Monday, March 26, 2007

Yes, I'm a Bitch pt.1

I'm going to get a bunch of T-shirts made up with, "Yes, I'm a Bitch, do as I say, and don't argue with me," because I've been wasting far too much time arguing with work studies. (They already think the first part anyway.) They insist on arguing with me even when I tell them that something isn't library policy, state law, or in the honor code.

It started with breaks. Work studies were insisting that I was required to give them breaks when they work four or more hours. I told them no, state law requires me to give you an unpaid meal break if you work six hours. It was even posted where we keep their timesheets. No, they insisted, I must give them a break if over four. I found the state labor law and University Z policy detailing breaks. Guess who was right? Guess who wouldn't believe/listen to me when I told them?

I finally sent out this email to all the students for whom I am the direct supervisor. I sign these guys' timesheets. I'm their BOSS. Somehow that doesn't seem to faze them.

Hi Ref. Assistants,

There have been issues in the recent past concerning breaks. University Z requires supervisors to give student workers an unpaid meal break if the student works six or more hours at a time. That is the only break we are REQUIRED to give you.

Supervisors are allowed, at their discretion, to allow students to take short "on the clock" breaks if they work four or more hours. This is not a guaranteed break. And will not always be allowed.

As reference assistants, a higher level of responsibility is expected of you. A couple of you work when there is no staff in the building. At those times, you are the person in charge. You should not be taking breaks. I also expect you to be responsible when I am away taking my meal break or am otherwise engaged. Breaks at such times are not allowed.

Times when breaks are not allowed:

1.When there is only one student working the desk (that would be you).

2.When there are two students but no staff available. The could mean no staff is currently on shift or the only staff person is otherwise engaged, such as the only staff person is helping students find books, clearing printer jams, patrolling the building, on the phone, or away from the desk for whatever reason. Taking a break is not allowed.

3.When things are hectic. You cannot just drop everything and leave when there is high demand.

If you wish/need to take a break, you must inform a staff a person at least a half hour in advance (an hour is preferable), and there is no guarantee that you will be able to take a short 10-15 minute break when the time comes, especially during any of the instances listed above.

Breaks cannot be stored. You can't take a half hour break because you didn't take a break yesterday. You cannot leave fifteen minutes early because you didn't take a break. You can't come in fifteen minutes late and claim that was your break. You cannot be paid for time that you were late or left early.

This does not include brief bathroom breaks, trips to the vending machines, or other types of short trips away from the desk which take usually less than five minutes. Please be responsible when taking these types of breaks as well.

Alerting me or your coworker when you need to step away from the desk for any reason is a good general rule.

If you have any questions, please let me know.


The Vampire Librarian

Instantly after the email, I had complaints. One said, "I substituted for someone for three hours in the morning and then came back to work five hours in the evening. I think I should be given a meal break."

Well did you ask for a break? Did you give me any warning? Did I know you'd worked three hours in the morning? No to all of them. (And I don't really care that you picked up a sub-shift. Nobody twisted your arm to do that.) You just decided that it would be great to go heat up a Hot Pocket when there was no other work studies on shift, and it was busy. Just saying bye as you go to the back is not appropiate.

Another tried to argue that if she's the only work study at the desk, then she's doing twice the work so shouldn't she get a break? Uh, no. If you're the only student on shift, that means there's only you and me, and I'm not letting you out of my sight. (And no, you don't get paid double!)

Did you not read the email? Did I not make myself clear?

I think I was rather lenient with them, but they seem to think I am the ultimate in unfair bosses. Well tough. Do as I say (or rather do as I email) and don't give me lip. I don't have to rehire you. I don't have to do anything. You, on the other hand, do. You have to do what I freaking tell you. Don't argue with me.

Yes, as you can tell from the title there are going to be more parts to this. I hope you all are up for some venting.

You are free to tell me that I am a bitch. That I'm being rather unfair. That I should be nicer to the work studies. Please, go ahead. I've heard it a gazillion times already. And I get a perverse pleasure from comments. No matter what they say.



Blogger Julie said...

I am totally with you. I wish I could have it out with my student workers. However, I work at a divinity school library, and if I did that, I'd get sent to conflict mediation with a spiritual adviser. Seriously.

6:52 AM, March 26, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Speaking as a work study student who works in a university library, I'd say you're definitely not a bitch. Your workers need to grow up.

7:48 AM, March 26, 2007  
Anonymous Arkham said...

You're not being unreasonable. They are. If they expect to get to wander off in the middle of a shift regardless of the circumstances, they'll be in for a shock when they have to work a "real" job - they'll be lucky to get ANY breaks in a 4 hour period after they aren't being employed by the University any more.

8:10 AM, March 26, 2007  
Anonymous J said...

You're being a bitch. You're being rather unfair. You should be nicer to the work studies.

... or not. I particularly liked a t-shirt I saw recently:

"Floggings will continue until crew morale improves."

I think floggings ought to be instituted for complainers.

11:14 AM, March 26, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Our state does have a law that any more over 4 hours requires a 15 minute break. Even though I am REQUIRED to take a break, I do not because there is just too much work to be done. Obviously they get to use the bathroom, so they need to grow up and quit complaining. I think if they were a little busier they wouldn't have time to complain.

10:53 PM, March 26, 2007  
Blogger Vampire Librarian said...


I have two students who do work six hour shifts and refuse to take their meal break. I have to make them fudge their time sheets to make it look like they took a break. (But it's in a way that they don't lose any pay.)

And the thing that gets me, I will allow these four-five hour students to have a small break, if they give me fair warning.

6:30 AM, March 27, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yeah. It sounds to me like the complaining ones just don't have enough to do, so I would find one of the most boring tasks and set them to it.

6:30 PM, March 27, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have that t-shirt, but they won't allow me to wear it at work.
Now that's an unfair boss.
Not the VL.

4:26 PM, March 29, 2007  
Blogger Warrior Knitter said...

As Arkham said, wait until they get out into the "real" world and have a "real" job.

8:05 PM, March 30, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You're my hero. I only wish I were a bitch.
--Fellow Librarian--

1:23 PM, March 31, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

you american are weird… working, working, working…Working is not everything! Give them a break… if the work in more important than the worker there a big f* problem!

11:26 AM, July 01, 2007  
Blogger Vampire Librarian said...

Thank you for your comment, last anonymous. And there's a lot of truth to what you say. I do give breaks when reasonable. I don't shackle them to the desk. I think it would be better if the students weren't scheduled for more than 3-hour blocks at a time, but I don't control the schedule and sometimes there aren't enough students.

This is not really that tough a job. They get to goof off a lot. When they've goofed off for two hours and ask for a break, I'm just a little taken aback.

2:15 PM, July 01, 2007  

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