The Waiter Rule: A Window to Personality

'The Waiter Rule,' Interpersonal Skills - How you treat a waiter can predict a lot about character

Window to An Individual’s Personality

This article in USA Today says that how one treats a waiter can predict a lot about the person’s character.

The article quotes Raytheon CEO Bill Swanson and Sara Lee CEO Brenda Barnes.

A person who is nice to you but rude to the waiter, or to others, is not a nice person. Watch out for people who have a situational value system, who can turn the charm on and off depending on the status of the person they are interacting with. Be especially wary of those who are rude to people perceived to be in subordinate roles.

How executives treat waiters probably demonstrates how they treat their actual employees. Sitting in the chair of CEO makes me no better of a person than the forklift operator in our plant. If you treat the waiter, or a subordinate, like garbage, guess what? Are they going to give it their all? I don’t think so.

“The Waiter Rule”

'The Waiter Rule,' Interpersonal Skills -- How you treat a waiter can predict a lot about character We presume each person’s influence is a function of his/her rank or title. Consequently, we may fail to treat everybody as we wish to be treated.

All of us, especially the ones from the service and hospitality industries, have our favourite stories of people who treated us with dignity: perhaps a manager who remembers her employees’ kids’ names or a fellow-passenger who helped us handle luggage on a flight. We also have our tales of people being indifferent in various contexts: perhaps a new secretary who got yelled at for mistakes by an executive-on-fast-track.

Fundamentally, the ‘Waiter Rule’ indicates that how we treat seemingly insignificant people, whether on a date or a job interview, can provide pointers to our personality and priorities.

Call for Action

Contemplate the following:

  • 'The Waiter Rule:' how you treat a waiter can predict a lot about character, Consider your own experiences when you were touched by others–their thoughtfulness or consideration. How did you return their kindness? Additionally, think about circumstances when you felt disrespected or discouraged. How did you react?
  • Now, reflect on how you treat people: your loved ones, your staff and colleagues, ushers, store attendants, and the rest of the people you interact with everyday. Do you accept who they are and accommodate their concerns? Are you generous? Do you treat them as people or as a means to an end? How can you change?


  1. says

    Very good article. As a waiter, I can attest to the validity of this rule. A restaurant is an excellent place to meet with a potential employer – you will really get to see how they will treat you as an employee down the road.

    I have also noticed that those who are mindful of affording respect to strangers tend to have stronger character, are more honest, and generally happier people.

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