Starbucks barista speaking with caption 'people are ill prepared due to a lack of staffing' (l) Starbucks barista speaking with caption 'why is starbucks lowkey just trauma bonding w ur coworkers n ur just bonded for life w' '90% of the Starbucks experience is trauma bonding' with Starbucks logo at bottom (c) Starbucks barista speaking with caption 'prioritizing speed over quality' (r)

@thehighbarista/TikTok Unknown author/Wikimedia Commons

‘Every day, people are ill-prepared due to a lack of staffing’: Former barista says 90% of working at Starbucks is ‘trauma bonding’

'My favorite is when we're all drowning and the only thing we can do is look at each other and laugh in disbelief.'


Braden Bjella


Posted on Mar 25, 2023

A user on TikTok has sparked discussion after recounting her experience working at Starbucks. 

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Responding to a commenter claiming that the experience of working at Starbucks was one of “trauma bonding,” TikTok user and former barista Danielle (@thehighbarista) affirmed the commenter’s claim while providing her own perspective.

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“90% of the Starbucks experience is trauma bonding,” she says. She goes on to explain a chaotic work environment with numerous moving parts — many of which are broken or not working as expected.

“The funny thing about this is that these things aren’t happening, you know, once a week, once a month, once every once in a while,” she explains. “No, this is happening every day.”

The video currently has over 70,000 views.

@thehighbarista Replying to @arislopez19 speaking freely about my starbucks experience feels magical ✨ what else do yall wanna know? #baristatok #barista #serviceindustry #baristas #vegas #serverlife #lasvegas #baristalife #baristaproblems ♬ original sound – Danielle | thehighbarista
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For context, “a trauma bonding relationship is reflective of an attachment created by repeated physical or emotional trauma with intermittent positive reinforcement,” explains an article from Well and Good citing psychologist Liz Powell, PsyD.

“Put simply, in a relationship with trauma bonding, there’s ‘a lot of really terrible stuff happening and then occasionally really great stuff happening,’ they say,” writes author Jo Yurcaba.

According to Dannie, this environment was created during her time at Starbucks due to an overreliance on profit, with not enough consideration made for the concerns of the workers.

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“Every day, people are ill-prepared due to a lack of staffing, prioritizing speed over quality,” she says. “And my favorite part of this traumatic experience we get to do together… is that you can give all that feedback back and more and it still won’t matter, because guess what matters more? Numbers. Sales. Money!”

Understaffing has been a common complaint amongst Starbucks workers for years. 

Six years ago, a Starbucks worker launched a petition asking Starbucks to remedy the issue of understaffing. In May of 2021, journalist Michael Sainato documented the stories of manifold Starbucks workers who claimed they were being overworked without the pay to show for it. And in February of this year, an article in The Progressive both noted Starbucks’ understaffing and shared claims that understaffing is being used as a method of union busting.

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On TikTok, users shared their own thoughts on the Starbucks workplace.

“I always wanted to be a barista when I was young but i’m 21 now and it’s the worst job i’ve ever worked,” a user said. “mentally and physically EXHAUSTING.”

“No literally my favorite is when were all drowning and the only thing we can do is look at each other and laugh in disbelief,” stated another.

“And managers still have the audacity to complain about our drive times and customer connections,” claimed a third.

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We’ve reached out to Starbucks and Danielle via email.

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*First Published: Mar 25, 2023, 8:59 am CDT
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