THE RADIO — “This is Wednesday. Hump day,” says the DJ. His reference has nothing to do with camels or speed bumps, but rather he means that Wednesday is the middle of the work week and now we are moving downhill and closer to getting away from our jobs. We’ve got Thursday, which is called Friday eve, then TGIF and finally the weekend which means time away from work.
The term “hump day” always makes me a bit sad. Is your job so bad, so boring, so unfulfilling that you dread going to work and only look forward to being away from it? That’s not much of a life. But a lot of Americans don’t like their jobs, hate their bosses and want to graze in the greener grass. University business schools and employment agencies, not to mention the U.S. Dept. of Labor, are always doing surveys on the subject, and their findings vary, but they are consistent in showing millions of Americans dislike their jobs.
A 2009 survey by the Conference Board research group showed only 45 percent of Americans were satisfied with their work. It was the lowest level ever recorded in the 22 years the board has been studying U.S. workers. Another survey taken last year put job dissatisfaction rate at 70 percent. It’s no wonder Johnny Paycheck’s song, “Take This Job and Shove it (I ain’t working here no more)” was such a hit. Perhaps Paychecks’ slippery grasp of the English language had something to do with his lack of work fulfillment.
A Mayo Clinic study found there is a difference in job dissatisfaction, and it has little to do with income. Lowest on the happy face chart are you people who feel that what you do is just a job. The nature of the work doesn’t interest you, and you’ll probably move on. (The average tenure in a given job is now 4.4 years.) Then comes: It’s a career. In this case you’re more interested in advancement, perks, the corner office, no matter what you do 9 to 5. Finally: It’s a calling. I think three lines of work would fall into this category: teaching, preaching and journalism. Hey, would we put up with lousy pay and your constant put-downs if we didn’t love what we do? All three pursuits are out to change the world for the better, but as the anti-Obama crowd likes to say: You can keep the change.
Why do so many people dislike their work? Forbes ran a study and determined many employees first chose their career at the age of 22 when they have no idea what they want to do with their lives. They have a very narrow view of their options. They feel they need to make money, because they are now independent from their parents. Then, after 7-10 or more years, they feel locked in, they don’t know how to change, and they see a risk to switching careers. So, they do the same thing for the rest of their life.
Another survey found that the Number 1 reason for dissatisfaction is their job is boring. Then comes: having a bad boss, no personal time, difficult working environment and in fifth place: low pay. Having a boring job could apply to almost any pursuit. Dentists clean teeth every day, lawyers keep getting the same drunks off DWI charges, after a while all transplanted hearts look the same and Seal Team 6 will never be promoted to Seal Team 7. I was talking to the president of one of the biggest banks in Houston. He made very good money, his expense account covered most of his restaurant meals, his country club membership (golf networking) and other perks like business trips to Hawaii. “So how’s the banking biz?” I asked, trying to sound curious.
“Let’s not talk about banking,” he said. “It’s so boring.” Yes, boring would lead my list. Number 2., bad boss: Do you have a bad boss, or, even worse, are you a bad boss? Psychology Today found six main reasons (we’ve got a lot of lists today): Doesn’t treat employees like human beings. Has completely unrealistic expectations. Fails to see his/her own shortcomings. Punishes first and asks questions later. Is a bully. (This reminds me of the notice put up on a company bulletin board: “The floggings will continue until morale improves.”) Lastly, is dishonest and inauthentic. You might want to cut out this list and anonymously leave it on your boss’s desk.
Next: no personal time. I quibble with this gripe unless your boss says, “Forcipes, quick!” and you are using your iPad. As for the complaint that you slave in a difficult working environment, tell that to pig skinners, landfill inspectors and your co-workers who resent your lunch-time accordion practices. Last was low pay. These days any job and any pay are better than the alternative, but what ever you earn is not enough unless you can bat .335, are a hedge fund manager or are an unindicted drug lord.
What’s the worst job you ever had? No, not as parent of a teenager. Not the time you were an air traffic controller shouting prayers to crashing pilots. Put down your shovel and think. It could be the one you have now. My worst job might have been when I was making $86 a month as an infantry private in the U.S. Marines. No, I’d file that post under “a calling.” My worst job was one summer vacation in high school when my father got me a position with the Texas Highway Dept. Each scalding day I would go out in one of those big trucks to cut grass (manually), paint stripes down the middle of the county or, if lucky, be put on the Dead Dog Patrol. Don’t ask. Forty-four hours a week earning $44. My father said I was over-qualified to be an orange barrel and under-qualified to hold up an orange flag.
Ashby’s calling is at firstname.lastname@example.org