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I don’t want this job! I’m 14

My grandma says I have to work all summer but I just hate my job. Can I quit?

I can see both sides, says our elder. The key is to compromise.

Dear EWC

So this summer, my grandmother, who I live with, told me that I should get a job. At first, I refused because I’ve never done it before. She convinced me to try because she said it would look good on a resume that I have job experience. I’ve been training there for about three weeks now. The boss basically hired me already. Now that I am part of this job I found out there is a lot of drama for this little job (it’s at a small cafe). There are only four workers including myself. Two of the best ones are quitting, leaving me and this other girl that doesn’t do a great job when we work. I don’t like the boss either — she scares me. She is really all over the place too. I want to quit but my grandma wouldn’t let me because she thinks that I’ll get used to it. I don’t know what to do. How do I explain to my grandma that I want to quit? How will I say this to my boss? I feel like this job isn’t healthy for me. It wastes my summer vacation, ruins all my plans with friends, and I feel like I can’t do anything. I am 14 which is a little young to work and I don’t think now is a good time to be working because it’s just stressful.

William replies

Thank you for writing to the Elder Wisdom Circle for advice. Remember, I don’t know you, and this is all anonymous. The only information I have to go on is your letter.
I believe there are two schools of thought on this issue. I understand both of them. I’m pretty sure you do as well, but in case not, I’ll first list the opposing views and then we can look at how you want to proceed.

1. People ought to start work early and learn that we have to earn our way through life. This is how I grew up and based on what you’ve written, I highly suspect this was your grandmother’s experience as well. Historically, life has been tough, and people had to work hard to get by. It was reasonable to start working as soon as possible. Coincidentally I started working at age 14, the same as you. I worked (or went to school/college) for the next 40+ years with only a few weeks a year vacation.

2. You are only young once, and you should enjoy yourself because once you become an adult, the “fun” is over. Most of my generation fell into this category. They started work after high school. Some of my friends had summer jobs, but most socialized went to malls, and did all the things that teenagers do when they have spare time. They developed social networks and friendships that many carried for a lifetime. Somewhere between 16-20, most of them “grew up” and found a job (or went to college/university.)

I really can’t say which is the best route. In hindsight, I never had any prolonged free time to do what I wanted until retirement. By then, I was too old to do a lot of things I’d never tried. The upside was I learned to work hard early on, and I understood that money didn’t grow on trees. To this day, I really can’t say if starting to work at age 14 was a plus or a minus for me. Remember that was 50+ years ago, and things were different.
Let’s look at your questions. As I understand your letter, you want to stop working, and you don’t know how to convey this to your boss or your grandmother.

Your boss is easy. Don’t walk out in the middle of a shift, but if you decide that working at the café is not for you, tell her you will be finished at the end of the week. Employers in such professions are used to relatively high staff turnover, and they are equipped to handle it. She’ll find a replacement. Either way, it’s her problem if an employee leaves. It’s part of the responsibility of running a small business to be prepared for staff leaving. The reason I say give her some notice is it minimizes the chances of parting on bad terms, and someday you might need her for a reference. Even if that never happens, it is common courtesy to try to leave a job on good terms.

Telling your grandma will be harder. No doubt, she is of the mindset I mentioned above. Her thoughts are probably the same as mine were, over 50 years ago. She does make a good argument that it “would look good on a resume.” Having a summer job at a café on your resume may show that you are a hard worker and not afraid of responsibility. However, we are not in an economic recession, and until and unless things get harder, I think jobs will be relatively easy to come by. We can’t predict the future.

The argument you have to make is that working all the time may limit your social development. That’ll be a hard sell because I bet she’ll come back with some variation of, “You need to learn that life’s not easy. You’ll develop your social skills working just as well as hanging out with other teens. You are old enough to work for a living.” Why do I say that? Because that’s what I was told, and it’s what I told my four children! Now, I’m not convinced it was the right message to deliver. My kids did well, and they all have debt-free university degrees. The price they (and I) paid was we all are “workaholics” and probably we don’t have the best social skills. If I had to do it over again, I likely would advise them (and force myself) to delay working all summer until age 16-18.

I think compromise is your friend. We are discussing this in early August. You’ve already worked about half of the summer, I believe. If you quit now, you’ll have 3-4 weeks or more before you have to go back to school. Frame your wording that way when you tell your grandma of your decision. Use your own words, but tell her something like, “Grandma, I’m going to quit my job at the end of the week. I worked for over half the summer, and I want some free time before I go back to school.” To soften the “blow”, could you offer to help your grandmother with a few more chores around the house before school starts? She ought to understand that life is not all about work. Even if she doesn’t, stand your ground.
Unless I’m missing something, she can’t make you work all summer. Everyone looks at things differently, and while she might feel you should stay at the café, it’s your decision.

I understand it will be difficult to tell her this (and to stick to it when she pushes back), but I think it’s a good compromise. You worked part of the summer, and you get part of the summer off. At age 14, is this not fair? If you were 20-25 and lazing around her house doing nothing, it would be a different story. I’d tell you to stop being so lazy and go get a job. However, you are a 14-year-old girl still developing and maturing. Unless there is financial hardship in your family that requires you to work, splitting your summer between work and play seem just fine to me. I think you should try to do so. This is the best advice I can give you. Take care!

Letter #: 445040
Category: Career

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