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Coffee, Cake, Chaos

Anonymous Toxic Workplace Stories are real and anonymous workplace stories. Gain unique insights and drama as we share firsthand accounts of toxic and traumatic work experiences. Discover the untold truths from employees who've lived through it all- as written by them.

I thought these toxic work environments only exist in corporate spaces but little did I know in restaurants too. Hi I can't say my name but I'm a qualified journalist and recently completed my BA degree in Creative Writing and I'm now studying towards my BA Hons in Applied Linguistics. With all my credentials I am still struggling to find employment. So late last year I was walking around town looking for a job to keep me busy and earn a living as I continuously look for an opportunity aligned with my qualifications.

I then saw that a coffee shop was opening a block away and I thought to myself that what a great opportunity and plus I won't need transport to work because I live minutes away from the establishment. I went to the establishment before its official opening hoping to find the owner but rather the architect finalizing his final product. We sat and had a lengthy conversation and he told me the owner of the establishment and moments later I went to the owner of that coffee shop because I knew exactly where she was located.

I wanted to approach her only to find the manager of her other establishments as she is also her right hand woman. I approached the manager telling her exactly what I was looking for and she was a bit reluctant in hiring me then the owner appeared thinking that I'm a pastry chef that is supposed to have a meeting with her. The owner of the establishment asked me what I was looking for and I was specific "just a waitressing job".

She then asked me what qualifications I had I told her that I'm a qualified journalist and I have just obtained my degree in Creative Writing also known as Literature and Linguistics. She then went on calling the HR manager of a sister company of one of the biggest publications emphasizing I can't be settling for a waitressing job when one is this qualified(This was all done in front of the manager of that coffee shop). But in South Africa the job market is very bleak.

The following year I contacted the owner of the establishment and asked for a meeting because I'm still struggling with job hunting. She then asked if I still wanted to be a waitress and I said yes she then said she will contact me as the coffee shop gets busier. At first I didn't quite believe her until she actually called me and it was hardly a week that we physically met.

She gave me a decent job offer and I accepted little did I know I was entering the pits of hell. The first 3 days were fine but the following week the manager of that coffee shop positioned me as her scapegoat and would shout at me for everything that goes wrong even things that weren't my fault were supposedly my fault.

This conditioned for other co workers to treat me. This treatment stemmed out a waiter a co worker to micro manage me. To speak to me as though I was her subordinate as though I was a child. It resulted to every briefing having to constantly complain about her conduct and her constant gaslighting and was emerging to bullying. There was constant bickering between the two of us it was as though she was doing all she could to get rid of me.

The manager would make as if she's reprimanding her but still call me weak and too sensitive. The manager was abusive she even grabbed my arm in front of customers claiming that my voice was too loud.

The highlight of her unfair and vile behavior was when she publically humiliated me for cutting my hair, I cut it for personal reasons and I have been struggling with alopecia for 11 years. Alopecia is an autoimmune condition that doctors, trichologists as well as dermatologists can't find a definite cure for. I previously had dreadlocks and I decided to cut them all off and go bald. I pitched for work the following Monday the manager made derogatory remarks about my look and empathized that I looked like a man.

The owner of the coffee shop has 3 establishments and one is 100% Male dominated no female has ever worked there since its opening and the manager saw it fit to place me there because in her eyes I look like a man. Her excuse was most tables are placed outside and on that specific day it was raining.

The following day after working at that Male dominated space I went back to the coffee shop but this time I had make up on and she said that I now look like a girl.

I continued working but everything went downscale. The other waiter was still micro managing me and it was business as usual. Until I stopped wearing foundation because I don't like putting on make up every single day its just preference.

Then the manager said that I shouldn't equate myself to my coloured co worker that never puts foundation on because her and I are not the same and my coloured co worker is white like those were her exact words. She then went on by making her derogatory comments on me looking like a man because I cut my hair. The manager would even wired wired comments on the type of underwear (bra) to be specific I would wear. I'm a big girl with a big bust and she would always find a way to insult me because of it. As a survivor of SA and SH such gestures really make someone uncomfortable and very triggered even if it's from a woman.

I was confused as to we selling food or girls because the prerequisite from the owner was uniform and red lipstick for t