The Hustler’s Playbook: Stand Your Ground, Come What May

Trey was the manager of the kitchen in the small, boutique hotel where I worked when I was 17. I had been washing dishes there for some time, he needed someone to cook, and I was moved into that role.

It wasn’t very difficult to learn to cook everything on our dinner menu because there were only two choices, filet mignon or shrimp scampi. The only time I had trouble and had call for help was when a customer ordered steak “Pittsburgh rare” (I was told to burn the outside to a crisp as fast as possible, leaving the inside rare as can be).

One day, I was asked to bus tables and carry trays at a luncheon for the executives that worked at the Busch brewery across the street. It was a large party, and as such, the tip would be enormous. Joe, the bartender, and Brenda, the waitress, asked me to help them work the party, offering me a third of the tip. That was going to be more than $300 for a few hours work.

Trey would have none of it. He told me that if I worked the party, I would be fired. He wasn’t going to allow them to share their tip with me. I asked why I would be fired, and he told me he wouldn’t permit it, despite the fact that I wasn’t scheduled to work, and it had nothing to do with him. He told me that if I worked and took the tip, my time there would be over.

I worked the lunch meeting. I wasn’t going to miss out on $300 for a couple hours work, and I doubted he would fire me. I was wrong.

When lunch was finished, and the executives were still meeting, Joe handed me my $300. Trey watched me collect the money, and in the room where the executives were still meeting, he said, “You’re fired.” I took off my apron and threw it in his face, and then I said a very few, very unkind words. I was 17 years old. I was pig-headed. And I never did well with bullies.

The Human Resources department called me to tell me how sorry they were, but because of the words I used to express my unhappiness with Trey firing me, they could not bring me back. The truth is, I could have handled this better. But it didn’t matter. There was no way I was going to work for someone so arbitrarily unfair or jealous.

You are going to encounter people who treat you unfairly, and some that may try to bully you. Sometimes you have to stand your ground, even when you are going to pay the price for doing so. You will never regret standing up for yourself, but you will regret being cowed into submitting to bullies and poor leaders.

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