January 16, 2023 at 7:42 am #413896
So, I am an international student in the UK and sometimes I work flexible shifts to obtain small injections of cash to avoid dipping into the amount sanctioned as part of my education loan. Yesterday, I was on a shift like this that would pay me minimum wage for six hours at a football match, working as a security steward.
The company I was working for was infamous for not giving their employees a single break for shifts that were quite long (6-8) hours. My friends always find a way to go back home after signing in and get paid for the shift without working but I’ve never done that. Even yesterday my friend texted me that they were able to exit the premises after signing in. Meanwhile, I was stationed outside in the freezing cold without a single lunch or bathroom break. My supervisor had promised me that I’d get a break after I finished one task but even on its completion, there was no break.
My stomach started hurting for an issue I was seeing a doctor for. I asked another supervisor when me, and the random people I was stationed with, could get a break and he replied with “you’re getting paid for six hours so why do you want a break? It’s not common to give breaks in these short shifts.” And then he took us a part of the premises where no work was assigned but we were expected to simply stand in the cold.
The wheels of my mind began turning and I slipped away to the washroom without permission. I remembered the texts from my friends. With just two hours left to the completion of my shift, I decided I would leave too. If others do it all the time, I thought maybe I could do it this once. My friends had simply dumped this security jacket in random places but I couldn’t bring myself to do that. I thought what if it falls into the wrong hands and is misused to gain entry into a secure place. I decided I’d leave the jacket in a secure spot that I knew only staff accessed and then leave. So I folded the uniform jacket and carried it out with me. And as I walked out of the designated staff area, that jacket was recognised by a supervisor. He questioned me and I completely froze. This feeling of terror and shame washed over me and my brain completely froze. Tears welled in my eyes and I started shivering. He took me to the main supervisor who was wasn’t too harsh but asked me to sign out and leave immediately.
I feel horrible because I know what I did was wrong. Since then every time I close my eyes, that incident keeps replaying. It’s like it has burned itself to the back of my eyelids. This hits me harder because I’ve always been the model child and the ideal student. And although somewhere deep down I know that I I didn’t do a big crime, I can’t stop shaming myself and feeling like I did indeed make a disastrous mistake.
Since last night I’m unable to sleep or feel restful. The guilt and shame levels have crossed my eyeballs. I’m worried I’ve ruined my future and I’m angry on myself for trying to justify this by thinking I didn’t have bad intentions. My closest friends have tried to convince me that others have done much worse things and I had a valid reason to try and get out of the shift, and I want to believe them but I’m not able to forgive myself. I can’t stop thinking about it and I can’t accept that it wasn’t a big deal. For the majority of the time since it happened, I felt like my world was ending.
I don’t know what to think or do now.January 16, 2023 at 8:48 am #413916
My heart goes out to you because I know, from very personal experience, how intense shame feels. And yet, here in my reply, I will not say just anything that may make you feel better. I will say only what I believe to be true.
“I’ve always been the model child and the ideal student“- the question is how to be a model and ideal person in a world that is so far from being a model or an ideal world.
The company you worked for, the employers are very far from being model or ideal employers for “not giving their employees a single break for shifts that were quite long (6-8 hours)“. it is inhumane because people need breaks. How do you, as an employee, “stationed outside in the freezing cold without a single lunch or bathroom break… stomach started hurting“- how do you respond to this inhumane treatment in a model/ ideal way?
Before I continue, it just occurred to me to ask you: I am guessing that employees are allowed very short breaks to the bathroom; otherwise, they will soil themselves, right?
anitaJanuary 16, 2023 at 9:15 am #413917
Thank you. Your kind words mean a lot to me. I hope your personal experience has stopped or at least reduced hurting you. And you’re right. I hadn’t thought of it like that. I keep holding myself to the standards that are expected of “ideal” members of society without thinking if that is the kind of treatment I am getting in return too. So far, I’ve received multiple accolades for it from high school and even now when I’m doing my Master’s. I think it’s the reward based psychology that probably makes me hold myself to this standard. If I’m not being recognised for doing the right thing, I immediately think I’m not living up to the authority figure’s expectations and push myself more. And in that, being called and asked to write my name on a single sheet made me feel tremendous shame. The supervisor made me write my name down on a “sign out sheet” before I left. Nobody ever asks employees to do. I felt so scared and singled out for what he might do with that name. Report me maybe or stop assigning me shifts. And since he was technically right, I placed all the blame on myself and my actions.
About the bathroom breaks, the employees who have an opportunity to take one, take it. But I’ve seen two instances before where a person I was working with asked for a bathroom break but was denied, and when they took one despite it, they were shouted at in front of everyone. They accused these people of not informing their supervisors that they were leaving the post assigned to them and going for a break. But the supervisors are never around. They come once at the beginning of the shift and once at the end, and any other time they might come around is random chance. But then they yell at the employees in front of everybody, staff and patrons alike, so it’s kind of an unsaid rule that nobody takes bathroom breaks. So far I’ve worked around ten shifts for them since last year and only in one was I given a five minute break and that was a different supervisor who wasn’t present any other shifts that followed.
Thank you for taking the time, Anita.
CrystalJanuary 16, 2023 at 10:03 am #413919
You are very welcome and thank you for your appreciation and kind words.
“About the bathroom breaks… I’ve seen two instances before where a person I was working with asked for a bathroom break but was denied… the supervisors are never around. They come once at the beginning of the shift and once at the end… But then they yell at the employees in front of everybody, staff and patrons alike“-
– the supervisors prefer to not stand “outside in the freezing cold“.. they stay warm somewhere, sitting down, maybe having hot (or other) drinks and eating snacks. The way they control the employees in their charge is by occasionally getting out into the cold, so to yell at employees in front of everyone, scaring and shaming employees into submission. It is much easier to yell on occasion than it is to stand out in the cold for hours.
Did they succeed in scaring and shaming you? Let’s see: “I feel horrible… I can’t stop shaming myself and feeling like I did indeed make a disastrous mistake… I’m unable to sleep or feel restful. The guilt and shame levels have crossed my eyeballs. I’m worried… I’m angry at myself… I’m not able to forgive myself..“- yes, they succeeded, more than they’d normally succeed with other employees (because, like you said: “This hits me harder because I’ve always been the model child and the ideal student”).
“And as I walked out of the designated staff area, that jacket was recognised by a supervisor. He questioned me and I completely froze… Tears welled in my eyes and I started shivering. He took me to the main supervisor who was wasn’t too harsh but… made me write my name down on a ‘sign out sheet’ before I left… I felt so scared and singled out for what he might do with that name. Report me maybe or stop assigning me shifts“- I don’t think that anything will be done with your name on the sign-out-sheet because what the supervisors wanted to do, they already accomplished: they could see your fear and tears, so.. their mission of scaring-and-shaming you was accomplished.
“I keep holding myself to the standards that are expected of ‘ideal’ members of society… If I’m not being recognised for doing the right thing, I immediately think I’m not living up to the authority figure’s expectations“- the supervisors are not motivated by what is ideal or right or just. They are motivated by having an easy and comfortable “work” experience for themselves. To achieve their ease and comfort, they scare and shame employees. Although the supervisors are authority figures in the context of this specific workplace, they are not authority figures when it comes to work ethics or humane ethics.
What authority figure or figures, if any, should you value and look up to, Crystal?
anitaJanuary 17, 2023 at 11:12 am #413992
You are right. Now that I sit and think about it, these supervisors are not in any position to make me feel bad. They can’t judge what I’ve done because they themselves aren’t moral or ideal and act in a way that pleases them. They try to look for their convenience and treat those below them as just instruments to getting the job done. I think I need to harden myself and try to occasionally be in my own corner rather than shaming myself. I’ll keep in mind what you said about – the question is how to be a model and ideal person in a world that is so far from being a model or an ideal world.
I can make mistakes and when my mistake wasn’t fuelled by bad intentions or causing harm to anyone, it’s okay. I have to be kinder to myself. And learn that it’s okay to make mistakes. Trying to live up to everyone’s version of “ideal” employee or student will only cause me trouble. I am allowed to do things that might be considered selfish or even wrong because I’m being an inconvenience to others in the process of showing myself some kindness.
Thank you for making me realise this, Anita. Talking with you has helped me an immeasurable amount.January 17, 2023 at 12:02 pm #413998
I agree with your evaluation of the supervisors, and you are very welcome. Post again anytime you would like my input and I will gladly reply to you.
“I think I need to harden myself and try to occasionally be in my own corner rather than shaming myself… I can make mistakes and when my mistake wasn’t fueled by bad intentions or causing harm to anyone, it’s okay. I have to be kinder to myself. And learn that it’s okay to make mistakes“- perfectly said, if I may say so!
“Trying to live up to everyone’s version of ‘ideal’ employee or student will only cause me trouble“- trying to live up (or down, more likely) to everyone’s version of ideal is called people pleasing. People pleasing is far from being ideal and will indeed cause you trouble. Aim at pleasing not what’s convenient self-serving for others (their subjective ideal); but instead, aim at pleasing what you believe is truly and objectively ideal.
anitaJanuary 25, 2023 at 12:02 pm #414438
I hope you are well, Crystal..?