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Should I be apologetic or not about missing work?
August 25, 2008 9:13 AM   Subscribe

Oops, I didn't go to work today. Thing is, I didn't know I was supposed to. Am I in the right or the wrong? Also, a little other anxiety about this new job.

I just started work as a dishwasher (a very busy job, but one I enjoy) last week. The hiring manager told me I would work two days and then let me know about the following week because she wasn't sure yet about everyone's shifts. Both days her shift started during the last hour of mine, and I forgot to ask her about when my shifts might be. Over the weekend I considered calling and making sure that she would let me know when she scheduled me in, but figured it was unlikely she would be there until Monday afternoon.
This morning I got a call from a guy who says he's the temporary manager- apparently I was supposed to come in today. I told him that I was not told, it was my expectation that someone would let me know when I was put into the schedule, and that I didn't know what to tell him. I may have come across as being rather annoyed.
Although it's a possibility, I really don't think I was scheduled to work this week when I was at work last, on Thursday. The woman I was working with looked at the schedule, may have said something about me not knowing when I'll be working next, and definitely indicated that she didn't know when we might be working together again.
It's a just a dishwashing job at a nearby restaurant, and I'm sure I'd survive being fired, but I want to know- am I in the right or the wrong? When I speak to the manager later today, should I be apologetic or politely firm in not taking any of the blame? What would MeFi do?
I should note two things- the manager who called me did not ask me to come in anyways, and I did not offer, but if he had asked I would have said yes. Also, I'm not sure what management thinks of me- on Thursday, it was so busy that I had little time to do much but wash dishes, but not so busy that the servers were in desperate need of clean stuff. Because the servers won't put clean stuff away unless you ask them repeatedly (which, as a new hire, I will not do), I had mountains of clean stuff sitting around. It's part of my job to put clean stuff back, but only after I've cleaned the dirty stuff. I'm worried about this because I feel I was neglecting my duty (even though I wasn't, as far as I know) and because there was some sort of drama that involved "job responsibilities"- the word "dishwasher" came up once, but I don't know what it was about exactly. It may just have been because the servers let the dirty stuff pile up without washing anything while I was on break for half an hour, but I don't know for sure. Bottom line is, I'm anxious and need some reassurance! Or a good slap upside the head, whichever you think is appropriate.
posted by Baethan to Work & Money (22 answers total)
 
It's your responsibility to stay on top of your own schedule, because you're the one who looks bad if you don't show up. That said, don't beat yourself up too much- just make sure not to let it happen again.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 9:18 AM on August 25, 2008 [4 favorites]


Oh, and when you speak to the manager, you don't have to grovel, but definitely say that you're sorry about the misunderstanding and that you won't let it happen again.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 9:20 AM on August 25, 2008 [2 favorites]


Seconding not beating yourself up. Apologize briefly, tell him you weren't told in the chaos of your first days of work. Don't mention the hiring manager not telling you.
posted by SageLeVoid at 9:27 AM on August 25, 2008


It's your responsibility to keep up with your schedule. If you do not know when you are supposed to work next, it's up to you to find out. The managers are not your mom. They aren't going to chase you down to tell you when you are to work next.
posted by GlowWyrm at 9:28 AM on August 25, 2008 [2 favorites]


Apologize, say it won't happen again, and ask about the procedure to find out about the schedule. Is there a specific person you should always ask on a specific day of the week? Is there a book or whiteboard where everybody knows to check? This varies widely depending on the size of the place and management style, so it's okay to ask.
posted by hydropsyche at 9:39 AM on August 25, 2008


It's a just a dishwashing job at a nearby restaurant, and I'm sure I'd survive being fired, but I want to know- am I in the right or the wrong?

As other people have said, if you're unsure about something important that may stop you from being able to do your job, it's your responsibility to ask someone and find the answer. This includes situations where it is someone else's fault, you need to always make sure you CYA even if someone else screws up. With that said, mistakes happen, so it's not the end of the world if you miss something like this.

When I speak to the manager later today, should I be apologetic or politely firm in not taking any of the blame?

This might be my personal style and not your's, but I'm always apologetic when someone comes to me with a complaint. I always make sure to give my side of the story when appropriate, but I never press the issue about who is right or wrong, or who's fault it is. I just make sure to make it clear that I understand that there was a problem and that I will take specific steps to prevent similar problems from happening in the future.
posted by burnmp3s at 9:43 AM on August 25, 2008


I think it's a little much to assign blame either way for what was obviously a miscommunication.

No, it's not your fault. No, it's not anyone else's fault. It just is.

So, the correct response is "Sorry things got mixed up. I'll make sure it doesn't happen again."

As for your job duties, focus on your job duties. Don't focus on the servers. Ignore them completely. They don't exist, as far as you're concerned. Just wash the dishes until there are no more to wash, then put them away.

If you can wrangle it, there's a book by Pete Jordan called Dishwasher that I think you'd enjoy.

Thank you for being so conscientious.
posted by sondrialiac at 9:44 AM on August 25, 2008


@everyone- So, if you weren't scheduled in the last time you worked, you'd call or go in everyday to check? Even if the manager seemed to indicate she'd let you know?
Not sarcasm, I'm just wondering, in case something like this ever happens again.

@GlowWyrm- I'm not under the illusion that the managers are there to look after me- I honestly thought she was going to call me, because it's part of her job. (I assume.)

@sondrialiac- A book recommendation? Awesome, thanks! I really appreciate it, and your response.

I do tend to listen to my pride at first, but eventually reason kicks in- when I speak to the manager, I'll be more apologetic! Thanks for your responses, guys.
posted by Baethan at 9:51 AM on August 25, 2008


the manager who called me did not ask me to come in anyways, and I did not offer, but if he had asked I would have said yes.

I just want to add that if you were especially interested in keeping things amicable and making it seem as though it truly was a mistake, I believe you really SHOULD have offered to come in anyway. It would have made you seem responsible, eager to correct the issue, and apologetic for the confusion, because really, when it comes down to it, it is your responsibility to keep on top of your own schedule. You said yourself you could have called in during the weekend to see if you were working and that definitely (IMO) would have been the right thing to do.

Unfortunately, the result of this somewhat innocent mix-up is that you now look unreliable. Since you are new and have just started that is about all they know about you, so I would worry a bit if there won't be some backlash. But like you said, if things don't work out where you are you should be able to find a job elsewhere, so don't stress too much. Just call it lesson learned.
posted by gwenlister at 9:54 AM on August 25, 2008


Also "Kitchen Confidentials" by Anthony Bourdain might give some perspective from the management side of things (plus it's a genuinely fun read).

I think sondrialiac has the best response.
posted by krisak at 9:55 AM on August 25, 2008


So, if you weren't scheduled in the last time you worked, you'd call or go in everyday to check? Even if the manager seemed to indicate she'd let you know?

and I had a job back when I was in highschool that was like that and it was always on me to stop in/call on the days when the new schedule was made up (if I wasn't working that day) to find out what my schedule was. Managers are super busy and don't have the time to call and track down every employee and let them know.
posted by gwenlister at 9:55 AM on August 25, 2008


I don't know. How seriously do you want to take the job? Ultimately you can find another one and they can find another dishwasher with neither of you shedding any tears. Be as professional as you feel like being.

The whole manufactured drama of who said what is so common in kitchens that I think you'd be ahead if you didn't bring it up at all. However, it sounds like you've made a bad first impression at your workplace, so I'd be a little more vigilant about your schedule for a bit. (And maybe help the servers put away dishes. It sounds like that's the system that works best for them, as opposed to the rules they've set up, so going along with that paints you as dependable rather than difficult.)
posted by greenland at 9:57 AM on August 25, 2008


You admit you forgot to ask about when your shifts were. Then you say I honestly thought she was going to call me, because it's part of her job. (I assume.)

You know what they say about assuming, right?

sondrialiac's response is good, but one thing should be added - ask your manager how you should stay on top of assigned shifts.

"How do I find out when I'm working, boss?"
posted by canine epigram at 10:01 AM on August 25, 2008


Agreeing with everyone else that it is on you to find out what your schedule is, but wanted to add that I don't think you need to worry too much about your performance your first couple days there. In my experience, mid-end restaurants (assuming that's the sort you're at) usually expect new hires to suck a little while they first get the hang of things. During really busy times most of us generally understood that things would get pretty chaotic, and we were all trying to keep up. As a server, if things were so crazy that we didn't have clean dishes, I would run back and bring up the clean ones from the dishroom and was grateful that there were clean dishes to be had; serving steak when there are no clean steak knives is not fun. So if it wasn't so bad that nobody was getting the clean dishes from you, they probably had enough dishes. Also, remember that the servers are busy doing their job, so it isn't always easy for them to do parts of yours.
posted by Polychrome at 10:33 AM on August 25, 2008


I don't think you need to feel too terribly guilty about it this time, since it was a genuine mix-up, but you need to apologize anyway. "I'm sorry, I didn't realize. I'll make sure it doesn't happen again." And then, talk to the scheduling manager to find out what you need to do to make sure it doesn't happen again -- call in periodically? make sure you remember to ask her before you go? check the paper schedule? Whatever it takes, do it.

As for the clean dishes vs. dirty dishes, I suspect you're going to have to learn to balance those two responsibilities. Do most of the washing and when a stack of clean stuff starts to accumulate take a few minutes to go put at least the most in demand stuff away. Then go back to doing the dirty stuff. If you let too much of anything accumulate, you'll never get out from under the stack. You'll probably get faster at both tasks such that it won't be such a problem in the near future.
posted by jacquilynne at 10:36 AM on August 25, 2008


No, it's not your fault. No, it's not anyone else's fault. It just is.

Yes, it's your fault. You could have, and should have, been more proactive in finding out what your work schedule was supposed to be.

There was a failing of the process. The manager could have been more proactive too, but that doesn't concern you; you can only control what *you* do.

There is more you could have done to avoid this incident and you didn't. Take it as a lesson learned. Next time, realize it is incumbent on *you* to know your work schedule. If the manager doesn't know at the time, ask when he or she will know, and then follow up.

It might not seem proper or fair, but life is that way. You will succeed if you learn to take the initiative on these things.
posted by Doohickie at 10:59 AM on August 25, 2008


So, if you weren't scheduled in the last time you worked, you'd call or go in everyday to check? Even if the manager seemed to indicate she'd let you know?

Yes, haven't you ever had shift work before? I would call--no need to go in to find if the schedule has been posted--but I would ask if the schedule was up and the first day I was working the next week. Think about how many employees work at your place. Do you really think your manager wants to call 'em all up to tell them their schedules?

This is really not a big deal. Man up and keep your ass on top of your own schedule next time. Unless your manager says "Quit fucking calling me, I'll tell you when your schedule is when it's up", you check on your schedule. Sucks that they post it so late in the week, but that's shift work for you.
posted by schroedinger at 11:54 AM on August 25, 2008


So, if you weren't scheduled in the last time you worked, you'd call or go in everyday to check? Even if the manager seemed to indicate she'd let you know?

Unfortunately, yes... it's up to you to know what your schedule is. It's particularly bad in restaurants, and you should be prepared to get called in on off days or have the schedule changed after it's already been set - it's one of the worst things about restaurant work in my opinion.

I spent some time as a dishwasher in a busy restaurant, and you are never going to get the servers to put away your dishes...they will come get them if they run out, but they are not going to do any schlepping for you. Take a few minutes between loads to run them out to them.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 12:18 PM on August 25, 2008


My recommendation is that you totally forget the blame thing and focus on learning how things work moving forward. Nobody is surprised this happened -- restaurants are chaotic and your first couple weeks are twice as bad. Until you know the ropes, though, you may want to go a bit out of your way, and err on the safe side.

And be nice. Particularly, there's no point in being annoyed at the shift manager. He's not the one who forgot to call you, and he is the one who's going to have to deal with being a person short today, so being a bit understanding of his situation (even apologetic that he has been put in the situation, when he's the most blameless of all involved) would be appropriate.

it was so busy that I had little time to do much but wash dishes, but not so busy that the servers were in desperate need of clean stuff. Because the servers won't put clean stuff away unless you ask them repeatedly (which, as a new hire, I will not do), I had mountains of clean stuff sitting around. It's part of my job to put clean stuff back, but only after I've cleaned the dirty stuff.

I'd stop focusing on what is "your job" vs. "their job." You saw clean dishes piling up, you know it's part of your duties (and the servers'), but you want to blame the servers. That doesn't make sense to me. Don't worry about what they do or don't do. They have other job duties, too. The clean dishes are in the dishroom, and it is part of your job duties, if supposedly a secondary part, so you could have pitched in and helped with what was obviously a mounting problem. Don't worry about having to be totally on top of the dirty dishes -- it's not unusual for them to back up some during busy times. And getting through the dirty dishes would probably go faster if you weren't having to deal with the mountains of clean ones piling up, maybe? Ask your manager if you want help figuring out the balance of dirties vs. cleans, but frame the question not as "is this my job?" but "what's most helpful here -- for me to be emptying these clean ones piling up, or for me to be keeping up with these dirty ones coming in?" (Plus, the servers are the ones who tip you out, right? So you want to be helpful to them!)

They're not likely to fire you for not realizing you were supposed to show up on your second week. But they might fire you for having a bad attitude ("it's not my fault! it's not my job! tell them to do it!") instead of a good attitude ("what can I do to be helpful here? how can I do my job better? what's not working well right now and how can I help?").
posted by salvia at 1:24 PM on August 25, 2008


I worked as a dishwasher for a few months, before being promoted to line cook (yay advancement), and worked in a place that was essentially going down the pan - recently taken over, lots of staff shortages etc. etc.

Key tip, as with any job? Be professional, and help other people out.

Regarding the shift issue - it doesn't matter whose fault it is, what matters is that you let them know that there was a mixup, and that it won't happen again. From now on, if you don't know your shift, call up. If they say "we don't know yet, I'll call you back", you've covered yourself, but you should still call back the next day (or whenever's appropriate). Doesn't have to be a long, involved call - "Hey X, it's Y. Have you sorted out shift schedules yet? No? Ok. Bye".

Regarding clean v dirty. As suggested, when you're a little bit ahead of the dirty, clear away the clean. Be nice to the servers, and they shall be nice to you. I've had to buss on occasion, and it turns out that the servers helped me a hell of a lot more than they helped dishwasher dickwad. Also turned out that I was the only dishwasher who got a cut of their tips as thanks.

Working in a restaurant, whether out front or in the kitchen can on occasion be a shitty job for all involved. Everyone has a boss or a coworker who can be an ass. Do the best you can, and help out as much as you can. Doesn't mean to say that when the boss wants you to work back to back shifts one time you can't say no, but you'll have stored up enough good-worker credit to be able to deal with that without a hitch.
posted by djgh at 2:00 PM on August 25, 2008


It may just have been because the servers let the dirty stuff pile up without washing anything while I was on break for half an hour
You got a half hour break? I'd do what I could to keep this job, a half hour break is almost unheard of in the restaurant industry, you're generally lucky to get five minutes off to have a smoke or wolf down some food.
posted by Jawn at 10:23 PM on August 25, 2008


Oh yeah, don't ever expect servers to wash anything. It's not their job. And they tip you out (an admittedly paltry amount) to do that for them.
posted by Jawn at 10:24 PM on August 25, 2008


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