9 Types of Job that Will Destroy Your Soul
Any of you could wind up in one of these jobs, at any moment, without realizing it. The shitty jobs I'm about to describe aren't specific positions or industries -- they're situations. Some of you -- hell, maybe even most of you -- are already in one of them.
The thing is, when people try to think up the worst job possible, most of them go right to shit. As in, "It could be worse, you could be shoveling shit somewhere!" or "At least we're not working in a sewer! In shit!" But that type of job isn't as bad as you think -- you actually get used to the smell of poop, the same as you acclimate to a job where you work in brutal heat or bitter cold.
But these jobs, on the list below? They're the ones you never get used to, where the longer you do it, the more it eats away at you. So let's take a moment to say a prayer for ...
The Punching Bag
Also Known As:
The job where you have to face complaining customers, but you have no ability to fix their problem.
The hell of these jobs is that they're not advertised as "complaint department." If your job was to handle people's complaints and help them, that could be fairly satisfying. People might actually thank you now and then.
No, I'm talking about jobs where you are between the public and whoever is fucking up constantly on the back end (and in some cases, the business itself is just shitty at what they do) but you have no power to do anything about it. All you can do is absorb their frustration and insults until they give up, because they finally ran out of ways to call you a worthless turd. Usually after threatening that they'll get you fired.
For Example ...
Think about the waiter or waitress at a restaurant where the quality of the food is terrible. When a customer complains, there is no correcting the order or sending it back to the kitchen -- the replacement will be just as bad, because the restaurant's owner is buying their meat from a Russian guy selling it out of the back of a van, and the cook is his 16-year-old nephew. But the customer will never get to curse out the owner, or the cook. So they'll just take it out on you instead.
Or, remember when the American government hired more than half a million college kids and other people off the street to do the census last year? Those kids faced abuse from hundreds of paranoid nutjobs believing Glenn Beck's conspiracy theories about the census being used to send us all into concentration camps. What the hell do you even say to that? How do you reassure that person?
I could name examples all day, but to find the Punching Bags, you need to look no further than your last frustrating experience with customer service -- they'll be at the other end. Ever try to call UPS (or whatever courier you use) about a package that failed to arrive? You quickly find out that the person on the other end of the phone has no ability to contact the driver of the truck, and no knowledge of where your package is other than what you yourself could have found on their tracking website. So, presumably they spend their entire day as a sponge for complaints from angry customers (or, worse, crying customers talking about how the next dose of their kidney medicine is in that box).
They're Punching Bags. Go easy on them.
The Walking Dead
Also Known As:
The job that requires sleep deprivation. Long, irregular hours of tedium that your sleep patterns are physically incapable of adjusting to.
I'm not talking about jobs that won't let you take a nap after you were up all night with the baby or a Dr. Who marathon. That's every job. No, I'm talking about the jobs where torture-level sleep deprivation is a requirement (and it is literally a form of torture, used by everyone from the KGB to the CIA).
I'm talking about real exhaustion here, the kind that makes you feel sick. Your brain is trying desperately to shut down. A thick sludge of sleepiness is clogging up your thought pipes. And you have to push through it, night after night. You can't get up and walk around, or get fresh air or entertain yourself. You just have to sit there, often in dead silence, and force yourself to stay awake for hours and hours and hours. It's hell. It is a fucking living hell.
For Example ...
Jobs like security guards who do night watch, sitting in a chair in a closed shopping mall and staring at non-moving images on security cameras for eight straight hours. No action, no book, no music, and if you get caught going to sleep, you're fired.
Which is still a better outcome than long-haul truckers (who studies show get less than five hours sleep before driving for 10), since falling asleep at the wheel means somebody's probably gonna die. But at least they can turn on the radio.
And make no mistake -- your body never adjusts to an irregular sleep schedule (the recommended treatment for sleep problems caused by odd work hours is to get "a normal work and sleep schedule." Thanks for the advice, fucker!).
But the worst part is what sleep deprivation does to you even when you're not feeling sleepy. You can feel your IQ dropping. It's like Edward Norton at the beginning of Fight Club -- you walk around in a haze, you forget shit, you leave your keys in the lock. You start having conversations you don't remember. And when you're driving home, you are as dangerous as a drunk.
And good luck getting sympathy when you complain to a friend that your job is so boring, you can fall asleep while doing it. That just sounds like you're complaining about how easy your job is. At least, to anyone who's never had to actually do it.
Also Known As:
The lone representative of your gender in the workplace.
This could also be "The Guy." It works either way. I suspect it's harder being the lone girl in a shop full of dudes than being the lone guy in a female-dominated office, but mainly I say that because I want to see the Men's Rights dipshits show up in the comments section.
For Example ...
You'll find it in every auto body shop with a secretary -- one female working the desk and 10 greasy men working on engines (and don't accuse me of stereotyping -- 97 percent of secretaries are women, 99 percent of auto mechanics are men).
It's no fun. There is the obvious sexual harassment element of it, which I barely need to touch on since you've been on the Internet and have seen what happens when a girl shows up on a male-dominated forum ("TITS OR GTFO"). It's the same in real life, only it's not as overt. But it is far more awkward, as there is no escaping it unless she quits. So the tension is sustained for eight or nine hours a day, every day, for as many years as she works there. And it's a no-win; if The Girl reacts badly to a crude joke, she's a bitch. If she replies to innuendo with innuendo of her own, then it's, "Dude, I think she's into me!"
Not that it isn't awkward for, say, a male nurse who statistically will be the only penis owner in the vicinity. It creates a different though equally weird tension, because there are things women only say around other women (usually regarding what douchebags men can be). Also, there are plenty of members of both genders who regard any member of the other as the enemy. What I'm trying to say is that being a young dude in close quarters with a bitter, divorced mother of three is no fun.
Also Known As:
The hard job that everyone laughs at you for having.
"So what do you do?"
"I'm a turkey masturbator."
You can laugh. I did. But working at the kind of job that not only makes people laugh at you, but makes them tell the exact same fucking joke every time you bring it up, is awful. You eventually start lying about what you do, as if it's illegal. Just to not hear that same goddamned joke again.
If you're scoffing and saying people should learn to have a sense of humor about themselves, I'm guessing you're not yet at that stage of life where you're judged according to your job. If you're 22 and you tell your peers, "I work at Chipotle, holding a sign while dressed as a burrito," they'll either laugh in sympathy, or say, "No shit, are they hiring? What are the hours like?"
But soon you'll move onto a period of your life where you are defined entirely by what you do. It's how the newspapers will refer to you if you ever make the headlines ("Pet Groomer Dies in Chimp Attack"), it'll be the first thing you're asked at parties, it'll be the first thing girls ask you when you start flirting. The polite attempt to hide their disappointment when they decide they're talking to a guy with a loser job is kind of crushing.
For Example ...
God help you if you worked at a fast food restaurant in your youth, but kept getting promoted until, at middle age, you wound up a store manager. It doesn't matter that you're working 60 hours a week and taking in bonus money for keeping the store profitable -- when you tell people you work at Kentucky Fried Chicken, you're a loser with a picture of Colonel Sanders on your hat. Work anywhere in the newspaper business along the distribution chain? It doesn't matter how high up the ladder you are, or if you needed a special license to drive the truck that ships the papers -- to everyone else you're a "paperboy."
I know a guy who waited three years on a waiting list to get a job as a mailman -- it's a tough job to get because it's a sweet government job with good benefits, and you have to pass all sorts of exams and background checks. But to this day, if he tells people what he does, they'll make a joke about "going postal." "Haha! You're not going to shoot us, are you! Do you want some of my lithium?" The same joke, over and over and over.
Though that's not as bad as working at, say, a sperm bank. Or any job that involves sex in any capacity. It's fucking 2011, but if you are connected to the porn industry in any way (even on the billing or Web hosting side), you have to lie about your job as if you're a drug dealer. And it's a lie you have to tell constantly.
All because society has decided that certain jobs, regardless of skill level, pay or difficulty, are to be ridiculed.
Also Known As:
Endless, mindless repetition that could just as easily be accomplished with a machine.
I'm not just talking about boring jobs here -- most jobs are boring. Starbucks is boring, but at least the drinks are different from customer to customer, and you can practice making designs in the foam. No, I'm talking about a task that takes five minutes to learn, must be repeated five thousand times a day and never changes. You stand in one spot, you perform the same task, over and over and over.
For Example ...
You've watched one of those "how stuff is made" type shows, where they visit a factory like this one where they make tasty brownies. And while the job of the "pour the brownie batter into the pan" lady looks boring ...
... there is still a fun and satisfying aspect to it. She probably has to worry about the consistency and temperature and amounts of the batter, and she gets to watch her empty pan turn into a bunch of delicious brownies, and she can pretend she's Willy Wonka.
But then at the very end of the assembly line are the poor bastards whose job it is to just stack the brownies into boxes:
All day long. The same number of brownies in every box. An endless stream of boxes that never, ever stop. Even in an automated world, the workforce is absolutely full of these jobs -- it's still cheaper to make a low-paid human pack boxes than to buy an expensive machine. Here's another video, this from a Pringles factory. Check out the guy whose job it is to stand in front of the Pringles chute and straighten the rows of chips so they slip neatly into the tubes.
Now, some stressed out CPA with a hectic office is reading this and saying, "Shit, I'd love to be the guy who puts those little blue stickers on the bananas at the Chiquita factory. That'd be like a vacation to my ulcer-ridden ass."
Bullshit. It's like thinking being stranded on a desert island would be a nice break from the daily grind. It'd be peaceful for about an hour, and then you'd start to go insane. Your brain is a supercomputer containing an entire universe of wonders and creativity, and you're going to make it stare at a row of chips for eight or 12 or 16 hours at a stretch? Oh, and it's a failure-only job. If you do it perfectly, no one notices. But if you fuck up and the chip tube loader jams, you catch hell.
And when it comes time to ask for a promotion, or to look for a new job, what do you tell them you did? What skill did you learn? How did you better yourself? What job does this qualify you for? What interesting stories do you have to tell when you get together with friends? You'd start looking at that flow of chips and imagining the best years of your life flowing away, one Pringle-shaped moment at a time.
The Lie Bot
Also Known As:
The job where you have to lie right to people's faces, to make them buy things.
Some of you immediately said, "What, like lawyers and politicians?" But those are careers. Big, big difference. Those people choose that, and went to school for it.
No, I'm talking about jobs. The type of position you take just to pay the bills until you can start your rap career.
For Example ...
Almost any sales job, for one. Think about the poor bastard at Best Buy getting paid hourly to pretend Monster brand cables aren't a scam. Like working on cars? You'll be shocked to find how many repair shops pressure you into padding the bill with bullshit repairs and worse. Maybe you took a general customer service job at a phone bank, but then they contracted out to some shady software company that has you cold calling people to get them to buy some malware-loaded bullshit that will "speed up their computer."
And while the "sleazy used car salesman" is a stereotype, it's not like they have a sign up front that says, "Now hiring shitheads." Car sales is one of the precious few jobs on planet Earth where you can come in with no experience but still make decent money. Yet, part of doing the job is learning to perform that staged bullshit where you pretend to consult with a manager to get the customer a lower price.
You'll find that lots of jobs that sound great in the classifieds secretly have "being a shithead" in the job description -- that's how they find people willing to do it. MLM sales, door to door sales, telemarketing jobs, all can have you selling shady, shamefully overpriced or downright fraudulent bullshit.
And what makes those jobs even more awesome is that you in no way restrict the lies to gullible rich people who could maybe afford to lose the money you're stealing. The rich people have lawyers -- you stay away from them. No, the job of the Lie Bot is usually to hustle single moms out of next months' diaper money.
The Rat in a Cage
Also Known As:
The manager or supervisor who has no authority to actually manage the employees under him or her, yet is responsible for their performance.
There is this huge, obvious, yet shockingly common flaw in modern businesses. You'll have the employees who actually make the stuff or perform the service. Then right above them is a supervisor (you), who is ultimately responsible for the performance of those employees (or at least, you'll catch hell when they slack off). But you do not have the power to fire them. Or reprimand them or reward them or punish them or give them the smack with the back of your hand that would send them tumbling to the floor that you dream of giving them each and every night.
For Example ...
Maybe you're at a family business, but you, the supervisor, are not a member of the family. But the kid working under you, the one who is scanning his balls into the copier, is a member of the family and is thus untouchable. Or, maybe you don't have firing authority because of some complicated union situation.
Or, maybe the workers are working in your department but not for your department. Say you're a supervisor in Sales, and the guy the IT department sent over to work on your computers is a dipshit. So he's cursing while you're on the phone with clients, he's drawing boners on your family photos, he's dicking off and meanwhile, you can't use your computer to do your job. And you can't say anything because while you're a supervisor, you're not his supervisor.
Sure, you can complain to his supervisor, but you can't make him take action -- that guy is at the exact same level as you. Maybe he's friends with the dipshit, or maybe all the IT guys look out for their own, and all the next day you'll hear them chuckling about it when you pass their office.
In other cases, it's just a matter of the person who could actually fire or suspend incompetent workers not working in the same building, or even in the same city, as the dipshits. You send your complaints up the ladder and they disappear into the clouds somewhere. Then, one day you realize the shitty worker you're complaining about has worked there longer than you and that 20 years from now, they'll still be there.
In the end, all you can do is verbally compliment the performers and beg the incompetents to do better. That, and continue to twist your stomach in knots every time they screw up, watching them ruin your career, utterly powerless to stop it.
But in case it sounds like I was being too hard on the IT guy back there, let's hear it for ...
The Assistant Cromulationist
Also Known As:
The highly technical job that is impossible to explain to those both inside and out of the workplace.
If you used to watch Friends, you remember the running joke about how nobody knew what exactly Chandler did for a living. He was always exasperated by this ("I told you, it's statistical analysis and data reconfiguration!").
Like the Laughingstock, the person with this type of job physically cringes at the thought of having to answer the "So what do you do?" question, and eventually invents a fake job title or a ridiculously dumbed down version ("I work on computers") for conversation purposes. And if awkward conversation was the only problem, it wouldn't be that big of a deal. The real problem is when none of their co-workers understand their job either.
For Example ...
We have a disproportionately computer literate audience, and I know a lot of you aspire to work in the field. Well, some of you are going to wind up as the one-man computer tech support team in an office full of old timers who still regard computers as a suspicious, yet necessary form of black magic. Maybe you'll be the guy who maintains the online orders, in a department where everybody else hits the road and sells the old-fashioned way.
This is any job where the other employees' task is labor intensive or requires "real world" work, and you're just sitting there "playing on your computer." That's the key; because they don't understand what you do, and because you aren't capable of explaining it so that they'd understand, they tend to assume you're just jerking off all day.
So, they start treating you like dead weight. When profits are tight and it comes time to cut staff, everyone will point the finger at you. If lovable old Frank in Sales gets the ax instead, everyone will resent you even more ("They fire a hard-working veteran like ol' Frank, but they keep Dave just because he can use the fancy computer machine?!? He don't even wear a tie to work!")
And that's assuming that the people doing the firing also aren't confused about your value to the company. If your job is, for instance, to prevent a problem that the average person isn't even aware of, then good luck explaining that to the guy who has to make layoff decisions based on how much profit you're bringing in. Think of the frustrated employees in Office Space trying to justify what they do to "the Two Bobs" (the two downsizing consultants, who both happened to be named Bob).
Then again, being a Bob isn't exactly a sweet gig ...
Also Known As:
The one whose job it is to make everyone else's jobs harder, or to recommend they be fired.
On some level, we all realize there is often a big fucking gulf between what workers enjoy, and what actually makes a company profitable. Some of what the company needs the workers to do is going to piss the workers off, and somebody has to make them do it. And that's fine, as long as that guy is the boss. But that's often not how it works. Often the person cracking the whip is a Bob.
This is an employee who is either on the same level of the rest of the staff, or they're temporarily elevated to some kind of task force (to raise quality or whatever), or they're outside consultants brought in to shape up the operation, like in the Office Space example.
But one way or the other, if you're a Bob, you're a traitor. The employees don't work for you, your name isn't on the door, you don't write the checks, you don't have the ability to pay them a sweet bonus. Yet, you have the power to make their lives miserable.
For Example ...
I'm going to use a term here. Some of you won't recognize it. The rest of you will reflexively feel your genitals crawl up into your body:
ISO 9000 is a certification that businesses can get that declares they have their shit together. Which sounds great, but from the employee point of view, ISO 9000 means a task that used to take two mouse clicks now takes two mouse clicks and three pages of exhaustive forms explaining what they just did. It's endless, hellish record-keeping. Getting certified means ISO 9000 consultants come into the office and hover over every employee, constantly reminding them to log their time and fill out their forms.
Exactly 100 percent of the things the consultant is telling the employees to do involve making their job much, much harder. When they leave, ISO compliance will be handed off to someone within the company. And everyone will want to murder them. They're now a Bob.
But the key is you could get promoted to a Bob job tomorrow. Maybe you'll get asked to work in Quality Assurance, recording and reporting your fellow workers' errors. Maybe you'll be put on a team to create a report about the department's "efficiency."
Or, maybe you'll have to go review the work some other company is doing for yours on a contract basis, and you'll be the Bob over there. Like the toy company representatives who hang around movie sets and make sure that from the script stage on, the characters will make good action figures. You know that artists and storytellers love to hear that shit. "Sure, the character is endearing and resonates with the audience and has a compelling story arc, but you need to give it hands so we can sell accessories for it to hold."
What are they going to do, complain to their boss? Their boss is the one who paid you to come tell them that. And you're just doing your job.
That's what I guess you have to keep in mind, because a whole lot of the people on this list could be spun off into an article about "People at Work You Want to Murder but Can't Because It's Illegal." Just remember, they're not villains. They're just people trapped in shitty jobs.
Thanks to everyone in this thread for sharing their work horror stories, and to Christina H., Pauli Poisuo, Daedalus, Luna Fortuna, SirMrSir, Something Clever and, uh, "Flamer Shaftglutton" for their examples.
Nightmarish villains with superhuman enhancements. An all-seeing social network that tracks your every move. A young woman from the trailer park and her very smelly cat. Futuristic Violence and Fancy Suits, a new novel about futuristic shit, by David Wong.