July 2, 2009

What life is like for the workplace ‘junior’

I was a 'junior' once. It was in a hair salon (back in the days when I thought I wanted to work in the beauty industry) and I was 16. I have terrible memories of being treated like absolute crap just because I was the ‘junior’. For some reason that title magically took away any human right I had to respect. It mean I had to put myself ‘below’ everyone else and know I was ‘less than’ them. It meant I was unimportant, available to be walked over and any needs I had were disregarded.

Some of the real workplace stories in my book The Boss Benchmark are mine from this period:
*I was not welcome to attend the team meeting. I had to stay away from the staff room during this time as I was of such little importance, my attendance was of no consequence. I was also unwelcome because the meeting gave the staff a chance to talk about me. One time the boss came out afterwards and gave me a big telling off about something that was absolutely untrue which had been brought up in the meeting. I of course (head bowed low) was not allowed to talk, correct my boss or state my case.
*Another staff member gave me the silent treatment for a full 6 days. At the time she was 33 and I was 16, hindsight now shows me how silly this woman is – but at the time I thought it must have been due to me/my fault/how the workforce is. I was so new to the working world and it was quite upsetting that someone that much older was treating me that way.
*The business was in a real slump so 80% of the day the hair stylists just sat around (3 full timers). Though I was never ever allowed to sit – that privilege was only for them. One day I got the job of dusting a million products on these huge metal shelves (sounds reasonable). I did a magnificent job. Though the next day when there was nothing to do again, a hair stylist assigned me the same task to redo. It was ‘busy work’ not required work, just so I never became equal and received the privilege of 'sitting'.

I am very keen to hear any other stories people have about ‘being the junior’. I’d love to know if and in what ways this kind of treatment still goes on. I know some industries are worse than others are in this regard. I don’t see why being the apprentice is a license to be disrespectful and treat people as though they don’t matter as much. I had nothing against the cruddy, boring and grubby jobs I had to do – I wasn’t scared of the work, I just hated being treated as if I was worthless. It was my age and inexperience in the workforce that meant I knew no better way to deal with it or get myself heard. Being young is also not an excuse for bosses or co-workers to treat you as less. Entering the workforce can be a scary time (especially when the workplace you are in is absolutely dysfunctional). What is your two cents on this subject?

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