I've worked so many jobs in my life that if I put them all on a resume, they'd think I was a Nomad. I've worked everything from mowing lawns to roofing. Washing semis to "the computer guy." Hotel night auditor to stacking crates at a Walmart distribution center. And the weird thing is, no matter what kind of job it was, all of the employees had the same complaints. It doesn't matter if you're moving a pile of cow shit or sifting through website code to unfuck a login page -- bitching about your job is universal.
But, after 25 years, those complaints all start to sound like they're coming from a yipping Chihuahua. You don't know why it's so angry and upset ... you just know that it is. So whether you're just starting out in the adult world or you've been a part of the system for years, maybe I can give you some preparation or perspective on why everyone eventually has their Chihuahua moments. You're not going to like hearing some of this, but trust me, just knowing it will make your job a lot less stressful.
#5. "This Place Would Shut Down If I Left!"
Let's say you're working a pretty common job. Maybe a desk job at a slaughterhouse, keeping basic data and organization. You are the central point between all the other departments, making sure that the people who punch the pig to death have their timing down so that when it arrives at the chainsaw department, it's not still alive. It requires a certain level of fluidity and concentration, so not just anyone can step into your position.
During the busiest part of the day, one of the pig punchers breaks his hand and has to go to the hospital. Right as you're trying to find a stand-in for him, the guy who's responsible for flipping off the pigs as they exit the livestock truck comes to you and says, "I think a few pigs went by without me giving them the finger." Meanwhile, a chainsawer is radioing you to say, "We somehow have an extra leg here, and we have no idea where it came from. We're not entirely sure it came from a pig -- it appears to be wearing pants. Should we just throw it in the leg pile with the rest?" The whole line is now held up, and the boss storms in, furious that you're not doing your job.
"And another thing! Why are we wearing suits on this job?!"
Somehow, you get everything back to the well-oiled, pig-fucking machine that it was, and everyone else disappears back to their jobs. Nobody thanks you. Nobody acknowledges how good you were at solving that problem. For that matter, the boss still seems pissed off. What the hell? Don't they know what you just pulled off? Let's see those assholes step into your job for even one hour. They couldn't handle it. They'd run screaming from the computer the very first time a pig rebellion alert popped up on the screen. If you walked out right now, this place would come to a screeching halt. The whole business would collapse. In fact, you should do that. That'll show them.
The Harsh Truth:
You're vastly overestimating your importance.
There was a 15-year span in my youth where I had roughly 20 different jobs. I just bounced around, trying to find anything at all that didn't suck enormous amounts of balls. I've seen walk-outs in almost all of them. I've walked out of a handful of them myself, including a midnight shift where I was the only worker. I once saw an entire crew of 14 people walk out of a job in unison. I saw a manager get into an argument with the owner, pack his shit on the spot, and tell him, "Run this place on your own. Let's see how far you get without a manager."
And don't bother looking for my porn collection. It's in the box.
In all of those instances, I've never seen a business shut down as a result of someone quitting. It doesn't matter what skillset the person had -- when they walked out, the most destruction it caused was some slight annoyance for the other employees who had to cover their shifts. Even in the case of the manager, they just slid an assistant manager into his spot, and the day moved on as if he had never been ejaculated into existence. They had a new manager in place before the weekend.
Aside from your dramatic departure not having the desired business-exploding effect, you've now damaged your work history and references. If you made any friends at your job, they're definitely going to be pissed off at you for making them cover your workload. And that's not even the worst of your problems, because now you have no money coming in. Don't count on unemployment, because it's very likely that you're not going to be eligible.
I completely understand why people say this phrase, though. We need to feel important. We need to know that our employer cares about us and puts trust and respect into our position. Nobody wants to feel like a faceless cog that can be replaced in a moment's notice. We want to feel like we're so good at what we do, if you removed us from the system, the whole reactor would go into catastrophic meltdown.
Shit. We're gonna need a new fry cook.
But it doesn't. You have to embrace that humility, because it's one of the biggest sources of motivation you'll ever have for growth. It's what makes you become better and better at what you do. And it's what prevents you from getting too comfortable, becoming a cocky asshole, and being totally flabbergasted when the bosses have enough of your shit and tell you to fuck all the way off. I'm not saying you have to work in a constant state of trembling fear -- that's not good for anyone, even your employer. But you do have to keep in mind that this business functioned long before you were hired, and it will continue to function long after you're gone. You're not the first person they've seen quit on a dime, and you won't be the last.
Where employees are concerned, there's a huge difference between important and necessary. In any strong, successful business, the latter doesn't exist.
#4. "My Boss Is A Total Dick!"
Back in high school, David Wong and I worked at a fast food restaurant, under a manager named Bill. Bill was the douchiest of all bags, and the running joke among most of the employees was that he was one part human, one part robot, and two parts The Devil. He made attempts at connection with the workers, but they were the most awkward exchanges I've ever seen.
When you arrived at work, you'd start your pre-shift chores, and without fail, Bill would walk up behind you and ask how your day was. You'd start to answer, but when you turned around, he was gone. He had walked away mid-sentence, leaving only the faint smell of Old Spice and contempt in his wake.
That became a running theme in pretty much every job I've ever worked. The manager says just enough words to satisfy his corporate requirement of "speak with the workers so they think you're human." Otherwise, all communication came in the form of nitpicky criticisms about the stupidest shit imaginable. With Bill, if you used the word "grease," he would ream your ass in front of everyone, for not calling it "natural juices." I once saw a different manager give a 10-minute, screaming lecture because a worker moved the mop from side to side instead of front to back. Another one almost fired a guy because he had a quarter-sized drop of oil on his hat ... in an oil-changing garage.
"And what did I tell you about lifting up people's hoods?!"
Granted, nice bosses aren't nonexistent. You mostly find them in small businesses that don't have a corporate machine to report to. But in my experience, they're the Higgs boson of the employment universe.
The Harsh Truth:
In most cases, it's intentional -- they're trained to be that way.
One of the most important rules you learn as a manager is to not become friends with the employees. Being friendly is fine, but becoming actual friends is bad. It makes sense even on a surface level. It's extremely easy to show favoritism to a friend -- to let bullshit slide with them, where other employees would never get that luxury. Ever have to fire a friend? A good manager won't have to, because she'll never put herself in that situation to begin with.
"Oh, don't forget: We're starting our Gilmore Girls marathon tonight."
There's a weird and extremely effective psychology at play behind every good manager, and there are tons of seminars out there that teach them how to pull it off. It's this delicate balancing act between appearing concerned and connected, while at the same time being able to cut off that connection so that they remain cold and distant. Stay in the conversation too long, and you become "one of the guys." Pull out too quickly, and you're an emotionless psychopath who's impossible to work with.
As harsh as it might be, it's necessary. If you're a manager, you don't ever want a scenario where your actions at work can destroy a friendship after hours. "I can't believe you yelled at me like that today. I thought we were friends!" Or just as bad, your friendship outside of work, destroying your career. "Why didn't I fire him for that? Um ... well ... it's a complex situation."
I'm not saying that to be a good manager you have to be a total cockhole. I'm saying that, when you get it right, it creates this odd symbiotic balance where the employees are comfortable working with you, but there's always a slight fear that you're capable of pulling the trigger on their job without batting an eye. On the rare occasion when you do pull an employee aside for a friendly talk, it feels like a reward. They walk away feeling special and appreciated.
OK, that may be a bit of an overreaction, but you get the point, right?
But since you're not 100 percent committed to being a friend, most everyone who works with you will consider you a dickhead. A cold, robotic, slightly Satany Bill. What I've learned through the many Bills I've encountered over the years is that if you want to be on their good side, play along. Don't try to force a relationship that isn't there. Don't try to drag out conversations that he's clearly trying to end. Do your job and call the grease "natural juices." In all likelihood, he's not demanding that you use that monumentally stupid phrase because it's his pet peeve. He's doing it because his boss is making him.
#3. "My Co-Worker Sucks At His Job!"
You work as a cashier at a medical waste resale facility that sells buttholes by the pound. For the third time in an hour, the cashier next to you gets on the loudspeaker and says, "Linda, please come to the front. I need the key." You know that the key is needed to override a mistake, and the key holder, no matter what store you go to, is always named Linda. Something inside your brain pops, and it takes every ounce of willpower to keep from unleashing a verbal beatdown on that moron, right in front of the customers. When you get home, you unload it all on your wife.
"Seriously, how fucking hard is it to remember? Buttholes are $1.87 per pound. Whole butts are $18.70. That dipshit screws it up every single day, and it just drives me nuts. How does she even still have a job? She's 30 minutes late to work every day of the week. She's always 15 minutes late, coming back from break. She doesn't know how the credit card machines work. She can barely count to 10, let alone give correct change to a customer. Hell, screw wondering how she still has a job -- how is she even still alive? I'm going to talk to Linda. She needs to be fired."
Meanwhile, you didn't notice that your wife had slowly backed out of the room after your second sentence.
"Maybe I should frame her for murder."
The Harsh Truth:
You're probably going to come out of this looking like a twat.
This is a really complex issue, because there are a whole bunch of factors that you have to take into effect. The most important question you need to ask is this: "Is this person negatively affecting my job?" In a team environment, the answer is likely going to be yes. But in jobs like the butthole cashier example, it gets kind of muddy. Are you having to stop what you're doing in order to help her out? Are you having to cover for her mistakes? When she comes in late, are you unable to do your job?
If the answer is, "No, it's not really affecting me," then why do you even give the flyingest of shits? Let her fail all day long, because you will look like a butthole-selling prodigy by comparison. If you're working beside someone who's that incompetent when evaluations come around, guess who's getting the bigger raise? Or are you complaining because she's making the business look bad? That's great. It's one of the bigger qualities that a manager looks for when promoting someone. But there's a catch.
Complaining to a manager or a supervisor about someone else's performance, especially when it doesn't directly affect yours, can make you look like a drama-starting, whiny, tattletale piece of shit. Trust me, I've seen it happen over and over throughout my life. At first the employee is thanked because they're bringing a problem to the attention of management. But, eventually, the more complaints that person makes, management starts to just roll their eyes. "Fuck. What now?" If it keeps up, you will absolutely be told, "Why don't you worry less about her job and concentrate on getting better at your own." At that point, the shitty worker isn't the problem in their eyes ... you are.
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"ME?! But I've been a model Hooters waitress for years!"
So let's say that this mental abortion actually is affecting your work. Have you talked to them about it? Keep in mind, that's not always an option. Some businesses strictly prohibit employees of an equal level from confronting each others' problems. Or you just may not be comfortable talking to a co-worker about that stuff. That's totally fine. There's nothing wrong with bringing it up to a supervisor. You can't have another person making you look bad. If you miss out on a raise or promotion, that should be dictated by your work and not the buttfuckery of an inept co-worker.
"But I've talked to the supervisor several times about it, and the problem is still there." Then it's time to go over the supervisor's head. If you talk to the manager and still nothing is being done about it, you may want to consider the following things: 1) That person may not suck as badly as you think. 2) This person's suckage is annoying, but it's not affecting the actual business in a negative way. And most importantly ... 3) All of the upper-level people already know how bad this person sucks, and they're just waiting for an opportunity to shitcan her.
That last part is important. You have to remember that if you're a manager or a business owner, getting rid of a bad employee isn't as simple as walking in and showing them the "YOU'RE FIRED" tattoo on your dick. Do it wrong and you could easily end up with a wrongful-termination lawsuit. Or in some cases, having to pay out a severance. And it can bring about a more subtle effect of gaining a bad reputation as a company who fires people for no reason.
"What's it mean when the calculator laughs itself into a coughing fit?"
But that's really the problem here, right? All you can do is file your complaint and then sit back and hope something happens. You just have to be super careful about how hard you press the issue. Once you get stuck with the "drama queen" label, you're fucked for the rest of your time at that job.