There, in front of the sink piled up with stinky curried egg containers and water glasses with lipstick marks, was about the only place the other staff and I could take a break from our boss. He didn’t bother us there, mostly because there were no customers to put on a power play show for.
It was on this particularly busy afternoon after my boss called me a word I won’t repeat here in front of our usual ‘ham, salad, extra avocado’ man that I’d retreated out the back to hide the tears of embarrassment in my eyes. But also to stop myself from barking out a comeback that would’ve got me fired.
Looking back now, I kind of wish I’d just said what I was really thinking to my boss’ face – that he was a horrible, miserable dickhead that only felt good when the people around him didn’t.
Because I left that job at the sandwich shop not long after that day when I found my boss’ peep hole.
Yes, a peep hole.
The Out Loud team discuss how to tell if you are being gaslighted at work. And what to do about it. Post continues after audio.
During those few minutes I was hiding out the back, one of the other girls arrived for the late shift. Like every other day, she walked pass and said a quick hello before nipping into the ‘cloak room’ a.k.a where we were allowed to dump our bags.
Only unlike ‘every other day’, I’d thought how nice she looked that particular afternoon. As I turned around to tell her, a really small flash of bright blue on the white wall caught my eye.
I turned back around and thought nothing of it. Until she came back around to the dish area wearing a blue jumper.
At that point I had to get back to work. Back to being humiliated in front of customers I had to look in the eye everyday. But later that night as I went to grab my bag, my eyes lingered on the plain, white wall.
That’s when I saw the peep hole. Drilled into the corner of the wall at around waist-height, there was a small hole. Small enough I’d never noticed it before, but big enough to see and hear through. I crouched down and pressed my face up to the gyprock. In front of me I saw the rinsing tap, the stainless steel of the double sink.
A clear view of the spot I’d stood earlier today. I was done.
We also asked a psychologist to explain exactly how to tell if your boss is a psychopath. Post continues after video.
I’d put up with so much from this boss. I’d told myself it was what I had to do if I wanted to save up for Europe, and that I had no experience in the workplace so who was I to say how a boss should or shouldn’t act?
I’d laughed off the name-calling and last minute demands to stay back to closing, without a break, when my parents asked me how my work day was over dinner.
I could take all that, even being called an idiot, useless and dumb in front of customers who always looked sympathetic, but couldn’t really say anything.
But the thought of my awful boss on his knees with his eye or ear smooshed up to that tiny hole, watching or listening to us staff while we were doing the dishes or taking a few minutes to blow off some steam made me feel sick.
I handed in my resignation that week.
Do you think I did the right thing? Is putting up with an awful boss a right of passage or should we take these things more seriously?