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I work part-time at an ice cream shop with overall a great team. However, one of my supervisors seems to always be giving me small reminders or criticism when I do a task. It almost seems like they want to snub me on every little thing.

For example, small things like this:

  1. I was told to replace garbage bags an hour prior to closing, and I followed through. However, I thought it was too early because we were still receiving customers and it would give us a bad impression, but I decided to continue doing it because they had asked me to. So five minutes later, they tell me that it doesn't look good because there are still customers but I was literally instructed to do the task from them.
  2. Or when I wipe down counters, I'll forget to wipe a tiny spot and they call me out in front of other employees.
  3. Or I get reminded on tasks that are not part of my duty but another person's.

I understand that I could overlook some things and will gladly accept any reminders but they are constantly reminding me every hour or so on different small things. They could simply be trying to help me out and remind me for the future, but other supervisors never have that much to say to me. Additionally, when I apologize they'll tell me that it's not something I need to apologize for and make me feel almost guilty for saying sorry.

I know that I perform quite well because during performance review meetings I score quite high so I don't understand why that supervisor is so nitpicky. I have four other supervisors who are never on my case like that, just this one specifically. I'm not sure if I should speak up or if I should just tolerate it and assume that she is saying things to help me improve my performance. I just feel stressed whenever I see that I'm scheduled to work with them and brace myself for the constant small criticism.

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    Do you feel the supervisor has singled you out, or do they treat everyone this way? – Ernest Friedman-Hill Jan 28 '18 at 12:49
  • I call it micromangenent, the need to prove oneself and emphasize their importance; one of the two of you is wrong and you say it's not you though I'd be more concerned about #2 and #3. Can you ask for a different schedule that excludes the one person? Would working anywhere else pay any less? Are the other supervisors too easy going, as you'll learn less from them. – Rob Jan 28 '18 at 17:17
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Let's start with the nice explanation of what your boss is doing. This is one possible motivation. The boss points out what is wrong the moment it is wrong, and then forgets it entirely afterwards. The boss doesn't worry too much about whose fault it is or who was wrong, as long as the right thing happens. Examples

  • it's pretty slow right now, Mary has nothing to do, hey Mary, change the garbage bags. Oops! More customers! Hey Mary, stop doing that.
  • you missed a spot
  • Joe hasn't done X and it needs to be done, hey Mary, go do X

There is not necessarily any malice or any suggestion that you are messing up. Just something isn't right and needs to be right. I mean really, do you want to have a meeting with your boss in private "three days ago you missed a spot on the counter, I have made a note on your record" ? You just want to get the spot that was missed, right?

Now, there are other explanations. The boss might be very inconsistent and unfair, setting you up to look bad, but to be honest in a retail food environment that's a lot of trouble to go to, if the boss wanted to get rid of you they easily could. The boss might be trying to get someone else to look better than you to ensure that someone else makes assistant manager first or whatnot, but again do you really care? This is a part time job, not your lifelong career.

My advice: say "thankyou" (not "Sorry") whenever you can on these matters. If you're asked to do something and you're not sure it's right, ask once to be sure, eg "even though customers are still coming in?" and then "ok" if you're told "yes, even though customers are still coming in." Don't earn yourself an ulcer trying to figure out who was right and who was wrong. If something is undone, and you can do it, and you're asked to do it, do it. If something was done wrong, and you can make it right, make it right. These habits will serve you well throughout your career. And whether the boss ever notices that you're a great employee or not, other people will.

You'll have more mental energy to put into the rest of your life, you'll do better at this job and the next job, and you'll enjoy work more. Try it.

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It could be that this manager is focusing in more on your problems, or it could be the other managers just don't care or aren't looking.

Either way, everyone has different management styles. Your manager doesn't sound unreasonable to me. I worked at McD as a teen, and each manager had different ways of doing things, even though one manager may have said differently. I had a similar situation with trash bags during closing shift, and yeah, each manager handled it differently. I even had situations with closing time food amount where you're supposed to cook minimally. One manager had me cook so little, I had to fire up the grill again and then got yelled at for holding her up because I had to clean it all again. This was after I had the proper amount cooked.

So you'll have to deal with it. I suggest doing it and maybe even pretending to take lessons from this manager. Since this is likely your first job as a teen, I suggest you use it as a learning experience. After college, you'll easily fit into work places.

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Small criticism will help you improve if done as a form of feedback. Small criticism will only annoy when done without being asked for. Translated into workplace relationships, unwarranted criticism, even when correctly targeted, may do more harm than good when done incorrectly.

It shouldn't matter if he's your boss or not, it shouldn't matter if he's right or not, it should not even matter how big your little mistake is. There is a time and a place for helping employees improve by correcting their small mistakes, and that is not in front of customers or colleagues. All this will do is undermine the personal value of the individual being criticized and her social status inside the social group (workplace collective). This in turns leads to abusive work places where everyone feels entitled to correct or discipline co-workers for any mistake (big or small), just because the boss does it. Your boss is doing his job wrong and this affects your ability to perform, as instead of motivating you to be better at your job, he scares you into not making "small mistakes" by disciplining you in front of colleagues and customers.

There is one opinion expressed above mine, that your boss is an active person who values immediate action over planned out strategies to be executed at a later time. That is no excuse, as a leader, for not understanding the social value of a human interaction or it's consequences. If your boss does this because "it's normal" for him, it should not be "normal" for you. You will need to find a middle ground if you want to continue working together. What that middle ground is, depends only on you and him.

Do you resent being told to do something then have that assignment countermanded and being reprimanded for obeying? Try to explain it to your boss. If the person above me is correct, telling him how that makes you feel will get you nothing, instead showing him how his actions have a negative outcome on your immediate productivity would be, IMO, the way to go here.

Do you consider it inappropriate to be punished for something as small forgetting to swipe a corner? Does your boss know that? Did you consider letting him know that his way of handling this "small mistake" (as you describe it) is inappropriate for you? Try it, maybe you will gain more insight into what drove your boss into behaving that way.

Does picking up co-workers's tasks hamper you from properly performing yours? Does your boss know that? Did you try talking to him and telling him how his task juggling is affecting your productivity?

It's rather clear from what you write here that you and your boss have a problem in communication. Why he behaves the way he does towards you is something that I cannot answer, outside of wildly guessing. But there is a way for you to gain more insight as to why your boss is doing the things he/she does. Ask them. Communicate, assertively and proactively. It should help you more than asking a bunch of unknown people on a website.

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    who said anything about being punished? Do you think it's ok for parts of counters to go unwiped? Who should wipe the missed spot, if not the person holding a cloth who's currently wiping the counter? – Kate Gregory Jan 29 '18 at 13:40
  • Answering the first question: I did. Verbalizing criticism in front of equals from a position of power is a form of punishment. What I think is OK or NOK is irrelevant in this discussion. In absence of prolonged discussions, I and the OP do not share the same system of work-related values, therefor I cannot assume to decide what is or is not OK for her as a person. I can however make remarks on work-related abuse and communication issues, as I have been both generator and receiver of them. – BoboDarph Jan 29 '18 at 14:28

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