Caitlin Kelly’s memoir, Malled tells the story of her adventures in retail sales after an esteemed writing career. It appeared, and probably felt like a real step down for her, at first. It was very different from her writing job. She was used to a more professional environment. She was used to getting much more respect from her superiors as well as customers. This had to be especially frustrating as she was older than many of her co-workers, not to mention bosses.
Many such bosses felt the need to make certain that it was known who was in control. One day she worked 6 hours without a break [fortunately, labor laws have changed]. She was caught by her younger superior grabbing a bite of apple.
Angie was walking past the lockers when she saw me.
“Are you on your break?” she asked sarcastically. We both knew I wasn’t.
I couldn’t believe she cared that much. No customer could see me. I was taking perhaps thirty seconds away from my official duties. Why did this even matter?
I said nothing but felt humiliated and small as she walked away, her point made. She never mentioned it again. She didn’t have to. She’d flexed her managerial muscle.
Who hasn’t experienced this? Someone [rightly or wrongly] asserting their authority over us can make us feel about 2 inches tall. My book, Reptiles on Caffeine, is chock-full of stories like this.
Some might say this is a legitimate managerial technique. She obviously wasn’t on her break. But Kelly was one of the better employees of the store. That might have been taken into consideration, as well as her long hours that day.
As Michael W. Dean, author of A User’s Manual for the Human Existence, says, “For many it’s easier to be clever and cut someone down instead of being positive.” I have found this to be true in all of my retail service gigs. Heck, I know it to be true in myself. It’s frustrating dealing with people who just don’t seem to get it, and sarcasm seems like a good release as well as an effective way to deal with the situation.
But it’s toxic and will do more damage than good.
image credit: malledthebook.com