I feel guilty about a work situation, how can I ease my mind?
March 22, 2009 7:12 PM   Subscribe

I feel guilty about a work situation, how can I ease my mind?

I have just had my first week of "work" at a restaurant that I have been interning at for the past three months. I say "work" because I am training and I am not yet on payroll.

The past three months have been great. From the moment I stepped into this restaurant I wanted a job there. I worked hard, listened to what I was told, and did great. I let the Chef know that I was interested as the weeks and months went by. Within the last two weeks, the Chef approached me on Tuesday and said there was an opening and that I was required to stay until December. I asked him if this was in any way negotiable since I wanted to go back to school in September. He responded saying we would talk later when he got back on Monday. Over the weekend, I emailed him telling him that I would not take the work for granted. He replied asking if I was going to take the job.

This decision to take the job if it was offered was an extremely difficult decision for me to make. I am in between school right now, and taking this job would require me to take a leave.

That Monday I was at work very early in the morning to do gardening for work and headed to the restaurant directly after. I had a discussion with another Chef about staying and learning a station but then decided that I was going to go home instead after I finished my work. About 20 minutes later when I finished up, I headed to the line to see if any other work needed to be done. The Head Chef looks at me and tells me what we are going to have a talk tonight. Round 2 of our conversation. At 9 tonight. I look at him and shyly tell him that I was about to leave. Confused he questions the fact that I was going to learn a station. At this point, I had no idea what to think, do, or say. A pit inside of my stomach grew the size of a softball. As I left soon there after with horrible embarrassment of what I had just said. Thinking horrible thoughts that my job was lost and the opportunity I had was gone. I freaked out.

The next day, I was on edge, I didn't know what to say, or what to do. The end of the night rolled around, I went up and asked him if he still wanted to have our talk. He looked at me, and said sure. At the very end of the night we completed our agreement; he had decided to take me in.

Since then, I have felt guilty about asking him. I felt really selfish and actually fairly undeserving of the job. I feel that it's something the entire kitchen staff looks down upon me by. I'm sure they don't remember, but I can't get it out of my head. I feel embarrassed by it. I feel I insulted him to his face. I feel bringing it up now would be awkward since so much time has passed ( about a month) and I had hoped that my feelings would have changed but they have stayed the same since I've been back a week. I have been embarrassed to talk about this with anyone. What can I do?
posted by weh546 to Human Relations (18 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
This "Chef" owes you three month's back wages.
There's no such thing as a three-month unpaid "training" session. You shouldn't feel guilty about working for three months without pay; you should feel an unquenchable furious anger building up inside you. I don't know what country you're in, weh546, but where I am, those kinds of "talks" are had in court, or if not there, on the picket line.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 7:18 PM on March 22, 2009 [9 favorites]

I wouldn't know for sure, but I'm guessing that nobody remembers this but you. Restaurants are busy and crazy and people fuck up way worse all the time than the mild thing you possibly did. Don't worry about it, just do an awesome job and work really, really hard at work, offer to help everyone out, pick up shifts for people, etc., and I'm sure you'll be in the good graces of the chef and others.
posted by fructose at 7:19 PM on March 22, 2009

I'm not sure I completely understand your question, but it doesn't sound like you should say anything to anyone - you should feel really happy and comfortable. Stop thinking I acted weird that night, I don't deserve the job, and all of that bullshit spiraling that hurts you. Think: hey, I'm so great, and they're so great, and they realize that I'm so great - that even when I flaked that time and got weird like I sometimes do and had to leave? It was ok. They didn't judge me, it didn't change anything, they still wanted me, and here I am a month later doing an amazing job.
posted by moxiedoll at 7:19 PM on March 22, 2009 [1 favorite]

After work that day, you and he were going to talk about whether or not you would be working there on a permanent basis, and you were going to learn a new station. But instead, you left and went home. He was confused by this, not insulted. Then, the next day, you and he had the talk, and he hired you. So what's the problem? If there's any ambiguity, just say to him, "Hey, I'm really enjoying working here, thanks for giving me the job." or something like that. He'll probably be like "We enjoy having you on board" and everything will be fine.
posted by metastability at 7:29 PM on March 22, 2009

There is no problem here. Everything is fine.

posted by ook at 7:36 PM on March 22, 2009 [1 favorite]

It's common for socially anxious people to overanalyze a situation in hindsight and think that they've done something really wrong, while actually no one else noticed anything.

As for the thoughts and feelings you still have about it, just let them be there; don't try to get rid of them, or fuel them with more analysis and speculation. Make your attitude like, "OK, these feelings are still here. And...? Now what shall we do?"
posted by dixie flatline at 8:06 PM on March 22, 2009 [6 favorites]

There's no such thing as a three-month unpaid "training" session.

Actually in cooking, there is. It's called a stage.

Three months is unusually long, but not unheard-of.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 8:47 PM on March 22, 2009

Well, different places have different workplace customs. In Australia, three months of unpaid work would result in a friendly negotiation held basking in the warming glow of the fire of what used to be the boss's car.
Let's agree, though, that the OP shouldn't feel guilty or embarrassed at all in this situation.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 8:53 PM on March 22, 2009 [1 favorite]

I don't understand. You worked for three months without pay? And now *you* feel bad? Are you training to be a chef? Is that normal in that industry? I've never heard of anything like that, and I would have been in court a long time ago for a scam like that.

If I am completely wrong and this kind of thing is normal in your country/career, then forgive me. Don't say anything about that situation. You're over-analyzing and probably the only one who remembers it.
posted by Lullen at 9:11 PM on March 22, 2009

Yes, it is normal in the restaurant industry. Longer than usual, but normal. Usually you'll stage while in school or in-between your shifts at your regular job.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 9:41 PM on March 22, 2009

Response by poster: It was for a school internship, so that is why it was unpaid. And yes. They do owe me. Bigtime. And this kind of thing happens in the industry. I was one of three when I started. And there are three more on the way. And yes, I do tend to over analyze social situations often. Probably too often. Is there a book to read about that?
posted by weh546 at 10:46 PM on March 22, 2009

In Australia, three months of unpaid work would result in a friendly negotiation held basking in the warming glow of the fire of what used to be the boss's car.
...because you have to stay there to make sure he doesn't get out of the car.

In Australia, even school-based trainees (which seem equivalent to the term of slavery you have just undergone) get paid for working/learning. Trainees (and apprentices in the trade areas) get a lower wage to reflect that they are nominally not as productive as a fully trained employee, but nobody works for free. Of course, the hospitality industry here also pays a living wage instead of forcing staff to beg for tips to be able to sleep under a roof, so there you go.

You certainly have no need to be guilty in the slightest - at the very worst, they have gained an average employee for three months. It sounds like they got a lot more than that, so Chef is the one who should be feeling guilty, not you.
posted by dg at 2:00 AM on March 23, 2009 [1 favorite]

I think you can safely assume that you passed muster. It sounds like a place that has interns coming and going, so they would have their pick to choose from for any permanent or more advanced position.
The restaurant industry is brutal, a working kitchen even more so. I'm sure that there were some conversations had between chef/owner/ manager/ or whatever type of management structure they have in place, and you were chosen as the most qualified person (or one with the most potential) for the spot. If they didn't feel that you were best for the job, they wouldn't have offered it to you, so you should be feeling just fine about it.

Regarding leaving when a chef asked you about learning a station. I get the impression that this restaurant is a well regarded one and that having an opportunity to work there should not be regarded lightly.
If this is the case, I'm pretty sure it would be the norm for an intern to jump at the chance to learn a station, and not decide to go home instead. I would think that the chef would have felt a bit of 'what the fuck?' when you decided to leave, but felt that you are still worthy of the position offered.
If this is indeed the situation (I keep couching my words because I'm not 100% sure I have the situation right), he will undoubtedly be keeping eyes open for your motivation level, eagerness, etc. Just make sure that you are ready and willing to handle the responsibilities of the new job, and step up and do it soaringly well.
posted by newpotato at 5:43 AM on March 23, 2009

have you people never heard of internships, which is exactly what the poster says this was?!

anyway op, it seems you've gotten the answer to your question, but i'll just chime in as a fellow over-analyzer: no one remebers you being weird that day except for you and if you bring it up, that's just being weird all over again. chill.
posted by misanthropicsarah at 6:33 AM on March 23, 2009

You possibly flubbed, you fixed it with the Head Chef, you got the job. That's all. Carry on.

I feel that it's something the entire kitchen staff looks down upon me by.

They don't care, they're busy working. But if you're torturing yourself for weeks and months over this, it's going to affect your work and how you relate to your colleagues in the kitchen, and they are sure as hell going to start looking down on you, especially if it's over some faux pas you feel you made before you were even hired.

Be cool. Hold your head up and focus on your new job.
posted by desuetude at 6:57 AM on March 23, 2009

That sounds like a difficult situation, but it also sounds like you handled it right.

If you are scheduled from 3-8, you are in the right to "have other plans" afterwards. They can ask you to stay, but they can't get mad if you don't. (Well, they can, but they'd be wrong to hold it against you.)

But I'm a jerk about these things- I don't like to have "my" time infringed upon by others. If someone asks me to be somewhere for X amount of time, I will plan to be there for that amount of time. And if they say "I have no idea how long I need you for today" that's cool too. But I feel it's disrespectful to assume that they can be as unpredictable as they want and that I will be available to meet their whims. I think it's perfectly acceptable and right to make sure people understand that my time is just as valuable as theirs, and to make sure that they respect my schedule as much (or more) as theirs. Speaking hypothetically, if I take a job that says I'm required to be there M-F, 9-5, in exchange for a paycheck, it is my belief that any other time they want from me is at my discretion. If they want more time, I'd be glad to negotiate some other schedule/pay arrangement.

(But I also have to balance this with maintaining a good work ethic and fostering the impression that I am a valued member of the team. Need more time? Just ask. Don't assume.)
posted by gjc at 9:09 AM on March 23, 2009

And yes, I do tend to over analyze social situations often. Probably too often. Is there a book to read about that?

Feeling Good is a classic. It goes into some pretty serious cognitive-behavioral therapy, though, complete with homework and worksheets and so on. But even if you don't do all the work, it might help you sort out what makes you worry so much about minor social infractions. (This incident really doesn't sound like a big deal. It was just a misunderstanding. You'd thought about staying late to learn a station, but then changed your mind. If the head chef didn't catch all that, no problem--certainly not worth bringing up a month later. And by no possible standard does it make you unworthy of the job you got.)

Have you read Heat by Bill Buford? The story of an amateur (which I take it you're not) trying to make it in Mario Batali's kitchen. Read it; it might make you feel better. Clearly you need a thick skin to work in a good kitchen. And a lot of self-confidence.
posted by torticat at 5:20 PM on March 23, 2009 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks for the book suggestions. I definitely plan on checking them out. I love reading. Kitchen work is a day breaking siege that requires a constant push every day.
posted by weh546 at 10:00 PM on March 27, 2009

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