Disruption in the workplace
I have always been a quiet, nervous and reserved person. Not sure why, but confidence isn’t something that I have been good at. This time last year I was offered a job in gaming at my local pub. Taking this step was one that scared me but has changed me for the better. I am now happy, outgoing, vocal and finally myself.
Although this all seems positive, working at the pub has required me to grow what is known as a thick skin : ‘not easily hurt by criticism’. I have never been more sexually objectified in my life than I have been in the last year and unfortunately this is something that ‘comes with the job’ and I have to deal with daily. Being a female dealing with customers of all ages and walks of life is hard, but adding alcohol to the mix means, mainly males (from personal experience) think that it is more than acceptable to treat you like eye candy or someone they can talk to inappropriately simply because they can.
The story i’m about to tell happened to me about 4 months into working at my job.
Since I work in gaming (pokies) you get to know the patrons quite well. I’m there 5 days a week/ 36 hours so people get to know me too. One Friday night I was happily going about my job when 3 males came in to play a machine. A part of my job is to ask patrons if I can get them anything to eat or drink. These males said yes and asked for 4 double vodka and solos. When I replied I would only be able to get them 3 as only 3 were in the gaming room they were understanding of this and I went off to the drinks. When I returned the one that paid asked me to put the ‘change in his mouth’ and if I did this he would let me keep it. I refused, put the change on the machine and walked off. About 15minutes later I was busy with another patron when these 3 males started yelling to get my attention from the other side of the room.
“hey babe”, “hottie” “sexy”, waving their card at me and being whistled at, were all being used to get my attention . I tried my best to ignore them until a coaster was thrown at me. At this moment I angrily turned around and said ‘you can see that i’m busy, stop being disrespectful and wait for me to come over’. I went over and took their card to get them another round. When I got there I was asked if they could smell my jeans, have my number and have one of their babies. These type of comments continued every-time I walked past them for a period of about 20minutes when I finally got to the point were I was too uncomfortable to serve the patrons that were down past them. Once I had a chance to tell a supervisor, the boys denied these comments and told the supervisor I was being dramatic. Thankfully another patron stepped in to recount everything that happened and these 3 males were asked to leave the premise. After this the supervisor told me that comments like this come with the job and once I have worked in the industry longer I will be able to handle the comments. I filed a complaint against the supervisor and asked for the 3 males to be barred for harassing staff. Surprise surprise, nothing was done about it.
Since this interaction, many other instances such as this have occurred but I now have the confidence to ask people to leave and how to stand up for myself. Even though this night was terrible and made me very upset it boosted my confidence to not just accept these comments because of the industry I work in.
Michael White who was a social and community worker- was widely known for his understanding of the concept known as ‘absent but implicit’. This theory explores how in order to make sense of a situation, one must make a distinction between other experiences which then allows for meaning to be developed. (Carey, Walthers and Russell, 2009). White also puts fourth the question ‘What are the conditions that make it possible for people to attribute meaning to experiences that have been lived through?’ (White, 2003). By living through this situation in my workplace it allowed for me to fully understand what it is like to sexually harassed, and reflect on how often this must occur within other pubs or other areas within the hospitality industry. Reflecting on this situation and how often it occurs to me has made me further understand how important it is to treat people with respect and how the locals at my pub fail to display this quality.
Another theory is that from Arthur Frank who was a professor of Sociology at the University of Calgary who was most popularly known for his work regarding ethics as well as the benefits of sharing workplace stories. “We live stories whether we want to or not, and the only real questions are how aware we are of the stories we are living and how effectively we try to tell some kinds of stories and avoid telling/living others ” (Frank, 1997a, 1997b). By telling this story to other employees, especially the males, they are able to understand how talking like that to a girl makes them feel. It also allows for other employees to know about how being in the gaming room can cause people to talk to you inappropriately. Unfortunately, telling this story to the old manager resulted in zero actions being taken, but thankfully I know that our new manager would have instantly barred these males. This makes me feel more confident about coming to work now.
Aside from this I love my job!
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