, I am expecting my employees to support my company vision, and that includes bringing business in. I feel very comfortable with this decision.

My question is how does trust get rebuilt? Is it even possible? I feel like he's a good guy so I do want to treat him with respect. It's such a complicated issue.

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I think the modt important suestion you have to
ask yourself is: Did i lose my trust completely?
 or just when it comes to this one problem. Whatever 
the answer the fact of the matter remains that trust
is hard to regain once lost. Only time will tell. 

As far as the making of other products, he absolutely should have asked first. There's very little to match that feeling of being betrayed and maybe even a little like he didn't trust you in the first place to even ask. That's frustrating.

To the end of losing completely your trust in him, I think you should ask yourself how to go about regaining that trust in him. If you have in your mind that you will not be able to get it back for a long time, then you will probably not ever return that faith. (Kinda like when people take off a year of college- they rarely go back.) If you feel that the trust will NEVER be restored, then it may be you have to have a different conversation...

Is making desserts for a friend's wedding competing business?  Really? Is his friend is a customer of yours?  That sounds like the extent of your argument, unless he used your product or trashed your kitchen or held up your production.  

Should he have asked you? Totally.  

But I find your "broken trust" comment to be a bit dramatic.  People make mistakes.  You've only mentioned one that this person made in this post.  Are there others?  

The issue isn't complicated at all.  Discuss it with him like an adult.  

"If they want to pursue freelance work on their own time using their own facilities, I'm going to say that's fine. But philosophically, I am expecting my employees to support my company vision, and that includes bringing business in. I feel very comfortable with this decision."


Oh and heads up, since you are in Washington State.  Your philosophy aside, if you have the expectation that your employees will not freelance you need to have a compensated (meaning you pay them money up front)  non comp agreement put in place prior to hiring them.  That's just the law.  They don't need your permission to work somewhere else.  Generally, if you treat people fairly and compensate them appropriately they tend to reciprocate your generosity. Do you pay a commission to your employees for bringing in business? 

Thanks so much for the feedback which has helped me clear my thoughts so that I don't have a destructive conversation with my employee.

I do believe I am a very fair boss. I buy my good staff shoes. I buy everybody lunch. I take them out for drinks. I let them have time off anytime they request it. I take a pay cut so they are sure to keep their same number of hours. My staff is very important to me, which is why when they lie (which this person has just done to his manager) I suppose I take it a little personally. But I know it is just a business, and I hope that I ican rebuild my trust in this person (and it seems him in me) once a clear policy is put into place.

I do have compassion in this situation. I did the exact same thing when I was his age; however I didn't lie about it. I hope he can trust me enough to tell me the truth.


One question you should ask yourself is: why did your employee feel he couldn't ask you for permission to use the kitchen? It's not as simple as "he lied, he went behind my back" there is also the fact that he was comfortable enough to ask his manager, but not you; so this isn't entirely about him.


If he used his own ingredients and did it on his own time, I don't think trust should really be an issue. A simple "Don't do it again without asking" is enough and leave it at that. 

It sounds like you do a lot of good things for your employees.

Is it possible they see you as a friend and not as a boss? It's ok to be friends, but the employees should always see you as a boss first. Being respected should come worlds before being liked. If they don't fear and respect you, then they don't get it. 

Trust has to be earned. In this case it didn't.

Keep in mind that he could have broken health code.

John P said:

If they don't fear and respect you, then they don't get it. 


Certainly there should be respect - and that's IMHO a bi-drectional thing. But fear ? Is is possible that the employee felt fear that prevented him from asking ? At least he was asking his manager. So if the manager was unsure he could have supported the employee when approaching you. It also depends on the employees cultural background. Skipping someone in the line of command and approaching you directly could be a no go for him.

So all in all, I'd take it as an aduld, explain to him your feelings and make clear that there's no problem in asking for permission in case his line manager is not able to tell him.

Bottom line- he used YOUR resources for HIS gain. I would fire him. In my opinion he was trespassing & he committed theft. I have no tolerance for that. My employee & cousin has used my shop in the past to prepare things for cookouts etc. She always asks & compensates for use of electricity  & equipment.

Wow So much negativity!! i dont think you should fired him! Before owning my cafe and catering business i was the Head chef of a fancy restaurant for 5 years. once in a while i was geting catering event and the owner of the restaurant always let my use the kitchen in off restaurant hours! But i was asking!!! Now we sell some Gelato Cake and something employe want to make one for there partener , WEll i sell them the product and they can come in there free time and make it like they like . Fire Him? Dont know ? if he is a good employe (wich are hard to fine ) i say next time just ask?. If he is a bad employe ? Well that just give you a easy open door to fire him.? This is my opinion ,

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