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Life is only what you wonder.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

The Higher, The Fewer

Let me tell you a little story.
Actually, it's more like two stories.
Now that I think of it, it's really three stories, but they're all tied together and it will all make sense when I'm through. (At least I hope so.)

Anyhoo, several years ago I worked for a cafe, and I had been working there for almost five years. The Head Waiter (no jokes, please) position was up for grabs, and me being the waiter who'd been there the longest, and considering I'd recieved several "cusomer service" awards, and also considering (not to toot my own horn, but if I don't, who will?) I was (am) a damn good waiter, I assumed I would get the position.
"It's in the bag!" I thought to myself.
It turns out I didn't get it.
A waitress who'd only been there six weeks got it. (Bitch!)
I confronted my boss about it after I found out, and she said (in a nutshell) that, although I was great at being a waiter, fantastic even, she saw no "leadership potential" in me. I wasn't the "take charge" kind of person she was looking for to fill that position.
That really stung, because I hadn't ever thought of myself that way. It was a real blow to my ego.
(It turned out the girl she promoted was fired a few weeks later for stealing out of the register, which shows what a poor judge of character she was. But I digress.)

A little while later, when I was working for another restaurant, I was offered a Team Leader (same as a Head Waiter, just a differen't name) position, which I accepted.
I got a special uniform, a fancier nametag, and 50 cents more an hour.
As a Team Leader I was expected to arrive before everyone else to assign sidework, schedule breaks, and assign all the other waiter's sections (off the clock, I might add); monitor the dining room during the shift to make sure all the sections were kept up, and customers were being satisfied; make sure all closing duties were done according to procedures (meaning that aside from management, I was the last one out the door every night); make sure the employees weren't goofing off; and assign "special cleaning tasks" to employees during slow periods, among other things.
Oh yeah, and while I'm doing all of that, I have my own section that I have to wait on and maintain.
It was more trouble than it was worth.

I started out as "just one of the guys" but when I became a Team Leader, everything changed. I was one of "them".
And if something went wrong during the shift, I'm the one who was responsible, and I was the one who got upbraided for it.

Disssatisfied with management's lack of caring about the employees and the horrible conditions at the job, my complaints reached management and I was demoted. (I mentioned it on my blog here, in case you missed it. )

At my current restaurant a Head Waiter position might possibly become available soon and and I've been asked "Do you want to be a Head Wait?"
At first, I said "Sure, why not?"

But now I find I've changed my mind.

Why don't I want it?
Because I realized something.

I don't want to be resposible for anyone else's laziness.
I don't want to have to monitor my fellow employees like the Waiter Police.
I don't want to be the person mangement comes to when there's a problem.
Especially if it's somebody else's screw up.

I want to just come in, do my work, and get the hell out of there.
No muss, no fuss.

When I was a Team Leader, I was a bitch.
On wheels.
Because I had to be. There was no way to avoid it.
It was the only way to get the job done.
Make yourself into a doormat and people will walk all over you. I found that out the hard way.

I had to get people to do their work. I had to get people to redo their sections when their closing was shoddy. I had to tell people to dust their goddamn light fixtures. I had to write people up for insuborbination and if I caught them smoking when they weren't on a break. I had to make everyone do all the stupid crap that management decided was "important", like get all the servers to scrape all the gum of the underside of their tables with a knife.

I don't want to be a bitch. I'm a nice guy, usually. (It's true, I tell you!)
I enjoy being the one my co-workers come to and say, "Hey, let's go sneak a smoke by the loading dock!" (Smoking is a social activity. It's more fun with a buddy or a group.)
I like being able to say "My stuff's all done! See ya later!" and just breeze out the door, knowing the headwaits are stuck there for another hour and a half (or more).

And I also like being "just one of the guys". Someone you can tell a dirty joke to, someone who you don't need to impress or "look busy" for.
There's an invisible line you cross when you get promoted above your co-workers. You don't see it, but it's there.
After I became a Team Leader, conversations would stop when I approached a group, when before they would say "Hey, Jimmy! Listen to this!"

A select few are Chiefs -- most are Indians.
I think I'd rather be an Indian.