When towards the end of May I found out that I had been offered a place on the master course in anthropology at Uppsala I immediately contacted the student nation I was member of during exchange and asked the 3Q (head of personnel) if there were any vacancies.
The idea of the student nation is to offer services for students run by fellow students. Most positions are covered by volunteer workers who dedicate around an average of 10 hours a week to fulfilling their commitments within the organisation.
I was offered the position of ‘Fika host’ for which I had to commit to work 1 full shift a week in the nation’s cafe and help clean the building once a month.
When I was on exchange I had already worked at the Fika as a ‘helper’ or ‘non-responsible worker’ which I really enjoyed. This time instead, I agreed to be the responsible one who kind of ‘runs the show’ during the weekly shift.
The work load isn’t hard, you mainly serve behind the counter, clear plates, wash up, prepare sandwiches and wraps and that is pretty much it.
You do not get a salary for the work you do but you obviously have some benefits such as staff price on all food and drinks at the nation. The main reason I joined was to meet new people, which I did, big time! Everyone within the work force of the organisation knows each other and it is almost like a big extended family.
When I worked shifts I always enjoyed myself, had free food, loads of coffee and would play my cheesy playlist of music (a lot of 1 Direction, Justin Bieber and occasionally Italian pop). Plus every time I worked I would try and drag more people into the work team so that everyone could work less = no stress and plenty of time to chillax (chill and relax).
Everything went fine until I reached a point in which I could not commit for 2 weeks as I had 5 university deadlines concentrated in a short period of time. My idea was to work double as soon as this period was over, with the intention of finding a colleague who would be willing to swap with me.
It’s at this point that the messenger group chat between all the fika hosts and the fika bosses got messy. One of the bosses was taken by an urge to reaffirm his position/authority and reminded me and another colleague (who had the same problem as me for the same period of time) that ‘this is not how things work here’ and that ‘fika is serious business at the nation’.
At this point I flipped.
I pointed out that the fact that it all of a sudden was not acceptable to keep the place shut for not finding enough hosts to cover shifts or that people could not work alone was ‘big news’ as nobody seemed bothered before when I pointed this out.
The reaction from my boss (who I considered to be also a friend) was very defensive and he clearly didn’t appreciate criticism for the fact he hadn’t been as present as he probably should have in the past weeks.
To follow the situation degenerated further with a big component of the team using a healthy dose of passive aggression (for more info on this see related article by clicking here). Others took a more direct route via the messenger group chat and reminded me of my responsibilities (as if I hadn’t adhered to them in the previous 2 months).
Why all this?
Because I was unable to find someone to cover my full shift as I had an exam in those 2 hours and nobody was able to cover for me.
The person reminding me of my responsibilities had ‘sacrificed themself’ in order to cover for me (for 2 hours). The whole thing was very hypocritical as the same individual had a last minute work commitment the previous week and left me to work alone for an entire shift. None of the bosses, nor my colleagues intervened in my defence or to point out that it was unfair to crucify me for 2 hours whilst a week before this individual skipped 7!
Ultimately I was left very upset, stressed and disappointed to a point that I couldn’t focus on my studies and had to work on an assignment in less than 24 hours (which in the end went ok).
For this reason exactly a week ago, after the Monday meeting, I handed in my staff card and officially resigned from my position for this semester. What is the point of doing something if you are feeling stressed or unappreciated?
Hopefully I will find some other position of responsability to cover within the organisation as I really enjoy working there and look forward to trying out something new.