Manager For a Day: A Short Fiction
"And the winner is, "Linda Porter!" Linda shyly stepped up, whereupon the manager replaced Linda's yellow and red Buster Burger team member cap with the solid red store manager's cap and exclaimed, "Manager for a Day, tomorrow!"
Linda, who had just been hired as a fry cook two weeks ago had her name drawn to be manager for a day. Looking back, she thinks she'd have rather lost.
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She arrived to find that two of her five workers called in sick. "At least they called in, she thought." She apologized to the other three and promised she'd pitch in.
Linda was looking in the mirror to be sure her manager's cap was straight and blouse tucked in and couldn't resist a moment of pride. But that was interrupted by a worker who asked, "I know you're just a manager for a day but I was really disappointed when Charlie got to be shift leader. I work so much harder than him, and you know, he doesn't ring up his family when they come in." Linda had no idea what to say, so she said, "You'll have to take it up with the real manager tomorrow."
Everything went smoothly for a while until a patron complained to a clerk that his fries were cold. The clerk said, "Your fries were hot when I gave them to you. You've been sitting there for a half hour. Now they're half gone and cold and you want a full hot one free. No!" Linda heard the commotion, gave him new fries and whispered, "You're right but the customer always has to be right. Sorry." The clerk cried, Linda hugged her, and it was back to business.
Now it was break time. When she was a worker, she didn't notice but now as a manager, she observed that everyone in the break room was sitting with people on their own race or ethnic background. She said, half joking, "Don't you remember what they taught us: diversity is our greatest strength. How about mixing it up a little?" The room got scary silent and, embarrassed, Linda returned to the safety of the serving area.
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As a shift ended, the manager is supposed to count the clerk's cash register tray and noticed that one of the $20 bills was a 20 rand bill, worth only $2. The clerk apologized and begged Linda, "I'm so sorry I didn't notice. It looks like a $20 bill. Oh my God, that $18 is two hours pay. I really need the money." Linda decided Buster Burger and the franchisor could afford it more than the worker so she just tucked the South African bill in with the rest of the money and hoped, against the odds, that the boss wouldn't pin it on either of them.
At the end of the shift that day, workers were required to watch a half-hour video on customer service. Linda watched with them. They were incessantly making fun of the video: "Gimme a break, I gotta sit here and listen to that idiot tell me to say thank you to each customer? F**k her." It was the end of a long, stressful day, and finally after 20 minutes of that and Linda politely telling them to be quiet, she just lost it and said, "Shut the f**k up!" One worker said, "You can't tell me to shut the f**k up. You're just f**king Linda. Big manager. Tomorrow it's back with your yellow and red hat at the fryer. Big f**king manager."
The next day, the manager asked the workers how Linda did and then said to Linda, "How'd you like to be my assistant manager?" Linda said, "I don't think so." The manager said, "Smart woman."
While this is fictional, it encapsulates examples I've heard from real-life managers. Don't let anyone tell you it's easy being a manager.
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Marty Nemko welcomes your visiting his website: www.martynemko.com where lots of his writings and radio show are archived. And, if you need career help, you can email Marty Nemko at email@example.com