Should My Manager Be Allowed to Call Me a B–?

Question: I work at a carry-out restaurant. I have three managers. Two of them I get along with very well, but I have always felt like the other manager has something against me. I’m 16, this is my first job, and I try to do my best at work.

Today we were really slow and we had stocked everything and cleaned everything. We had no orders out and there was nothing to do. I was talking to one of my coworkers about a video of me. She asked to see it and I pulled out my phone.

Now just so you know, me and this manager had been making jokes, and playing throwing ice at each other, so I thought we were fine. Out of nowhere she comes up and says,”Bitch, get off your phone.”

Everyone in there when we are slow has their phone out. I’ve seen the manager on FaceTime with her friends, I’ve seen her take videos with the other girls , and make TikToks, literally just the other night. So I thought she was just playing. So I said “stop playing” and was trying to proceed to show her the video.

Then my manager said,”You won’t have a job tomorrow. Go out and talk on your phone in your car” and then got mad and stormed off. I really didn’t know she was being serious and now I feel bad. But if she was being serious she shouldn’t have called me a bitch and threatened me with my job.

She has also threatened me with my job before over little things like that. So basically what I’m asking is, could I get her in trouble for that?

Response: It was inappropriate for your manager to call you a bitch, especially since you are a relatively young teenager and she is an adult. It is a very bad example of workplace communication and supervision.  I hope you will also talk to your parents or other adults or people you trust, to get advice from someone closer to the situation.

It also seems to me that if phones are not supposed to be out at work, there should be a written policy that all must abide by. Generally in a workplace like yours, if there is free time, and all tasks have been done, employees and managers use their phones. If there was a task you were supposed to be doing, the manager should have talked to you about that specifically.

Having said that, let me also point out that working at a place where goofing around happens often, combined with ice throwing, soda fizzing, name-calling, etc., is not typical of any other jobs you will have. You can see what happened in your case.

You had observed a lot of non-work activity and you had played around with others, including your  manager. As a result, when things were serious you didn’t realize you needed to switch gears. You would be better off controlling some of that and always assume your managers mean business when they act serious. However, your manager, in this case, started it with calling you a nasty name.

The way she said it, sounds very much like a line from a comedy act, “Bitch, what you doing?” “Bitch, don’t start with me.” But, work is not a comedy and being called a bitch in anger is not the same as when two friends are joking around. It is especially inappropriate with an adult to a teenager. She may have said it, half-joking, then resented your reaction and over-reacted herself.

Probably your best option is to pick the manager you trust the most, call them away from work if you can, and tell your story. Ask them what you should do to make sure this never happens again. Especially mention the continued threats about your job.

The next option (and the one your other  manager may suggest) is to go to your manager and ask her if you can talk to her in private. Tell her you didn’t realize she was serious when she told you to put your phone away and you won’t make that mistake again.

Then you could say, “But Rita, I don’t want you to call me a bitch again. That made me feel really embarrassed and I wouldn’t ever call you that.” Then just stop and see what she says. She may apologize or she may say she didn’t mean it like it sounded. At least you will have it on your mental record that you told her not to call you that again. And, saying a short statement like that doesn’t require you to memorize a speech about it. Just blurt it out and get it over with. I would bet it is the first time someone has asked to not be called names by her. It may be good for her!

Then, if she continues to be unreasonable about her orders or language, you will have a stronger reason to complain to higher levels. If you find you have to contact someone higher up to get some action in the future, write down the approximate date and time of incidents, witnesses, and exactly what she said and what you said. Then say how it made you feel about working with her. Those are the things that are most important to anyone reviewing it.

I think this is a lot to ask a 16 year old to handle maturely, when your own manager didn’t act mature. But, if you can do it, you will have achieved something few people can do….stand up for yourself in a good way. Just be sure  not to talk to coworkers about it, because if they say you were gossiping about her, you will be in even more trouble and you certainly don’t need that.

One positive factor is that you will probably not be working there much longer anyway. Few jobs of that nature become careers and you will find places that are more work-oriented and will help you develop in other ways.

Best wishes to you with this. If you have the time and wish to do so, let us know what happens.

Tina Rowe
Workplace Doctors

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina had a thirty-three year career in law enforcement, serving with the Denver Police Department from 1969-1994 and was the Presidential United States Marshal for Colorado from 1994-2002. She provides training to law enforcement organizations and private sector groups and does conference presentations related to leadership, workplace communications and customized topics. Her style is inspirational with humor.