So, everyone knows that I have a mental illness. I’m not quiet about it, because I want to help break the stigma and increase awareness. I’ve always questioned who should know and how in depth should I be? A question those with mental illness have questioned when entering a new relationship and even starting a new job.
Everyone knew I worked for Starbucks. I loved my job and I miss the joy that I did experience while working; the friendships I made, the connections that were made were astonishing. I enjoyed listening to people and providing them great customer service. My favorite part was being able to serve someone the best cup of coffee and to hear a customer respond saying “this made my day.” Comments such as that made me feel good, and made me feel as though I was contributing to this world in a unique way.
Starbucks, has this rule that when you are going to miss more than 3 days of work you have to report it to Sedgwick. Sedgwick requires that you tell them before you leave, and the date you expect to return. As an individual with a mental illness, you never know when you’re going to have a psychotic episode, manic episode a depressive episode. It’s unrealistic to say I’m going to check in today and be out in a week. When in reality, sometimes your sent directly from a therapist office, from your home and you’re not in the best condition to make a healthy decision. I had been written up 3 times for this.
My manager claimed I was unreliable and inconsistent. When in reality I wasn’t! An absence for a mental illness doesn’t make someone unreliable and inconsistent. My friends and readers with a mental illness, do not allow anyone, not even your boss make you feel as though you are less than a person and incompetent. I had to remind my manager of the many time she has called me to come in early, leave later, come in on days I’ve asked to have off. She and Starbucks has forgotten the time and energy I slaved, to be paid 9.69 an hour. I was working 30 hours a week, neglecting school and my responsibilities in fear that I would lose my job with corporate America.
Starbucks, talks about what they offer their employees medical insurance (they cut out mental health,though). You have to pay extra for dental and vision, and co-pays are about 40$ a visit. If you work for 9.69 hour and need to see a doctor often with only one job, you just spent your entire paycheck for corporate America. Starbucks talk about sending employees to college, you only get one option for colleges, which is ASU; you have to work about 30 hours a week to obtain this privilege. It’s almost impossible if you’re working 30 hours to take full time classes, and attend to personal matters. Trust me, I tried.
At the beginning it was a dream come true, and as a result I was open with my manager (Jennifer B.) and district manager (Lulie T.) about my illness. And in the beginning they were great about understanding it. At least I thought that. I didn’t think it would be used against me. My manager once suggested to me that I quite school, work almost full time in CT (very expensive state to live in) and get on state assistance programs; just to work at a job that made me fearful of getting fired because of an illness I couldn’t control.
We would meet and she would often say “Mia, this is a business this is corporate and they don’t care.” She said to me “I’m not losing my job over you, and if that means you quitting and getting fired then I will do that.” She would tell me, remember “I don’t need you here, you’re here because I say so.” I reached out for help, to have accommodations but that was worse. I often was written up. The individual responsible for accommodations forced me to quit. They said “if you quit you can be rehired, if a store wants you.”
I had previously been out of work because I was in a psychiatric hospital for a week, and before I left Starbucks, I told my boss “you and this job, are making me more mentally ill than what I am, and are making me suicidal.” I was crying. She walked away and said “that’s not my problem, work your shift then call Sedgwick and take leave.” Corporate America doesn’t really care, they just want money, at the expense of their employees health and even the children they have to take care of. I sent in my letter to Sedgwick concerning my inability to return to work, but I also told them that I was homeless. I was told “no problem, you can stay on your leave.” My boss, district manage, and partner services said “then quit!” I was homeless and told to “quit.”
This is the truth behind corporate America and the employees they higher. We slave for long hours, making a little bit of money, and are treated like we are dirt. I’ve heard my manager tell me that her shifts supervisors needed to be fired. She didn’t care about firing people. It wasn’t her problem. As she always said, “there are people begging for your position, and I don’t need you. remember that. you can get fired as quickly as you were hired. you’re lucky to have this job.” but she consistently said, “i’m quitting, this job because it isn’t worth it, I’ve had better jobs and a better degree.” This is the truth! So every time you buy a coffee, know the stress and pain esp. those with health and mental health illnesses are putting in, to serve you that perfect cup of coffee.
My district manager lied on me a week before I became homeless. I told her 30 mins before my shift, however I told my manager and shift supervisor a day ahead that I was not working with a specific shift supervisor, because he was awful. My district manager said, “if it’s going to make you mentally sick, then go home and you don’t have to work” I asked twice and said “Are you sure? I will work my shift if you cannot find coverage, I will.” She called the store with the news of “I found coverage you’re ok.” The next day I was written up with a final warning, basically to never call out again. That next day my boss said “I’m tired of your SHIT” I just cried and I had to return to work and say “Hi, welcome to Starbucks”
My doctor and psychiatrist had told me to leave my job, and I told them this was the only job I had. What I didn’t realize was that, this job, my manager, and my district manager were making me mentally sick. I went home crying, went to work with anxiety. I feared my job. I would go into different Starbucks and fear the environment. Then I remembered how much I love serving people, making that perfect cup of coffee and making friendships. I enjoyed the employees I worked with. We even hung out after work. We kept each other going. We laughed when we wanted to cry, and vented to each other about our concerns and fears.
I was forced to quit me job, or else I would have been fired. I asked “you would fire someone who is homeless, instead of giving me a leave of absence?” I was told “Mia, it’s a business, and I’m not losing my job over anyone.” So I quit. I cried, then felt a sense of peace. I love Starbucks coffee, and would love to work for them again,the discount was great, I loved the customers and my co-workers. I don’t miss the mental abuse and how I was taken advantage of. My store, my manager, and district manager was making me so sick, so sick that I thought death was an option. I felt stuck! But the truth is I needed a job. I have no money now, I’m poor (well I have a savings account-it’s drying out though), no job; because it was a “business” it didn’t matter. I have no health insurance, no way to afford my medication and no mental health support. It doesn’t matter though because it’s a “business.” I still buy their coffee, it’s good!
I miss my job, and I would love to try it again. I would love to apply again and work again. In spite of my bosses words, and and district manager, they’re great people. I try to see the good in all the bad situations. I enjoyed being on store and customer support, my manager even said many time “Mia, you’ve improve and I see your work ethics improving, and I’m glad I hired you” This is the Jennifer I miss! This is the Jennifer who care. This is the Jennifer who hired me. I honestly believe she changed because of the demands and the response from corporate. She’s even told me once that “It’s not me, it’s corporate; it’s not coming from me, this is all corporate.” I feel like her hands were tied and she was forced to look like the bad guy. I’m not sure, maybe we got to close, boundaries were crossed. All I know is I told her and will still tell her, “Jenn, I’ve got your back.”
This blog post may probably destroy every opportunity to work for Starbucks again. However, the truth needs to be told. I’m just an disposable employee! I’m not important to my manager and district manager, and I guess to corporate. Do I really matter? Did I ever matter?
By the way, the next time you want to argue about increasing minimum wage, think about the hard work employees put into serving every customer with a smile and offering them the best unforgettable service.
This is my truth. I’m still without a job, and a home, but, I’ve never been happier. I do miss my discount, but I’ll forever be a customer. I know quality coffee when I see it. Starbucks, is good! Better than Dunkin, and they care about their customers!
So now you know, why I quit Starbucks.
- To Jennifer B, if you read this “I still have you back, and thanks for giving me the opportunity to work for and with you.”
Domenia Dickey- partner id 1996175.