Sunday, January 27, 2013

Adventures in Retail

I've been working in retail now for over a year and a half, and for work that has a reputation for being repetitive, monotonous, and redundant, and redundant, it still surprises me. A job to me is a valuable thing, something that you do not mess with and are lucky to have. I spent a day just driving to Main St. and every shopping center I knew of, going door to door asking for applications.

I did this once or twice a month between May and September for three years and was only ever handed four applications. Two of them were from workers who said "We're not hiring right now, but, I mean, if you want to fill this out you can, I guess." After three years of doing this (and literally getting laughed out of one store,) I was finally able to find a job, but only because I had a connection. It was an extremely lucky break.

So yeah. Valuable.

Sometimes at home, I feel like I'm still just a kid. I can't rent an apartment on my income, my parents provide for me still in almost every way, I know people who are freaking engaged already and I still feel like I'm way not on my feet enough to think about that, I feel like I'm still too selfish of a person... There are lots of things that make me feel like that, but nothing makes me feel more like an adult than being at work. Part of it is that I am recognized as being a hard worker who interacts well with customers and co-workers. Part of it is that I know that I punch in, do my work (and do it right,) and go home knowing I did it without causing conflict with a co-worker or failing to help a customer who needed me.

This is where the whole "my job is valuable" part comes in. I was lucky enough to get a job, so I intend on keeping it. I do this by not rocking the boat and doing my job. Unfortunately, that's not how the game is always played. Not only do I feel like an adult at work, but occasionally I feel like the only adult besides the manager on duty. People often like to play the blame game, for instance. While there is certainly blame to go around when things go wrong, a lot of the time the things co-workers tell me can be boiled down to "I don't like So-And-So."

It's not the only game that's played, though. I've even seen people put part of their job on hold or make someone else do it to avoid being on the same side of the store as someone else. Countless times I've seen situations where if someone doesn't feel like being at the register, they'll find an excuse to lure another employee up there and then disappear in the stock room or the other side of the store for 15 minutes. I've seen someone beg a manager to let them do an extra job that they think should get done, and when they are given permission to do it, they try to lure some other co-worker to do it for them. When I was new, I was often the victim of these tricks, and the managers told me to be careful and watch for it. Even so, some of them are still impossible to avoid a year and a half later.

Am I perfectly innocent? No, not recently, anyway. I always had a personal rule forbidding me from venting about co-workers to other co-workers, but it's an easy trap to fall into, and when I did, I felt... I guess dirty afterwards. I decided that from then on, I don't play games.

It has been harder since I made that decision, but I feel much better about myself and more proud of my work. I've finally begun to take the advice my managers gave me when I started. Now when I say "Sorry, the manager told me I need to do this right now" or "The manager told me that you need to do X while I go work on Y," I stick to my guns. I still do it politely or timidly (it's a scary thing to have to say to someone who's been pushy with trying to tell you what to do for a year,) but I'm doing it.

Some people who aren't in a position to question me and the way I do things question my actions often ("John, why did you do that?" or "Uh, John, why would you X?") but the only reasons I ever have for doing something at work are "because a manager told me to," and "because it's part of my job." It can be frustrating having to explain myself all the time, and I've been told that I should tell people to stop questioning me, but somehow I don't see my fellow employees taking that well.

I feel as if despite doing my job and acting like an adult at work, some don't see me as one, I guess because I'm barely not a teenager anymore. Or maybe I give off that "It's okay to push me around, I won't fight back" vibe.

I guess, as I was told when I received my first paycheck, "Welcome to the real world."