I have said this before, but I think I need to drill this into every teen’s head. Having expectations for your workplace is the absolute minimum to succeed in your career. So, I want to encourage you all to follow my own example and not let yourself fall into a trap.
Why is it good for YOU?
This is the biggest question of them all. Why would it be good for you if you had expectations and boundaries at work that were non-negotiable? How would you benefit from that?
Plenty of answers to that.
Yes, I’m serious. Standing your ground and telling your boss what’s okay and what isn’t shows that you have a spine and that you are willing to put yourself on the line for your own values.
In one of my previous workplaces I was hired to be an “ice cream girl”. Job description said that all I had to do was serve customers who wanted a swerved ice cream, which seemed fairly easy. When I started my first day my first job was to clean out the machine and fill it up with new ice cream (because it was left there overnight, eww… Think about that the next time you get ice cream.) Then I had to help stock the shelves, label items and serve customers. After a while someone also told me to clean up the changing room for the staff… Clearly zero respect for me as a worker, but I still did it.
Now, if you do the same as me you will be a doormat to your boss. They will know that they can get you to do anything and it will make your life miserable if you want to stay in that workplace. So please, don’t be a pushover and learn from my mistake.
In retrospect, what I should’ve done was this:
I should have told my boss that stocking shelves, labelling items and cleaning wasn’t part of my job description. I was not being paid for that kind of physical labor and that if she wanted to pawn that off on me then we could have a talk about my contract and pay.
If you don’t state what you need and what’s good for you then you can bet you won’t get it. We have a saying in Hungarian “even the mother of a mute child won’t understand their words”, which means that if you don’t put your wants out there you will sure as hell won’t have anyone to fulfill them.
Once again, I have a personal experience with this, since I had very little self respect when I first got into the market. I didn’t know what was rude and what was necessary.
To begin with: I spent way too much of my life sitting and thus, my back can’t handle it if I stand for too long. I can get through 3 hours at most, but nothing more. And I got a job when I was 16 in a factory as a cook? Lunch lady? Dishwasher? I don’t know honestly, it was a little bit of everything. Either way, it was constant running back and forth, warming up sandwiches, making hot-dogs and burgers while chatting with my 2 coworkers. Who were very nice and understanding by the way, which is why I hate the fact that I didn’t tell them about this problem. After that 3 hour mark I started to experience very severe pain in my lower back and I just HAD to sit down. I kept apologizing to them while I stretched sitting on a damn bin.
Their response was an understanding gaze and a “take as long as you need”, with the condition that I had to go back to helping them by the rush hour. Which was like half an hour away at that point. I was highly surprised.
The lesson I learned that day was that I need to say if something is wrong or if I need a break. I could’ve avoided that pain easily by sitting down for 2-3 minutes every hour, which wouldn’t have even been a problem.
If you ever find yourself in a situation where you are doing a lot of work and need a break don’t be afraid to ask for it. Same goes for other things, like water, air conditioning, fresh air. Just ask someone and I guarantee that if you work at the right place they won’t hesitate to make your situation better.
Better social life at work
There is a good chance that your workplace allows you to talk to your coworkers. This usually enhance morale, which is necessary for a job well done. But if you don’t have boundaries this can all go downhill very fast.
A person might come onto you way too hard. Another may just act inappropriate. Whatever it is, you need to lay down boundaries and either talk to the person directly or take it to your boss. First option is usually enough. Most people understand if they are making someone uncomfortable and stop their behavior quickly, which can make the social connection between the two of you much better.
Once again, don’t be a pushover and don’t just take whatever people throw at you.
More chances at advancing
This kind of stems from the “respect” part of it all, because the people around you need to have a certain amount of respect for you to do this. If you expect your job to allow you to advance and put that fact out in the open you will be able to do it. You just need to get it out there.
I don’t care how old you are, promotions are (or at least should be) a possibility for everyone who does their job well enough. It’s crucial for a good-looking CV and it will earn you a ton of respect later on in life when your future bosses see that you had a promotion at your first job when you were just a teen. Most young people don’t have the best work ethic, which is why this is a huge advantage.
The way you can do this is by asking about it on your first interview. At the last segment when they ask you whether you have any questions. The phrasing is very important, so try to do it among the lines of “Is there a possibility for me to gain more responsibilities and with it, the benefits?” Make sure you emphasize that you want the responsibility more, as that puts you in a better light.
What kind of boundaries should you enforce?
Now this is where it gets tricky, because to each their own, there isn’t any universal answer to this question. But the basic ones you should stick to are pretty simple.
First one is requiring your boss to show a certain level of respect for you, which should be true to every one of your coworkers as well if you have any. Without it no work relationship can work and it will impact your performance.
Second (this one is actually the most important to me) is sticking to the job description. If you were hired to babysit a child and their parent tells you last minute to make dinner, clean the kitchen and help the kid with their homework that’s a no-go. You’re clearly being exploited because your employer knows very well that they got a deal for full-on childcare. If your boss tries to negotiate tell them that wasn’t part of the original agreement and that they will have to pay more for more work.
And finally, expect some basic comfort. Having a break to eat and rest, being in an environment that is designed for human labor (right temperature, air conditioning and anything else appropriate for where you work). You shouldn’t break yourself for a job that could replace you at any time.