Dear Thelma: Cold-hearted boss making life unbearable for me

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I've been reading this column since I was only 14 years old. Now I am 22.

My issue involves work. Up until today, I've only been working at this cafe for three weeks.

I face a lot of problems at work just because of one person.

It feels like my life and work would have been 100% easier if this person hadn't shown up in my life. That person is actually my manager. She isn't the nicest person I have met. I face a lot of harassment and bullying at the workplace from this particular person. For instance, she not only forces me to do work that I do not like, but she is rude whenever she tells subordinates to do certain tasks.

I had an interview with the head of operations at the cafe. He gave me clear guidelines in terms of my responsibility at the cafe. However, now my manager tells me to do 180° differently of what I'm supposed to do. I'd rather listen to my interviewer as it is more comfortable for me to follow guidelines rather than listen to opinions that are not trustworthy.

I risk my safety at work as I have to do whatever I can to avoid getting verbally abused. If I don't obey her instructions, she would start scolding. Arguing is no use as she is close-minded and not willing to change for the benefit of others. It is obvious that she only does things for herself and never for others.

I just hope that I can survive for at least a few more months as leaving the job prematurely is going to have a negative impact on me. This is because I had signed a contract of employment.

Currently, I have a person standing between my vision and my current situation. It's going to be a struggle to get past this situation but I believe that nothing is impossible.


Thank you for your continuous support! I really appreciate it. So, please allow me to talk to you like an aunt. You are looking at this with very innocent eyes. Let me fill you in on how the world works.

Your head of operations was given a job: hire a member of staff. He looked you over, decided you were a decent human being, and he glossed over the realities of what was involved. You see, his motivation was to fill the position as quickly as possible, so he could get on with his other work.

This is what happens in every industry. The person who hires you is seldom totally truthful and accurate about your job responsibilities. You find out exactly what you are up for only when you turn up for your first day. And even then, your responsibilities will change with time.

Now, café workers are expected to do whatever jobs there are. Take this from someone who has been in your position: F&B work means you wait on customers, clean tables and floors, prep veg and other food, stack the dishwasher, clean cooking pots, take out the trash – your bosses pay you an hourly wage and they will work you every minute.

You can look at this as a shocking abuse of power – or an opportunity to learn a tonne of skills and to be paid for your labour. Me, I learned a lot from the service industry and it still helps me today.

Should your supervisor be yelling? Well, no. Everyone in the workplace should be polite and respectful. However, if you are there complaining all the time and talking back, I suspect she's frustrated.

You should understand that you are a worker and she is your boss. While many companies pretend that workers are a family, this is not true. You are in a formal relationship and that requires a professional presence.

Professionalism is about turning up on time, following orders, doing the job well, and being pleasant while you work. It is the secret of success. If you have that, you will be a winner.

Which brings me to your remark that you feel unsafe but then imply you fear being scolded. If you are asked to do work that is literally unsafe, report it to the authorities. But if you mean that you don't like being told what to do, then you're on a very sticky wicket.

If you truly want to leave, you can. All contracts have a notice clause; you're not a slave. At three weeks in the job there should not be a long period of notice. But I suggest you think this through from a different perspective.

Work is not about being comfortable. It's about exchanging labour for money. You work so that you earn the cash that will fund a happy lifestyle. And when you start your career, you won't be earning a lot because you won't have many skills.

When you have a tonne of skills that employers value, you will have the power to decide where you work and what kind of work you do. But you have a long way to go. At 22, you are the new kid on the block. And there are thousands of others who will cheerfully step into your position.

Considering there's a pandemic on and that the job market is difficult, I would stick to this job but change my attitude. Act like a professional, learn as many skills as you can, get experience and see the job as a stepping stone that will turn you into the kind of talent who can decide where and when he works.

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