When I first applied for the high school Summer job at Subway, I applied to the one very near my parents’ house. While I was hired there, that particular location didn’t really need new hires. I was trained there, but Subway were planning on opening three new stores in the Knoxville area and I was to work at one of those stores. Until the new stores opened, I was sent around wherever workers were most needed.
One day, I was sent to a location I’d never been to before. It was very near my high school, and it had a manager I’d never met or worked with previously.
That manager was…not very good. Unlike the managers I was used to, who would pitch in and help where needed and always seemed to be busy doing something, this particular example would sit in her office and order us around. But whatever, it was a pretty slow location and we were there to work, so work we did.
At one point, she called me into her office. She told me that she’d called the head office and asked what to do when an employee refused to work. The head office said to send that employee home, and that was what she was doing.
I was floored. I had no idea what she was referring to. I pointed out that until she had called me into her office I had been working. She claimed that she had told me to sweep the floor and I had refused.
This was patently ridiculous. If she had chosen any other task, that might have been believable. But sweeping the floor is probably the easiest thing a Subway employee has to do. It’s not like it was my favorite task (that would probably have been food prep, since there’s a zen-like tranquility you get from doing the same thing over and over and over until you’ve filled four boxes of sliced tomatoes or whatever), but I was always happy to sweep. It’s possible I just didn’t hear her and she took my noncompliance for insubordination, but I would never have outright refused any order, let alone one to sweep the floor.
I told her there must be some misunderstanding, and asked her to let me finish out my shift. She agreed. She knew after that I would work extra hard to keep from being sent home, and she worked me like a dog the rest of the day.
The next day, I got to work with the lady who trained me, a manager named Patricia who was going to be given managership over one of the new stores. She asked, “How did it go yesterday?”
From the tone of her voice, I knew she’d already heard about the incident, but I was happy to recount my side of the story. When I was done, she said, “Yeah, that story didn’t sound right. I’ve asked you to mop bathrooms and scrub tile and you did it without a fuss, so refusing to sweep didn’t make sense. But there’s a problem.”
I inquired as to what the problem might be.
“That manager is going to be your new manager.”
That…was indeed a problem.
I thought quickly. And then I said, “Could I maybe work for your store instead?”
She told me it would be a longer drive for me. I told her I didn’t care, I didn’t want to work for that manager ever again.
She agreed. She told me she had a high opinion of me, and she was sure she could get me assigned to her store.
So she did. Although I would occasionally be loaned out to other stores, I worked for Patricia’s store for the rest of the Summer. I was happy to do so, and true to her word, Patricia never sent me to work for that other manager again.
In the moment, my main takeaway was that this one manager was bad news. But I also learned the value of a good reputation. And I learned that you never really know when having one will come in handy.