It’s Only Work

Posted on Thursday 6 November 2008

Remember the first time you were fired? How it wasn’t really your fault until the boss decided it was? How it felt so very, very personal, and you felt completely worthless and wondered if you would ever work again? How much it sucked?

Good thing I live 2,000 miles away from RG Daughter. Because a certain restaurant owner would surely suffer the wrath of a mama bear. Or not. This is, I suspect, the first of many adult, real-life experiences RG Daughter must suffer on her own, when I can only be there as a supportive parent, not a proactive one.

I wrote about RG Daughter’s new restaurant gig only a couple of months ago–the 60-hour weeks, the 16-hour days. “When school starts, I really have to cut back my hours,” RG Daughter kept reminding the owners, who assured her they understood. It’s her senior year at a tough school. She’s a Type A personality who demands the best from herself. She knows her limits and refuses to let work or school suffer. And she was very clear with the owners when she was hired that eventually, but only temporarily, she’d have to focus more on school than on serving food and micro-brewed beer.

Problem is, the owners mostly ignored this important fact about the youngest and least experienced employee they had hired, but to whom they gave incredible responsibilities and from whom they expected the most. Because she is one smart kid and an ace with front-of-the-house sales and service and back-office organization and systems. The owners were not blind; they recognized her talents right away.

We need you behind the bar as our lead bartender, they told her after a week. We need you to write the training manual for new hires, they told her after two. We need you to help represent us at a national restaurant event, they told her after three. What do you know about this and can you also do that, they continued to ask her in all the next weeks.

They finally allowed her to cut back to three shifts a week, and this was okay until yesterday. A last-minute paper assignment and a midterm scheduled on the same day along with a grueling pile of other work looming through early December sent her into a panic. She tried to get her shift covered. No one would take it. She pleaded her case to her professor, asking for a one-day’s extension on the paper. Sorry, no can do. So she went to work and figured she’d pull an all-nighter on the paper, but she explained to the owners that she needed to cut back to two shifts a week until school lightened up in December, and then she could work as much as they needed her through January.

What RG Daughter didn’t know was that the owners had just had a meeting in which they discussed their desire to only keep full-time staff members who worked 5 to 6 shifts a week. Thus, her request fell on the deaf ears of an owner who had previously only showered her with praise. Which she could have dealt with had he not followed up with the following barbed question: “Are you sure this is about school and not some new boyfriend you want to see more of?”

RG Daughter was taken aback. She doesn’t have a new boyfriend–or an old one, for that matter. She just wanted to cut back on her shifts for the next five weeks.

Throughout the unexpectedly busy evening during which she had to act as sole bartender and server, the owner hounded her about anything and everything. “You’re flirting with your regulars and letting other guests wait too long,” he said in the first hour. “You let that guy sit too long at the bar without taking his order,” he said in the second hour. “You have to get to the floor faster and not just hang behind the bar,” he said in the third hour. “I think we’ll do a thorough kitchen cleaning tonight and you’ll have to stay an extra hour or two,” he said in the fourth hour, knowing her situation.

“I’m taking you off the schedule for good,” he told her in the fifth hour. “As for coming back, I guess we’ll just have to see.”

And with that, RG Daughter ended a job that she had hoped to keep and in which she had wanted to grow for as long as the owners would allow her to, with an eye toward micro-brew marketing and sales and opening a second restaurant with these owners when she graduated.

Which leads to the very adult lesson we all eventually learn, often many times over: It’s only work. No one is indispensable at work. Nothing is certain for long at work. It’s only work.

When I voluntarily left my most recent restaurant job in order to write full time for the next few months, I had hoped to at least be asked to stay on. I offered to help out anytime and had hoped my GM would at least acknowledge that. Instead, he bid me farewell with a succinct “very well” and easily assigned my duties to someone else.

It’s only work, RG Daughter. And work will never define you or validate the essence of your incredible talent and strength.

If and when you land a job for which you can’t wait to wake up and go to every day–a job that both challenges and excites you–where the boss knows that sucking up his/her own bad mood and being a staff cheerleader and motivator works far more wonders than being Darth Vader and wielding a dark and oppressive stick–then you will have more at work than most of us experience in a lifetime. I have had one such restaurant manager in D.C., and I hope someday to work with him–or someone like him–again.

And knowing you as I do, beloved daughter, you will find exactly that. In fact, you’ll probably be that manager–or more likely, that business owner.

15 Comments for 'It’s Only Work'

  1.  
    L.
    November 6, 2008 | 10:13 pm
     

    Beautiful words from mother to daughter.

    L.

  2.  
    Gal's Daughter
    November 7, 2008 | 12:28 am
     

    thanks mom

  3.  
    AC
    November 7, 2008 | 12:47 am
     

    Absolutly, she will make a much better manager because she has seen what not to do.

    The hidden blessing in all of this is that she found all of this out now, instead of juggling this job/school for months.

  4.  
    November 7, 2008 | 8:29 am
     

    Amen. My motivation to do something I loved in life came after I was fired from a waitressing job just after college. Let’s just say that I realized that the restaurant industry was really not for me after all. 🙂

  5.  
    DodgerGirl
    November 7, 2008 | 9:48 am
     

    That truly sucks for RG daughter, but it’s a good lesson to learn early in one’s career.

  6.  
    Texas Fam
    November 7, 2008 | 12:16 pm
     

    May they encounter consecutive crops of bitter hops…..

  7.  
    November 7, 2008 | 2:53 pm
     

    What a sad owner. Better things ahead and your daughter has her priorities right that is for sure.

  8.  
    Mary
    November 7, 2008 | 3:01 pm
     

    While she may not be interested in going back, the comments and actions you posted (pasted below) are either discriminatory or damn close and could be subject to legal action depending upon the laws in the state where she is and/or Federal discrimination laws:

    “Which she could have dealt with had he not followed up with the following barbed question: “Are you sure this is about school and not some new boyfriend you want to see more of?”

    RG Daughter was taken aback. She doesn’t have a new boyfriend–or an old one, for that matter. She just wanted to cut back on her shifts for the next five weeks.

    Throughout the unexpectedly busy evening during which she had to act as sole bartender and server, the owner hounded her about anything and everything. “You’re flirting with your regulars and letting other guests wait too long,” he said in the first hour. “You let that guy sit too long at the bar without taking his order,” he said in the second hour. “You have to get to the floor faster and not just hang behind the bar,” he said in the third hour. “I think we’ll do a thorough kitchen cleaning tonight and you’ll have to stay an extra hour or two,” he said in the fourth hour, knowing her situation.

    “I’m taking you off the schedule for good,” he told her in the fifth hour. “As for coming back, I guess we’ll just have to see.” ”

    Based on the comments you shared, this owner is headed for a lawsuit at some point. NOTE: my opinion is not just because it’s your *daughter*; had these comments been directed to your *son*, I would have the same opinion.

    On a positive note, the benefits of her college education will have a far longer-lasting impact than this experience. Good luck to her!

  9.  
    mikepete
    November 8, 2008 | 3:07 am
     

    Boy! Have I been there!!!
    And I am so there now! I just lost MY job!! And I am so not upset about leaving. I am upset about having to find a new job-especially in this economy-in this town (Las Vegas). But I am not my job, and I know I was undervalued where I was. I truly believe everything happens for a reason. And RG Daughter is headed for bigger and better things!! As am I!!!!!

  10.  
    Rose Royce
    November 8, 2008 | 1:38 pm
     

    My first job was a grocery store where they had me doing everything and telling me their expectations followed by snide remarks of “most people are too lazy and dishonest to do a good job.” I kept quiet watched and did see dishonesty from their employees because the management treated them like they always expected them to fail or cheat them. It was a horrible suspicious environment and I hated it but kept going and working hard because I knew what kind of person I was. Then came the night the bosses daughter was managing, hanging around like she never did and kept reprimanding me for missing things, till I felt like a total loser and wondered how I managed to do anything, because I was so incompetent. Later another older employee explained that the owners daughter had a best friend who needed a job and she needed to make an opening. For what ever reason I was the sacrificial lamb. I never forgave that store and wouldn’t shop there. It was a small town and I drove 20 miles away and shopped on the edge of a large city rather than give them any business.
    My second job was a KFC where I again did everything. When the owners wanted a vacation I even was a manager with two other women to cover all shifts, even staying at the owners house while they took a vacation for two weeks. When we came back they gave us each a bonus of $40 dollars for all our effort. When I explained I needed to cut hours I was told that I worked the schedule as written or was fired. As I left I told the owner to mail me my final paycheck and he demanded postage be given to him. This owner also threw a chicken wing at me once because he thought I laughed at him. There are a lot of nasty, petty, people that I hope when they die have someone as compassionate and understanding as they have been to explain why they don’t get to go to heaven and instead sit in a room and watch their own cruelties to others.

  11.  
    Julie
    November 10, 2008 | 12:22 am
     

    After almost 10 years at my previous job, I was laid off. I knew it was coming, that working from home for over three years was beyond what anyone expected, that things were changing at the company. I knew the end was coming for so very long, and it was still hard. I’ve been working (contracting) for a competitor for a while know and I love it.

    RG Daughter– I know it really bites, but there are better things waiting for you. Focus on those tests and papers. Somehow things always work out the way they are supposed to… we just don’t always like it.

    RG — Big hugs to you, too. I know it’s hard for you not to go there and yell at them and comfort your girl.

  12.  
    November 10, 2008 | 6:56 am
     

    I have faith in RG Daughter finding a job where she’s not driven into the ground and taken advantage of. Too many times people are used to the brink of sanity when they show a little talent or skill at their job, and this is a perfect example.

    RagingServer.com

  13.  
    November 10, 2008 | 5:23 pm
     

    For any job, no matter what industry or what level, it’s still a job. If the owner’s wife’s cousin needs to work, you’ll be out, no matter how good you are. The only guarantee is to own the place and make it successful. Even then, be wary of partners.

  14.  
    Tony Podboy
    November 11, 2008 | 1:08 pm
     

    In this business, if you haven’t been “fired, down-sized, right-sized, laid-off or let go” you don’t have enough “real experience”.
    It can be very much like the “trades” of old where you “apprentice” with some ego-meniacal “type A ” personality or even worse someone that will “walk over warm bodies to get to the top”. Normally it’s usually simply their lack of experience & or training.
    Companies that allow this type of shenanigans these days are simply “not healthy” & better left asap. They just don’t get it. It’s often been a wonder to me why someone in our business wouldn’t “settle” for a great team-member working only a couple of days / week vs. not having them at all.
    It’s may be an indicator that the mgt. is just plain lazy when it comes to scheduling or they’re trying to make an opening for someone that “needs full-time” vs. letting them “work their way in” as a part timer.
    Someone once told me – “better the devil you know, vs. the devil you don’t”, but some inexperienced people make important personnel decisions based on knee jerk reactions that could ultimately destroy their business. They, themselves, either will learn, eventually, or simply go away.
    You’re better off w/o them. There will always be opportunity for great people in healthy organizations.
    My dad always told me the bar business only gets better the worse the economy gets. It’s true – look on the bright side – alot of people are “drowning their sorrows” & that segment will be doing well.
    Get with a good, healthy company, restaurant or whatever, that you feel “good about”. They’re still out there. Just look for smiles on their “employees, team-members, partners” & also their customers, guests, or patrons faces.
    They’ll also be “busy” with a full parking lot as they add that most important added value – hospitality. You can’t miss ’em.
    There’s a lesson to be learned here & we all learn it. Probably more than once….
    Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger….

  15.  
    November 13, 2008 | 11:42 am
     

    Great article, and touching sentiment…unfortunately in this business, as in life, there are all types. I always try to be straight, and simple with people. Get the job done, run a clean, happy restaurant, and God will put things in place for ya!

    Best of luck, she’s better off for it..

    Chef Tony

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