Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Interview with Starbucks' Manager Jamal Magness

This week I decided to interview my manager, Jamal Magness. Let me just say, that Jamal is the best example of how to handle stress. He is by far the most laid back person I have ever met, [and certainly ever worked for]. So I talked to him to find out his secret.

He tells me kind of incredulously that he has been working in the food service business for 12 years. When I asked him how he has stayed sane all those years, he laughed wryly.

“A lot of exercise and a lot of patience; but really the best thing you can do is leave work at work.”

His rule of separating work from his personal life is probably the best advice I know of. I also can attest firsthand to it.

Since Jamal seems so unaffected by the stress that comes naturally with his job, I asked him how he handles conflict in general, and with his superiors, in particular.

He claims he’s been very “lucky,” not to have ever had any interpersonal problems with his managers. At the same time, he says “as long as you are doing the job to the best of your ability, you shouldn’t have conflicts.”

He said that when he has disagreements with his superiors about how things should be done, the only real way to change their minds is to demonstrate how his plan is the better one.

He laughs about “the customer is always right” rule. He says it’s usually a situation where we both end up being 50% right. Both of us will have to compromise.

I asked him to share a funny stress-related story. He brought up one I clearly remember because I was there. This lady who is by no means a regular. The last time she came in had to have been at least a year ago. Our espresso machine was broken, so we couldn’t make a good majority of our drinks. She wanted a double espresso. Her response to our machine malfunctions was to throw a fit. I would like to say that I have never seen an adult behave that way, but unfortunately I have. [Don’t tell anyone, but I’ve
been her once or twice].

“You mean I can’t get my espresso?” When we told her that that was indeed the situation, she started to whine. “I HAVE to have my espresso.”

Jamal handled this with nothing less than aplomb. He was sympathetic. “I’m so sorry,” he said knowing her disappointment.

He said that many customers don’t understand that our job is more than just pouring coffee. They don’t realize the many variables that go into it. If something is off, it won’t be right.

So, how does he respond to this? He often goes above and beyond the call of duty.

“I’m not going to serve you bad coffee,” he says. “These days stuff is expensive, and that is a source of stress.”

That is one thing you don’t have to stress about if Jamal is serving your drink.

c. 2010


  1. I don't work with Jamel but I do see him almost every week day and I must say this truely reflects his personality. I can feel stressed out and come down for my coffee and talk with him for a few minutes and just feel the "screaming meanies" running away. Brooke you think I come just for the caffeine?

  2. I need to meet Jamal. He sounds like one cool cucumber - literally and figuratively! :)

  3. haha. sandra, you are exactly right! glad to be a "haven" for you ;)
    sabrina, "cool cucumber" is a most accurate description of jamal. he is refreshingly laid back. by far the best manager i've ever had! thanks so much for reading & commenting guys!...b

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    1. Thanks so much Jonathan! So glad you liked it. I'll check out the link ;)...b