Yes, I Am the Manager and You Are Speaking to Her

Sunday, May 28, 2017
Ariel Reverie

As a person with chronic baby face coupled with a relatively small stature, I am not immediately met with much significance. In public, I am so often asked if my parents are around to offer me their permission that I’ve been systematically conditioned to keep one hand on my driver’s license and the other on a separate form of identification to prove the first one isn’t fake.

I am a server who speaks to many different people in the course of a shift and I’ve learned to field questions about my age as if I’m being interrogated by the paparazzi. On numerous occasions, customers have placed bets and as they laugh off guessing almost a decade short of my 25 years, I begin to question if it’s possible that a face could become stuck in a fake smile and seriously consider Googling the answer after my shift is over.

My presence gives off no real sense of authority and it doesn’t help that I’m barely tall enough to reach anything inside of standard-sized cabinetry.  So when I became a manager in an industry where supervisor roles are mostly male-dominated, I was again reminded how small I looked.

People challenge you differently as a woman. It’s as if every answer you give is followed by a question. Is that the best for me?  Does what you’re saying make sense to me? I am suddenly less dignified because my employees did not favor my decision. Instead, they want a detailed explanation with charts and graphs chronicling how I’ve possibly reached such an appallingly off-base judgment that didn’t take how they felt into consideration.

I’ve noticed that every male manager that works alongside me can say the same exact thing in the same exact tone and yield better results. When I ask, I am instantly met with a series of groans and accusations of nagging or being bossy. I am not bossy, I am your boss.

And it’s not just employees that challenge my position. Customers and people that walk through the restaurant doors are just as affected. This is a conversation I have almost every day:

“Can I speak to the manager?”
“Yes, I am the manager. What can I do for you?”
“Is there a manager around that can come talk to me?”
“I am the manager you can speak to, what can I help you with today?”
“Can you grab him for me?”
Yes, I am the manager and you are speaking to her. What can I do for you?”

This is the exchange I had with the man who came to fix the refrigeration in the wine room and again with the young woman who was upset that she had to wait twenty minutes to find out that we were out of the cocktail she ordered. It’s the conversation I have with each person who is surprised at the fact that a young woman could possibly be in some position of power. It doesn’t matter how nicely I am dressed or the fact that I carry a set of keys in my hand, I am automatically assumed to be the host or just some really helpful stranger and that’s a problem.

I catch the sideways glances when your steak is overcooked and I am offering you a free gift card to come back to try us again and I can sense the confusion in your voice when I’m the only person in the building you can negotiate the cost of repairs with. I know that you’d rather not have a girl tell you what your cleaning tasks are for today and issue you extra sidework. I am well aware that somehow it makes you feel inferior or listening to me delegate is almost laughable. It must be adorable to have a cute little girl think that she can show up and command things.

I am not playing dress-up. I am the boss.

We need more women to feel like they can’t let those kinds of limitations dictate their direction or desire to succeed. We need more individual women in a position of power to make us feel greater as a whole. We need it so that no one will do ever have to do a double take when a woman is running the place. And we need everyone else to let go of the thought that only a man can be in charge.

So the next time you want to speak to a manager, I will continue to give you my best and most believable fake smile and I tell you proudly that you are speaking to her.

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