We Hate Our Jobs | Why Americans Are So Pissy

We Hate Our Jobs | Why Americans Are So Pissy

By Don Hall

Just lately I've had a number of conversations with folx in the throes of mid-life transition. One friend has moved on from decades of running arts organizations and is tired. She knows what she doesn't want to do but hasn't slowed down enough to figure what she wants to do. Another lost his job due to a poorly run organization and is now wondering what comes next and maybe he should move back in with his parents at the ripe age of 43. Yet another is stuck in a dead-end gig that has him scrambling to pay child support and living expenses with no room at all for simple things that help him cope.

At least four different people who really hate their current employment situation but saddled with the knowledge that it's fucking difficult to find another, better one and the low-grade terror of being jobless in an America that gives no shits about those unemployed.

One who has acquiesced to a freelance job that has him working so much that his social life has kind of disappeared but he is comfortable with it because having some financial independence is better than struggling to keep the heat on.

There is a sense of frustration and despair in the faces I see across tables in cafes and restaurants. A feeling of just keeping heads slightly above the encroaching tide. I believe that this sort of non-stop anxiety is incredibly unhealthy. I believe that swimming in it is a choice. As Sam Harris likes to say "Reframe." And as I like to say, "If you hate spending eight hours a day doing something that causes you to feel small or stupid or worthless, get the fuck outta there, bub!"

In the end, work is work. You sacrifice a piece of yourself to make enough dough to live. The question is how much of yourself do you give and for what return?

Video Store Manager
While going to college in Arkansas I took a job as the manager of a small video store. This was pre-DVD, pre-internet streaming, pre-Netflix, VHS tapes on shelves in plastic boxes. There was an actual back room for porn and most of it was softcore crap. It wasn't a difficult gig. I scheduled the five employees we had, I organized the shelves, I did the paperwork and payroll, I ordered new tapes. It was the only video store in town, so we were pretty busy most of the time.

I didn't hate my job but I didn't really care about it either. It was a means to an end -- the end being that I needed cash to buy booze every other night of the week.

Public School Music Teacher
I loved this job. I was motivated, dedicated, I worked long hours, stayed late, got there early. I took my charge as a Shaper of Young Minds very seriously and I was a very good, progressive, excited middle school teacher.

But I was always encountering the uncaring bureaucracy of the Chicago Public School system and the constant drone of parents who thought that their borderline delinquent children were smart or special or entitled to better than they gave. I often had my wild enthusiasm for the gig met with a dismissive belief that I was just there to babysit or to follow the curriculum written by administrators. After nearly eight years of teaching, I hated it. I took more sick days than I needed, I stopped staying late, I started phoning it in.

So I retired.

Tobacco Retail Grunt
Not content to substitute teach -- which sucks no matter who you are and how much you love teaching — I went out looking for something, anything, that would be slightly interesting and pay some bills. I smoke. I like cigars. I'm a fan of espresso. I landed a job, for barely over minimum wage, at a Tobacco Shop at Six Corners on the west side. My manager was half my age and kind of a burnout. The owner wanted us to be always busy — even if the glass on the humidors had been cleaned ten minutes ago, if I wasn't actively doing something, it was "Clean the glass."

I loved the gig because I got discounts on smokes and watched HBO all day while learning as much as my brain could handle about cigars and pipes and the entire culture of fine tobacco. I stayed there until the store went under and closed down.

I've worked a lot of jobs in my time. Construction, a facilities manager for a massage school, waiter, musician, actor, copywriter. I loved working for "Wait Wait…Don't Tell Me!" and as the Events Guy at Public Radio. There was only one job that I hated so much that I simply walked out and didn't even ask to be paid for the two weeks I was there.

Work is work. In order to survive in America, working for pay is required. But hating the very thing you spend the bulk of your day doing? What the fuck is the point of that?

2013 survey findings.

2013 survey findings.

Seven out of 10 workers have "checked out" at work or are "actively disengaged," according to a 2013 Gallup survey

"In its ongoing survey of the American workplace, Gallup found that only 30 percent of workers are 'were engaged, or involved in, enthusiastic about, and committed to their workplace.' Although that equals the high in engagement since Gallup began studying the issue in 2000, it is overshadowed by the number of workers who aren't committed to a performing at a high level — which Gallup says costs companies money.

"The poll examined worker engagement beginning in 2010 and ending in 2012. The previous poll period covered 2008 through 2010."


Sure, that was almost five years ago, but it's getting worse. A Gallup poll from late 2017 shows that only 15 percent of workers are engaged. 

Forbes magazine, which has reported on Gallup's engagement polls says that "Engaged" means employees feel a sense of passion for and deep connection to their work, and spend their days driving innovation and moving their company forward.

That leaves 85 percent of people who hate their jobs. Like, hate? Like, as much as I hated telemarketing? And stay?

No wonder we're a bunch of angry, stupid assholes.

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