Yesterday was the last day of my summer job. I was working as a waitress-bartender in a small Cuban bar for a minimum wage. It was my first job and I am grateful to the owners – they taught me everything I know about making cocktails and ‘mixology’. However, I am so glad to be out of there. I think I learned a very important lesson working for these people – people with power over others can get carried away easily. Everything depended on the mood of my boss – when he was in a good mood, he talked to me like he was my teacher, tried to share with me his knowledge of how he became an owner from a simple bartender boy. However, when his mood was not as cheerful, he would find how to shout at me or my co-workers, how to insult us. He would gladly talk about how I don’t think rationally, how I don’t understand the way the world works, how I will rot working in a lab earning even less money than I did at the bar. He was the one paying me money so he acted as my owner not just a boss. A few times I grew tired of his insults so I talked back to him just protecting my name not insulting him back. It didn’t work, I don’t really think he listened. So I learned to listen with an emotionless face. I think that scared him a little bit. Or maybe my face was not as emotionless as I thought. People tend to say, that I look angry when I don’t even notice that.
A few days before I left, the cleaning lady/kitchen helper didn’t show up to work. She was a friend of mine so I texted her, was everything ok. She texted me back, that she had some heart problems and was going to the doctor later that day. My phone was standing on a small table were all the waitresses put their stuff. My boss saw my phone light up when the text message came and he saw who it was from. He came to me shouting, that I shouldn’t have business with other co-workers if they start skipping their duties. I said that I just asked her if everything was alright. He shouted that it is not my business and asked me what the cleaning lady answered and would she have a doctors note for this. I said that she was going to a doctor and he left me alone for a while. Then he came back to lecture me that I am naive and stupid to believe that everyone is telling the truth and that by showing my authorities that I actually don’t despise the cleaning lady (the boss and his wife really don’t like her, they blame her for not doing tasks that I see her do everyday…) I prove them of being not loyal. At the end he just told me that people are never equal, she is a cleaning lady because she didn’t have aspirations in life and because she didn’t work hard enough to reach for something more. And that is her fault. Why others should help her now?.. I just nodded and got back to work. Yes, this was the hateful part of my boss, probably he was not accepted by his friends in school or abused by his father. Otherwise it’s really hard for me to understand that anger for others, that deep necessity to be better than others… Anyway, after our little ‘discussion’ I found out that during lunch time (when the whole bar is crowded with people) I will have to wash the dishes and boss’s wife will be in my place. This wasn’t the way I imagined a waitress’s work, but I didn’t argue. After that I got some more assignments – to clean the bathroom’s sink, to sweep the floor and even to clean some waste from the repairing of the sinks (macroflex, if you heard of it), that stuck to the skin of my hands and took two days to peal off (the boss gave me some gloves but they were with holes and helped only a little bit).
My normal duties were very broad – from just regular waitress-bartender stuff like attending customers, making cocktails, taking orders, cleaning the bar’s surfaces and etc. to carrying heavy tables every Friday to the kitchen (the tables didn’t fit through the doors, so we had to lift them in a very uncomfortable way) and carrying them out on Mondays or cleaning up after the boss (if he makes himself a drink in the bar, he always leaves every utensil he used dropped anywhere he liked at the moment). I did everything the boss or his wife asked me. But maybe I crossed the line where I should have just stood up for myself and said “no”? How much do I have to sell myself? Yes, I needed a job, but I didn’t need it so desperately. They could have fired me for not obeying and the other employers would know that I was disrespectful, lazy or something similar. And shouldn’t I defend my co-worker if she is falsely blamed?
I know that a lot of people deal with this. And I am definitely sure that my boss was not as terrible as many others are. So the society forces us to obey, nothing new. If your job is important to you, you cannot overthrow your boss’s power. You depend on him.
I’m glad that some people don’t get lost in authority and still act as human beings with their employees. I promise to myself, if it happens to be that I get some power over other people, I will resist becoming a monster as much as I can. It’s easy to get used to let out your anger on the people who are “below” you when they can’t fight back. And it is hard not becoming too soft when your employees will start to use you as a weakling, so it is easy to “overdo” trying to be authoritative.
Can I change my boss? No. But I can change my own opinion about leadership. I hope that if my next boss is similar to the first one, I will do better dealing with him the same way as with others who channel their anger on innocent people – don’t give them the pleasure by becoming a victim, by letting them put you down. I will still stand for others and, yes, naively hope that they would stand for me as well. Maybe they won’t, maybe they will, but I will be able to feel not as a worthless sold-out but more as a truthful person. I know that people have reasons for their actions, some maybe are similar, some different. But having a reason doesn’t make you innocent of your crimes. You can understand others, know that they are just weak, trying to defend themselves, but it is hard to forgive.
Where do you put the line between your values and obeying?
Finally free and jobless,