I don't want your drama, miss thing.
June 21, 2009 8:16 PM   Subscribe

So, I've been promoted at work and everything is going swimmingly except for some difficult interpersonal stuff with a few coworkers. I need help to decide how to handle these situations...

Okay, so I work in a restaurant. I was a hostess, and after about a year of that I've been upped to server status. The transition is pretty smooth considering how well I already know the restaurant, staff and menu. I've made very few mistakes, and none have been more serious than needing to get an item comped off a receipt. My bosses are pleased and are looking to give me more shifts, and customers have already been asking to speak with my managers to tell them what a great job I was doing.

Though I am working very hard and trying my best to do right by the restaurant, the staff, my bosses and clientele, a few of my coworkers have not been completely nice to me.

Today for example, I ordered food from the bar to munch on during my shift. Someone had told me recently that there was only a certain time frame during which eating is okay, but today I forgot. The bartender neglected to inform me, and given that everybody else eats up there all the time, I didn't think anything of it. Later, though, my coworker approached me and asked whether I had ordered the food. I replied that I had a while ago, but I had gotten busy so I hadn't eaten any of it. She rolled her eyes at me and brushed past me, shaking her head. I really didn't know what she was upset about until a few minutes later when she told me I'm not supposed to order food or eat during the shift. Okay, I said, I'm sorry I just forgot. A few minutes later my manager came up to lecture me about it, I admitted my fault and apologized again. I know that #1, this coworker obviously went and told my boss, #2 nobody else really cared, and my manager was not upset at all, and #3, I promptly threw out the food once I realized my mistake.

But here's the thing-- I am really not difficult to approach. I try to do extra nice things just to be nice to my coworkers by helping them with their tables, covering shifts last minute, being respectful to my bosses, thanking them for any and all help and apologizing for any mistake or inconvenience I cause. All it would have taken was a brief "Oh, hey, don't forget we're not supposed to eat during this time" and I would have said "Oh right! Sorry" and that would have been all... instead I felt she gave me attitude and tried to get me in trouble. That bothers me.

Also, throughout the night her interactions with me had a distinct superior vibe to them which really got under my skin. At the end of the night when I was doing my closing sidework she said I had done a "half-ass" job and that she would let it slide this time, but not next time. She told me I needed to clean the wall behind the bus tubs, so I began to take the tubs off of the rack when she grabbed them out of my hands and said "I said it was fine this time!" loudly in my face. To prevent any further drama, I put the tubs back, turned around, walked away, finished my work and left for home.

As I was driving home I was so furious, but then the frustration gave way to tears. So what do I do, hivemind? I'm slightly frustrated with myself for not standing up to her and demanding decent treatment, but now that I'm home I feel that texting/calling/emailing her would be inappropriate. Now I'm wondering if perhaps I should confront her (nicely of course, I try very hard not to be snarky or mean) and telling her "I really don't appreciate the way you spoke to me on Sunday, I'm always open to constructive criticism but I respectfully ask that you tell me these things nicely. I want to do a good job, and I respect that you have been here for longer and know what you're doing, so please, if you must correct me, do so nicely." This would probably go down the next time we work together which will be Wednesday or Thursday.

Or perhaps I should let it go this time, let it roll off my back as some stupid drama that really doesn't matter at all in the end. If I do that, though, I want to be sure that I'm prepared for these situations to occur again and have a plan for how to handle them. I didn't involve the manager, I didn't even confront her about her snarkiness, I simply let it go and tried to strike up a regular conversation with her later in the evening. It worked okay, but what would you advise for me to do next time?

Sometimes a few of my coworkers look at me as if I'm stupid when I ask a question. I'm of the mindset that I'd rather ask if I'm unsure of something than to just improvise and then deal with the repercussions of inevitable mistakes, but I am getting really tired of this holier-than-thou attitude. Should I confront the servers? Should I involve my manager? Should I let it slide?

It's probably worth noting that I'm in school, and that this job is merely a stepping stone for me towards bigger and better things. I'm going to have a real job one day, but for now it's whatever I can do to pay the bills. I very much want to do a good job, and I take a lot of pride in my restaurant. I want to prove to my managers that I am capable of behaving appropriately when faced with difficult circumstances. How can I best achieve this?

Thanks in advance :)
posted by wild like kudzu to Work & Money (23 answers total)
Your co-worker is making your time there deliberately more difficult than it has to be. This is not your fault, and while I don't think you should suffer that, I am not certain there is any easy way for you to solve the problem.

What is your status compared to this person? Equal within the organization? If you're not her superior, I cannot imagine how approaching someone who is yelling at you and who is going out of her way to torpedo you will create any good will with her at all.

You might try approaching the manager if you are on good terms with that person.

Barring that, well, I had a really ugly situation start at a workplace, and I started keeping one of those pocket-sized spiral notebooks on me and making notes whenever anything happened that seemed untoward. Date, Time, brief summary of what happened. It could be that after a week or a month, you'll find that there is a distinct pattern to this abuse. It will also serve well in your defense when it comes down to "they said, I said" arguments, or if you end up with a real situation to present to your manager or owner.

I think, above all else, something to remember is that many people get into a work situation and then begin to act out all the negative teacher / parent / other-adult-authority-figure experience they have ever had. It's a peculiar psychological mechanism, but it's pretty standard. I often can shrug off workplace ugliness simply by picturing the person who acted out on me as a 2nd Grader being dressed down by a cruel adult. Sometimes, that mental moment is all I need to slough it off.
posted by hippybear at 8:31 PM on June 21, 2009 [1 favorite]

oh goodness, even just the length of this post is an over-reaction.

You have a co-worker who is bitchy. She may be jealous of you. She may think it's not fair that you get good (or better) sections or shifts than she does. She may just be insecure. You should let it slide. If you're nice, good at your job, make it obvious that you are trying to learn from her, and be humble/modest about it, she'll run out of reasons to be bitchy to you. Eventually, as you become more competent at your job, bitching you out will make her look bad, not you (if it hasn't already.)
posted by Kololo at 8:31 PM on June 21, 2009 [6 favorites]

*sigh* people suck. I hate frustrating situations like this where it feels like all you can do is cry at home at the end of the day.

1. Don't text or email or call about it, that's for sure - talk in person.
2. Keep asking questions if you have questions, especially if you just started in this new position!
3. I would try saying to her what you wrote here, and then just continue being nice to everyone. Some people are just crappy to deal with and will always continue that attitude of rolling their eyes, so just keep in mind that this is just a temporary job while in school, and she'll probably be serving tables forever, and that's why she's so bitter.
posted by KateHasQuestions at 8:37 PM on June 21, 2009

I know that I've had friends who've had food service jobs while on their way to "bigger and better things" and some coworkers had kind of a chip on their shoulders because, well, this was their "real job" not just some crap you do to make a little dough while you're not studying. Maybe this is the case with your coworker? Is this her "real job"? Is it possible she's annoyed or jealous that you, who aren't even planning to work in the restaurant business for the long haul, got promoted to be on the same level as her and appear to be doing well and earning accolades? Or maybe she sees your "Wild Like Kudzu University" sweatshirt as you passive-aggressively bragging about the opportunities you have that she doesn't? All kinds of crap could be at play here depending on her background.

Maybe it's not even that complicated. Are you guys splitting tips out of a set pool? Maybe she doesn't like having another mouth to feed out of that pool. There are certainly a finite number of shifts and maybe she doesn't want you horning in on hers. Resources are limited these days...maybe she sees herself as a marginal performer and is worried you'll take her job if times get tougher.

Or maybe she just doesn't like newbies and thinks they have to go through a little hazing before she'll let them be. We have a situation right now at my job where there are some new guys on our team who ask a lot of questions that I had to figure out for myself when I first joined the team, and definitely I've had my own grouchy moments where I've given them attitude about it.

Don't let any of it bother you, in any case. It sounds like you're doing your best to get along and be a team player, so keep doing that and this is really her problem, not yours.
posted by crinklebat at 8:37 PM on June 21, 2009 [1 favorite]

Is this coworker a superior that has direct control over your employment? Or is it some coworker that has simply been there longer and thinks she is now your boss by default?

This type of crap happens all of the time no matter which job you are in. It sucks, but so does much of life at one point or another.

If this person is not your boss then go to the person directly responsible for your employment and let he/she know what happened. Most likely if the boss doesn't care about this minor mishap, they will pull the other person aside and chastise them for stepping on their turf as a manager. Your post describes the average pissing match at my company (different industry) The person doing all of the belittling usually has very little (if any at all power) in the situation and thinks that by degrading you, they have somehow justified there employment and the necessity for the knowledge they bring to the job.

I suggest you take the high road and forget about this coworker. If she wants to complain, let her. Just smile and walk away. Then bask in the glory that you just lit a fire in her ass that she now has to control, not you.
posted by Gravitus at 8:38 PM on June 21, 2009 [1 favorite]

Alright, to answer some questions-- we are paid the same, are on par as servers, she holds no authority over me aside from her longevity in this position, our tips are not pooled, our restaurant is doing well and no one is anticipating difficult times financially. I am on very good terms with my boss and would have no problem speaking with him about this except that I'm not sure I want to get him involved. I don't want to come off as the tattling schoolgirl who can't handle my problems myself, and he often inadvertently makes mountains out of molehills when he's involved. I am in school, but so is this coworker. I had thought about her being jealous of me for my future goals, but she is actually likely to graduate before I do. I don't go around talking about how temporary this job is for me-- in fact, quite the opposite. I'll talk about school if it's appropriate, but really this restaurant is quite important to me and I enjoy the teamwork vibe.
posted by wild like kudzu at 8:45 PM on June 21, 2009

Sometimes people are just nasty for no reason, or reasons you don't know about, or no reason. Treat this like a particularly dismal class you have to take in dealing with nasty people. I would continue to take the high road until you've been there a little longer.
posted by amethysts at 8:58 PM on June 21, 2009

Or perhaps I should let it go this time, let it roll off my back as some stupid drama that really doesn't matter at all in the end.

Yeah, do that.

When I worked in food service, there were plenty of catty, high schoolish servers. The key is to view your job as just that: a job. The people you work with don't have to be nice to you. And you don't have to be any more than civil to them. So don't bother over-analyzing it.

(Also, "taking pride in your restaurant" is nice and all, and it's good to do your job well, but server jobs are a dime a dozen, even in this economy. Don't be afraid to look elsewhere if things are really going badly in your current place of work.)
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 9:12 PM on June 21, 2009

You're going to have to grow a thicker skin. It's admirable that you're so conscientious about your job, but when these kinds of things happen, you've got to learn to take a deep breath and let it slide right off you, otherwise you're going to be miserable. No matter what type of work you do, there's always going to be that one asshole who delights in belittling nice people like you.

Resist the urge to go running to your boss and tattling about every little incident; it will only make you look weak and immature. Instead, do your job really well and ignore your bitchy coworker as much as possible. If she has another outburst about some little mistake you made, give her the pitying look you'd give a drunk sorority girl who has just crapped herself in the middle of a Jason Mraz concert and back away slowly. In short, treat her like the overgrown toddler that she is and take your orders from your boss (and normal coworkers) only.
posted by LuckySeven~ at 9:26 PM on June 21, 2009 [3 favorites]

I know you're doing well; I know you say you want to take pride in what you're doing.

But this is a big red flag for me:

I'm going to have a real job one day...

You HAVE a real job. You may not realize it, but I'm pretty sure the fact that you don't think this is a "real job" is something these people are picking up on. Are these people older than you, and doing this job as a career? I'd wager yes.

If you really want to take pride in what you're doing "for now", you should take a deep breath and realize that what you're doing right now is a very good gig that a lot of people do for their entire lives, not because they have to, but because they want to.

This does not, of course, preclude the possibility that the person(s) causing trouble are just jerks, or that they wanted to be promoted and are pissed that you got the promotion instead. In fact, it's probably likely. In short, the fault lay on both sides of the fence. Put your head down and treat it like the real job it is at heart, not just in your head -- which means making friends with these people rather than just doing the job well -- because working well with others is part of the job. Of any job.
posted by davejay at 9:27 PM on June 21, 2009 [1 favorite]

Just noticed this:

...she holds no authority over me aside from her longevity in this position...

You're a threat to her, then. You've been promoted to her level, and you're good at your job. She wants you to feel stupid because she hopes it will keep you distracted and keep you from getting the next promotion, so that she can have it.

Doesn't change any of my advice, by the way, except to add: treat her extremely well, but don't defer to her, and let any suggestion from here (implicit or explicit) that you're an idiot roll off your back, because she's cultivating that attitude to further her own career.

In fact, learning how to recognize that behavior and succeed despite it is a skill you'll need anywhere you go. This is your first practice run.
posted by davejay at 9:30 PM on June 21, 2009 [2 favorites]

Listen to PhoBWanKenobi. If you don't like it, walk. There's lots of restaurants out there and turnover is extraordinarily high. You'll get another job if things don't improve with this girl.

Also you sound slightly naive. I clicked on this question expecting a promotion into a managerial position. From hostess to waitress is not a big deal. Your excitement and eagerness to please might be off-putting to old-timers. Especially consider that in the restaurant industry "old-timer" means someone who's been there maybe a month longer than you.

I speak as a former hostess, waitress, and cousin of owners of well-known upscale chain. Other cousins of mine run well-known upscale to causal restaurants in my hometown. So I've seen a bit of the restaurant business.

You sound like an asset any restaurant would be pleased to have so just walk when you feel like it. I didn't think that was right when I was your age but I know better now. 2 weeks notice is a courtesy but your manager won't bat an eye if you don't give it.
posted by vincele at 9:30 PM on June 21, 2009 [1 favorite]

Sorry about the overuse of "well-known and upscale." Reading that makes me cringe.
"Overpriced and use excessive lame advertising" would have been as accurate, and less moronic.
posted by vincele at 9:34 PM on June 21, 2009

You're being bullied and need to stand up to her to prevent it from happening and to prevent others from doing the same.

"I really don't appreciate the way you spoke to me on Sunday, I'm always open to constructive criticism but I respectfully ask that you tell me these things nicely. I want to do a good job, and I respect that you have been here for longer and know what you're doing, so please, if you must correct me, do so nicely."

Don't say that, it sounds weak and the fact that you think it sounds strong makes you look even weaker. Basically it's like a gazelle walking up to a lion and saying "Oh hey, how are you, nice day, huh?" What's weak about it? Overly verbose and trying to come to some understanding so you're both happy. Be direct and to the point, but calm. "Hey, either the X needs washing or it doesn't. I don't do things half-assed, so I'm going to finish this, now back off."

The bartender neglected to inform me, and given that everybody else eats up there all the time, I didn't think anything of it.

That doesn't seem to make sense. Is it his job to tell you when you can't eat? And if everybody else does it all time, why can't you?

All it would have taken was a brief "Oh, hey, don't forget we're not supposed to eat during this time" and I would have said "Oh right! Sorry" and that would have been all...

Is there is a constant pattern of co-workers having to remind you of workplace rules, I can see how that would be irritating to them. You can be the nicest and most cheerful person ever, but if you're constantly getting in the way or forgetting things, then being nice and cheerful isn't going to count for much, especially when waiting tables.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:39 PM on June 21, 2009 [1 favorite]

I had a similar situation many years ago with a coworker bully. I got along really well with my manager, who pushed for me to be promoted. Old-timer coworker bully got off on "hazing" me: criticizing me and my work, making fun of things I said, the way I dressed, generally mocking me, etc. I didn't know why and I really didn't care. It was obviously personal: she just didn't like me. I had no issues with my bosses or other co-workers. It was a great job otherwise, really good money, so I wanted to make it work.

I'm with you on not going to the boss right away. What worked for me was to keep my cool and give the bully as little attention as possible. I didn't go overboard trying to make things "right" when they were really only wrong in her wacko mind. When she made me nervous or upset, I tried not to show it. I never bad-mouthed her to anyone else at work. I vented to my friends and roommates instead. I didn't try to ingratiate myself to her or give her too much credit. Without being overtly avoidant, I kept our interactions to a minimum.

I think you're on the right track with "I really don't appreciate the way you spoke to me on Sunday, etc." but I would cut that down to a couple of lines, something like: "If I screwed up, I'll fix it. But don't ever talk to me like that again." Then walk away. If I were you, rather than address this past tirade after the fact, I would wait until the next one to confront her. Look her in the eye and don't try to make nice. I've found that bullies often back down when you stand your ground.

I worked hard and connected with my bosses, coworkers, and customers. People noticed that she was the one with the problem. I think she realized how foolish she looked and stopped attacking me. But like a typical bully, she moved on to the next victim. Because of her general bad attitude and difficulty working with others, she was eventually fired.
posted by Majorita at 9:42 PM on June 21, 2009 [4 favorites]

And by the way, Brandon Blatcher, I'm still new to this position and the newfound rules and such which means that I don't have it all down just yet. I'm a fast learner, but this is only my second week on the job and issues like this haven't arisen before now because, well, I haven't ordered food during any past shifts.
posted by wild like kudzu at 9:51 PM on June 21, 2009

Not trying to attack ya, but you've been there a year as a hostess and you've never noticed this rule? And is the bartender supposed to tell you when it's ok to eat?

I can see how some long timers would be irritated by the new person who's been there a year, but doesn't seem to know some basic rules, even if she was in a different position.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:16 PM on June 21, 2009 [1 favorite]

LuckySeven has it right: you have to get tougher. People in restaurants take out their stress and frustrations on each-other all the time, some in benignly insulting ways, and others in bitchy ways. Don't try to out bully her, she has no power so it's just going to cause trouble needlessly. In fact I would be cool and friendly with her (without trusting her or letting her know anything she does bothered you) and if she continues to fuck with you laugh in her face. Your boss likes you, she can't hurt you, you'll be fine. As a waiter you're going to fuck up a lot--the key to being good at the job is dealing calmly with the chaos well, no matter who is creating it or why.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 4:38 AM on June 22, 2009 [1 favorite]

Bitchy behavior is incredibly common in this industry (which is why I hate food service jobs, btw.)

What I advise is -don't say anything to her, just do your job, and if she starts again, walk away. That kind of individual is looking to break you, and you don't need to let them do it.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 5:09 AM on June 22, 2009 [1 favorite]

I've been a server in more than one joint where I was amazed that some of my coworkers hadn't been fired. When I started, I was certain that their superior attitude, poor service skills, and completely oblivious mode of social interaction would get them canned within the week, only to learn later that they were some of the most senior people in the restaurant.

The transitional nature of your table waiting job is probably part of the problem. While I never considered waiting tables my career, it's important that you not make this point to others (whether it's their career or not). I hope I don't have to go back to slingin' hash, but I know that nothing is for certain, and I may well be putting on the apron any day. Downplay the fact that you think you're on to bigger and better things, even if you are.

As far as dealing with bitchy coworkers goes, I would set some hard boundaries for myself. Decide what you absolutely won't put up with, but unless they cross that line, act as politely and courteously as you would to a customer.
posted by solipsophistocracy at 6:46 AM on June 22, 2009

You had 2 screw ups - eating mid-shift and not cleaning properly. She called you out on it.

You're operating on the assumption that she told your boss that you were eating at the bar. Did you have any tables? Is it possible that they complained or your boss noted that they didn't have drinks? Is it possible the kitchen was busy and complained about doing an employee meal? Should you have been doing sidework instead of taking a break? Honestly, their are other options than that she snitched on you.

Regarding the bins. You did a half assed job of cleaning. Sorry, but you did. It was probably because you didn't know you needed to remove the bins, but still you need to do a better job on that. If you did the "sigh and redo" it may have come across as martyrdom which is irritating at the end of a shift.

Waiting tables is hard work. I loved doing it, but I won't kid you. It's exhausting. If you want to make your job harder get in a feud with an experienced waitress. Guess who's tables won't get bussed and who's tables don't turn over? Yours. Guess who's table gets skipped when someone walks around with the coffee pot and pisses off customers right before they tip? Yours.

She's got her game together and you're just learning. That's okay, but understand that working with an inexperienced waitress means the rest of the team is going to work harder all day. After 2 weeks you should be past the beginner mistakes, particularly if you've worked in the restaurant for a year.

Get your act together and she'll lay off you. Don't take abuse in the meantime, but also don't demonize someone who's there to make a living.
posted by 26.2 at 8:27 AM on June 22, 2009

[Let's keep this productive in both directions and leave the "you suck" stuff out of it, please.]
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:22 AM on June 22, 2009

I doubt that you'll come back to this thread Kudzu. If you do, I'll offer this advice.

Carefully consider your response to criticism. It's not appropriate. Your response here which was deleted, the crying, the long, overly dramatic question all seem to be out of proportion. Going into attack mode is counterproductive.

I'm not suggesting that you should take abuse; however, accepting and giving criticism are part of working. You're going to have a really difficult time in any job if you can't accept that sometimes you're wrong or your performance is below standard. Learning to accept and evaluate criticism is part of improving. Some of it you can toss, but there are usually some gems in there too.
posted by 26.2 at 10:18 AM on June 22, 2009

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