The Student Room Group

Am I being exploited at work?

I’m 17 years old and I have a job at a cafe. I have an anxiety disorder called selective mustism which causes a phobia of speaking and makes it difficult for me to communicate with customers etc. I can speak just not much. The woman I work for knows my mum so she knows about my situation, and also previously worked as a psychologist (so she understands it fairly well). It’s a small community cafe, not like a large chain like Costa or anything so more relaxed if you get what I mean and she has a few neurodivergent employees etc. She refuses to pay me at the moment because of the way I am, and the only reason I’m really working there at the moment is to help myself practice talking to people etc, but I want to be paid. I can be a bit awkward with customers sometimes yes and occasionally I need help as I can’t communicate properly but I get the job done and to a satisfactory standard. Is it unfair that she won’t pay me?
(edited 2 weeks ago)
Reply 1
With respect, I think this is where you need to play to your strengths. If speaking isn't something you do, then taking a job in a customer facing role probably isn't the smartest move even if everyone is well meaning. Maybe look for a job where you can just crack on without the need to communicate verbally with others?

In the meantime are you able to get some help?
Well you need to know where you actually stand, is this a paid position with pay agreed before you started, or is it essentially volunteering/work experience?

When you say others are employed are you sure they are paid/contracted?
(edited 6 months ago)
Original post by hotpud
With respect, I think this is where you need to play to your strengths. If speaking isn't something you do, then taking a job in a customer facing role probably isn't the smartest move even if everyone is well meaning. Maybe look for a job where you can just crack on without the need to communicate verbally with others?

In the meantime are you able to get some help?

On the surface it's obv a challenging role, but mibbie something you need to throw yourself into the deep end for, exposure therapy or whatever. It would be a pretty big blow as a teen to be told your 'working with people days' were over and just to move on without a fight.
Original post by user01906002
I’m 17 years old and I have a job at a cafe. I have an anxiety disorder called selective mustism which causes a phobia of speaking and makes it difficult for me to communicate with customers etc. I can speak just not much. The woman I work for knows my mum so she knows about my situation, and also previously worked as a psychologist (so she understands it fairly well). It’s a small community cafe, not like a large chain like Costa or anything so more relaxed if you get what I mean and she has a few neurodivergent employees etc. She refuses to pay me at the moment because of the way I am, and the only reason I’m really working there at the moment is to help myself practice talking to people etc, but I want to be paid. I can be a bit awkward with customers sometimes yes and occasionally I need help as I can’t communicate properly but I get the job done and to a satisfactory standard. Is it unfair that she won’t pay me?


Do you need work experience, or do you want to be an employee, with all that goes with that? You are actually in a decent position. You are getting practice in the workplace, and experience for your CV. If you insist on a paid role, then there are requirements in the other direction, if you cost the business, then you have to deliver value to the business. Are you able to do the full specification of the role, solve customer queries, full customer service in all relevant roles, etc?

You might want to have a conversation about feedback and support. If you aren't getting paid, but it is a useful environment for you to develop in, make sure you are getting feedback and encouragement.

I'm not saying you definitely aren't being exploited, just there's not enough to go on in your description. You need to weigh up - are you able to perform like a paid employee, and manage all the performance standards that come with that, or are you better off, in the short term, using this as a free developmental opportunity?
Reply 5
Hello user01906002. Listen, no one
Reply 6
Do you have a contract? If not then she can choose to pay you or not just as much as you can choose to not take the ******** and leave

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