ASSOCIATES (2005, March, v. 11, no. 3) - associates.ucr.edu
A Column Of Eclectic Rantings*
Katie Buller Kintner
Yep, that be me, pharmacy cashier. The old library job hunt is still on (sort of) but I’m finding that life outside the library is actually not too bad. I work part time, I have no responsibility on the job except to show up, do my duties, be courteous to the customers and when the time comes, I go to lunch and at the end of the shift, go home. Everyone I work with is very nice…until this week, so this column is more serious than you might expect from me.
This week I got “farmed out” to another store in the chain to help out in the absence of an ill employee. The job duties and benefits were essentially the same except I was working the “front end” (the cashier counter) alone in a much smaller facility. However, I found out this week that there was an exception when it came to taking a break. When I asked the pharmacist/store manager when I could take my lunch break, her response was “you don’t get one.”
Eh hem—this is a six and half hour shift in which I am on my feet the whole time, not even a minute sitting down. Tell “you don’t get one” to my aching back and bunions. At her “suggestion” that I call the district manager if I didn’t like it, I did just that. I got my 30 minute lunch break. Just call it the ex-union steward still in me.
However this gets better. That afternoon I had to endure catcalls from this “professional” individual as I worked, telling me how the OTHER employees never took a lunch break and ate their lunch sitting on a stool at the cashier station. Now had this proposal been made to me, I might have done it, despite the fact that it is against store policy to sit and eat where customers can see you. But it was not. I also heard about how WONDERFUL it must have been to get off my feet and when 3:00 came, that I only had AN HOUR to go, intimating that I was not only lazy but a clockwatcher too. This was all called out to me while I was trying to work whether there were customers in the store or not.
Lucky me—I get to go back to this store at least one more time, although it could be twice if she behaves herself and leaves me alone. Would you believe I volunteered to help out at this store? It’s some nice way to treat someone who’s trying to help you.
Now this brings me to the question that I’m writing about. When it comes to taking a break, whether it’s a coffee break or lunch break, how many of us skip it? If you do take your breaks, are you given a hard time? If you don’t take a break (and I admit, in the past I’m one of those who would skip a break) why not?
Coffee breaks developed during the latter part of the industrial revolution when employers realized that giving employees a coffee break during a shift increased production. Although not everyone gets a mid-shift break, most of us working shifts of at least 5 hours or more get some kind of a break, whether it’s only 10 minutes or 30 minutes. At my store, I don’t get a morning or afternoon break but I do get the option of taking a 20 minute paid or 30 minute unpaid break sometime during the middle of my shift. Before taking my break, I always check with other employees to make sure I’m not needed at the moment. We cover for each other when we are on our break, which is one way that we build our at-work relationships and form a cohesive, well-run unit. I have worked in places where employees would refuse to cover for each other and in every case, there was resentment and distrust between people who should care for each other.
I am also of the opinion that if you are the supervisor in your unit, you should know at least enough about your employees’ work to cover for them during their breaks or even full-day absences. If you consider this to be “beneath you” or something you “don’t have time for” then you need to examine your priorities. Both those excuses are just that—excuses. If you cannot do these things, in my opinion, your employees might not have as much respect for you as you think.
Just my .02 worth for today. Sorry I wasn’t very funny. My feet still hurt.