Is it Time to Break Up with Your Job?

Let me tell you about the worst job I’ve ever had. (Spoiler alert: It’s not the one where I got paid to babysit an elderly woman’s seven cats.)

I was waiting tables, bright-eyed and bushy tailed, and brand spanking new in the big city. As in, far away from my support base, and feeling crazy lonely and unsure of myself. I got the job quickly, and was using it to save up money while I looked for more permanent work writing. (Ta da!)

For a month or two, it was pretty much rosy. The owner more or less ignored me, and I made a lot of mistakes, as I’d never waited tables before, but I love, love, loved bringing cash home, every day. There are few things in this world that feel as badass (or make you look as suspicious) as pulling out a wad of fifty singles to pay for gas.

But, that all came to halt the first time I spilled a few drops of water on the floor from a wet bus pan and the owner cursed me out in front of the whole dining room. It went downhill from there.  His moods swung quickly, and he would be joking with me and showing me dumb (and often inappropriate) pictures on his phone, and the next he’d be screaming for almost no reason at all.

When he was in a good mood, he’d follow me around and flick me hard on the arm, sometimes leaving marks. If I got annoyed or asked him not to do that, he went into punishment mode, flying off the handle, following me around and nitpicking every tiny thing I did, and generally making it clear that either I played along with him, or my life at work would be hell.

Well, guess what? Turns out, all of those things are illegal. While there was nothing in the law books against his crappy attitude and terrible personal skills, physically hitting me, even playfully, definitely is. I’m not a dumb girl. I knew that he was overstepping his bounds as an employer, but I stayed, because I needed the money, and I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to find work anywhere else, and I wasn’t even sure whether there was anything I could do about it.

I know better now.

As women, sometimes we feel pressure not to be “that girl”. No one wants to be the one seen “whining” about our work conditions. Sometimes, you just want to get in there and prove yourself, regardless of how crappy or unfair your treatment is. After all, we’re here to get the job done. Right?

Now, mine is a pretty extreme example. You don’t see a lot of that stuff outside of the minimum wage pay grade. But, have you been overlooking some sketchy things at your work because you want to prove yourself? Are being given the breaks, benefits, and time off that the law requires? You can read up on NZ employment law, or wherever you happen to be working.

It changes state to state, but a smart career girl is familiar with the local laws governing her place of work, and she knows that putting up with harassing or prejudicial treatment does not make her a good employee. After all, we’re building our careers here, not just trying to grab a few bucks regardless of what we have to put up with to get them.

In the end, I left that place behind, and secretly imagine that Taylor Swift wrote “Mean” about that cranky boss every time I hear it on the radio, but when I look back, the time I spent and the money I made were not nearly worth it.

Nicole P.

Nicole Pieri graduated with a B.A. in English from The College of New Jersey in 2011, and has since decided that jeggings aren’t as cool as she originally thought and that writing for a living online is way better than being a starving artist. Relocating from a cow town in Northern New Jersey to the big city of Philadelphia has brought her some great opportunities and changed her attitude from “always look both ways!” to “I’m probably faster than that bus.” In her spare time she enjoys crocheting and speaking in the third person so that it looks as if she’s important enough for someone else to have written a bio about her.