Straight Talk Advice

Jun 25, 2013

Boss’s yelling has boy dreading his job

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, Dana Point, Calif. Ask me a question

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, Washington, D.C. Ask me a question

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, Sacramento, Calif. Ask me a question

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.

Chris 24, Los Angeles Ask me a question

Either stand your ground or find another job. There is no need to take verbal abuse from this guy.

Rose 25, Auburn, Calif. Ask me a question

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, Tustin, Calif. Ask me a question

You must determine whether your boss is bullying or attempting to discipline. Disciplining is your boss's 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: There's some advice to chew on. 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. However, if the situation is still hostile in a few weeks, for health's sake, get out of there and seek something better.

Editor's Note: Pushing through challenges is an important part of growing up. Nobody wants to blow over in the first wind. Developing a thicker skin and learning to accommodate abrasive superiors without taking their abrasion personally is useful. While some bosses are truly toxic, most don’t mean ill, they are simply stressed out themselves. Others are automatically tough on a new person — even if that person doesn't suck at their job. Generally, things improve in the first few weeks. That said, a hostile work environment isn't good for anyone's health. If hostility continues beyond a breaking-in period, please don't feel compelled to stay. There is better employment elsewhere.

I refer our job-seeking readers to an interview with two hiring managers who give great tips on how to successfully apply for a job.

We also did a column about finding or creating work as an entrepreneur. The ideas presented are suitable for all ages. —Lauren

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  1. By Taylor, age , from Santa Rosa, CA, USA on 06/28/2013

    I work, too — and at 16, you aren’t stuck! You live with your parents so I am assuming have food on your table and a bed to sleep in. If your boss is that horrible, quit. You don’t need to expose yourself to a harmful environment. Give notice and leave on good terms.

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  2. By Nicole, age , from Santa Rosa, CA, USA on 06/28/2013

    Try to accept that he is working with his own ego, and on his own power trip. If you can accept that then I encourage you to stick around. However, if you cant realize that, and you continue to feel attacked and belittled then I say work elsewhere!

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  3. By Rose, age , from Auburn, CA, USA on 06/28/2013

    James—I have always felt that people should be treated with respect no matter how old you are, what your status is whether it be in your place of employment or a social setting. There is absolutely no reason for people to treat other people poorly especially when you are trying your hardest. That’s really what matters when it comes down to it and you should be proud of yourself for trying to stick with it and do your best.

    There comes a point when you have to decide if the abuse you are taking from your boss is worth the money you are making. Life itself is already stressful and people shouldn’t have to work in hostile work environments. Although jobs may be hard to find there is another job out there where you will be treated the way you deserve to be treated. You are so young that you don’t have to stick around and be unhappy in your work environment.

    When you go on interviews be sure to ask about the company’s values, mission statement, how they give back to the community, and how they help their employees succeed. It will give you a better sense of who they are and help in your decision. I hope this helps.—Rose

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  4. By Ochatre, age , from Kampala, Uganda on 07/04/2013

    My best advise is to follow your heart. The worst you can face is to do something you do not like day in-day out. It will be you who will be frustrated at the end of the day. I know its very risky to make this decision but you will be shocked that the same risky decision will open doors to greater opportunities.

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