The Psychological Effects of Being a Server

Do you think your nine-to-five job is stressful? Think about doing 12-hour shifts where you have to keep a happy face every minute. Most employment opportunities are available in the restaurant industry, and despite that, servers, chefs, waiters, and other employees do not have decent working conditions and environments. They suffer from low wages, long hours, humiliation by customers, fewer fringe benefits, and more.

Scientifically, serving is one of the most stressful jobs, and most people do not even consider it a good one. Scientists classify jobs into four categories depending on the pressure. The serving job lies in the high-stress one. It is in high demand and has little control, leading to several detrimental effects on psychological well-being. Here are some of the most common psychological effects of being a server!

All of them have an association with the daily working conditions and experiences of servers.

1. Low Self-Esteem

During busy hours every guest at the restaurant is super hungry and is impatiently waiting for their food. The only person they can see at this time are the servers. Servers at this point get stared at by every customer. People usually misbehave with them for serving the food late even though it is not their fault. Despite all this, a good server stays calm and patiently responds to every customer, avoiding arguments. It might sound fine, but keeping calm when someone blames you for no real reason can be a real headache and affects their mental health. In the long run, it can lead to low self-esteem and stress. Rude comments make one feel less worthy. 

2. Trauma From Harassment 

Servers often face harassment at the hands of some customers. According to the Harvard Business Review, the restaurant industry has more sexual harassment accounts in the U.S than any other. Approximately 90% of women and 70% of men have experienced some sort of it. From high-profile incidents to subtle instances of sexual assaults pop up now and then. Shockingly, the culprits tend to be customers, coworkers, and managers, with the victims being servers, especially with female servers of minorities. This behavior is ethically wrong and unacceptable. But many servers avoid such customers rather than kicking them out of the restaurant for their job. This type of incident at the workplace can scar one for life, manifesting into life-long traumas. It will not only affect their mental health but will also affect the quality of services they provide.  

3. Burn-Outs & Lethargy- On The Feet for Hours 

One of the drawbacks of being a server is that they hardly get any time to sit down. They have to be on their feet running from one corner to another carrying heavy trays, which can be physically stressful. Back pains and cramps are common issues that most servers have to face after working on weekends. Even young 20-year-old servers have the worst back pains ever. So, the next time before shouting at a server for not being fast enough, imagine yourself in their shoes. On top of this, servers have long working hours. 

There are also last-minute guests at the end. No matter how busy the day was and how tired the staff is: you cannot ask a customer to leave. Last-minute customers who come and order right before you are about to close the restaurant are annoying. Because they have to close soon, servers will have to work fast or sometimes do overtime. Imagine a job where you would have to stay late and come early the next day. Those little breaks from work affect the mental and physical well-being of servers. They can get sick, weak, and due to lack of sleep, might also feel depressed. Often, servers suffer from burn-outs and lethargy.

4. Depression & Anxiety 

The low wages, the rude comments, and bad working conditions contribute to the poor mental health of servers. In the worst cases, it can lead to one feeling depressed and anxious. So, make sure you check up on your server friends often. Even when going to a restaurant, tip them well and compliment their services. If they do something wrong, try overlooking it and asking them to fix it politely.

5. Stress

Restaurant policies change now and then by the upper management. New menu items get introduced, and some old ones might be removed, depending on their demand. However, most customers do not like change. When they expect the same items every time, it becomes difficult to satisfy them. When customers do not find their regular items on the menu, they take them out on the servers. They try putting in special requests or get rude to them. What they fail to realize is that it is not the server’s decision to make. Servers feel under pressure for coming up with something to make the guest feel satisfied.  

Such instances lead to lots of stress.

How Can We Help?

Waitress Serving Meal To Business Colleagues Sitting Around Restaurant Table

Working at a job where demand is high, with workers having little control over the rules, is frustrating. So, next time you go to a restaurant, try to go easy on servers and do not forget to tip them at least give them some reward for the extra effort they make to make sure you leave satisfied.  

If you are a restaurant owner, try to make the rules flexible for your servers to ensure they get enough off time. Pay them well for their services. If a customer feels unsafe at work, you should listen to them and try to help them rather than always following the customer is never the wrong rule. Listen to the problem and give some importance to your server. 

The Takeaway

Like all jobs, everything has its pros and cons. While there are negative psychological effects of being a server, sometimes the job can help boost confidence and self-value because of productivity and money. You also get to meet new people. People also tend to confuse the terms server and waiters: here is our guide on their differences.

You can also have a look at the pros and cons of being a waiter here!