Dear Straight Talk: I hate my job. I’m a 16-year-old guy and my parents think I should be working this summer. I agree and managed to land a decent restaurant job. However, the owner yells and belittles me about everything. It’s like he hates me. Even when I do things right, he yells. It is depressing and I dread going there. How have others handled this? My parents say to stick it out. What do you advise? — Treated like Dirt in Monterey, Calif.
Breele, 19: I got a waitress job at 16 and the first weeks were very difficult. Whether I did something right or wrong, it was always wrong to my boss and I’d get a lecture. I was in tears over it. My mom said if this continued I could quit and look for another job. Well, I’m so glad I stuck it out. I was there two years and it was an incredibly rewarding experience. Swallow your pride. Smile and do what your boss says — even if he’s being a jerk or saying the opposite of what he said yesterday. Totally avoid saying, “Yeah, but…” or “Oh, but I thought...” I’d give it another three weeks.
Omari, 19: I’ve been there, unfortunately. Best advice: Look for another job and when you get one, quit ASAP. No one deserves belittling by their boss.
Laura, 26: My response is blunt, but I hope, helpful. The owner probably gets angry because you’re terrible at your job. I have significant experience in restaurants and every brand-new employee with zero experience sucks. At 16, I’m guessing you’re a busser or food runner. When you’re slow or making mistakes, it costs the owners, servers, and bartenders a lot of money. Once you get faster, more efficient, constantly aware of everything around you, and complete tasks before being asked, the yelling should lessen. A word of warning, though: If you can’t take being treated like dirt, don’t work in a restaurant. Customers and management alike treat the help like servants — and that never completely goes away.
Rose, 25: Stress from long-term belittling can turn into depression and even make a person sick if those feelings are internalized. I’m going though the same thing. My boss talks down to me and treats me like a child. As a result, I dread my job and have started breaking out in hives and becoming depressed. I want so badly to quit but I have rent and other bills, so until I find another job, I’m stuck. However, at 16, you’re not stuck.
Ryann, 16: You must determine whether your boss is bullying or attempting to discipline. Disciplining is your boss’ job and his livelihood depends on it. But being rude and condescending is unacceptable. Everyone, no matter their age or position, deserves respect. Are your coworkers treated poorly? You need to communicate. Ask what you can do to improve.
Dear Treated like Dirt: Only you can discern whether your boss is toxic, you need to improve your skills, or restaurant work is simply a bad match. For a challenge like this, I generally advise pushing through the discomfort. There is usually a payoff. Apply Breele’s tips on dealing with a tough boss and work hard to raise your on-the-job skills. If the situation is still hostile in a few weeks, seek something better. — Lauren
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