Oracle After Hours: Respect in the workplace requires self-advocacy


Marcel Hoang, guest columnist

When I first applied to work at Dairy Queen, I thought that everything was going to be a breeze. All I had to do was make ice-cream, right? Wrong. I soon learned that the only thing that would be easy about the job was leaving. In hindsight, I should have left a long time before I quit, but I kept holding on to this notion that I could find respect at my workplace. For some reason, I could not let it go. 

In the workplace, in the classroom, or even in a group of friends, respect is always important in ensuring your personal wellbeing. Without it, what you once found enjoyable becomes an unendurable slog, and you might as well not do it at all. If you don’t stand up for yourself, you simply allow yourself to be beaten into the dust. I learned this the hard way.

During my time at Dairy Queen, I was constantly put on dairy bar duty, stuck with my back to the customers as I filled their ice cream orders. My boss always told me that this was the training phase and then my pay would go up, and I believed every word that left her mouth. Little did I know, each one of them was veiled in deceit. Every shift, I would ask when I could be trained on the register. I had been working for a couple of months by then, and those hired before me already knew the ins and outs of customer service, while I was just standing forgotten in the back, fulfilling the constant orders of cones and blizzards. 

My biggest mistake then was deciding to keep my head down. I thought that if I kept doing the same work I had been doing, I would be able to earn some semblance of the respect I desired. I realize now that situations like the one I found myself in required self-advocacy. In the mind of my boss, my silence meant that I was okay with how things were. 

After weeks of the same treatment, I had a revelation while talking to my parents about their concerns regarding the job. Was this really the job I wanted to be doing for the rest of high school? The answer was no. My change in thought led to a pivotal action. No longer was I going to be treated like a replaceable asset who was only working for minimum wage and minimum respect. The owner of the store continued to hire at least one new person every week, so it was obvious that I was just an expendable resource. I decided that I needed to leave. Ultimately, the breakup was messy; names were called, accusations were made, and an employee was lost forever.

Lack of respect is a problem anyone can face, and it may take a while to recognize. Once you do, it is essential that you demand a change. Try to negotiate with the people disrespecting you. Be annoying. Try to get their attention as much as possible. If that doesn’t work, get other people to help you. The more you bring awareness to these issues of respect, the likelier you are to find some. It won’t always work. But if you don’t try, you will be stuck in the same situation that I was. In that case, you have to seriously consider removing yourself from an unhealthy situation. You should never settle for no respect.