I’ve been working one type of job or another for more that 40 years, which should quickly establish my qualifications to speak on the subject, and say that I’ve never had a job that didn’t suck.
A wise man once said, “If it was supposed to be fun, they wouldn’t call it work,” and while I guess that’s true, my experiences in the American workplace have left me with feelings that are a lot more complex.
In some ways, my current job is the best one I’ve ever had. It’s menial, and the pay is correspondingly low, but that’s the sweet part — I can leave anytime I please and find another job that sucks just as much, no problem. Past experience tells me that a Big Screw is coming some day, but the low pay is the lubricant that will keep it from hurting, and it’s that thought in the back of my head that makes my current job strangely liberating.
Despite the outstanding degree of suction any job generates, I generally don’t mind working. It’s not the getting up in the morning, the driving to the workplace, the labor itself or the depressingly low pay that bothers me, it’s the people.
Now before I go further, let me say that some of my best friends are people I’ve met in the workplace. It’s the others — a vast host — who have generated such a massive, hoovering hole that none can escape the hot wind of its fetid embrace.
Over the years, I’ve identified certain types, and they’ve been present whether I was mopping floors in a mess hall, getting my marching orders in the census-takers office, working on any one of several newspaper copy desks, or pushing my printer cart through another hundreds of miles of my Orange Valhalla. These are the people who make it suck for all the rest of us:
You know the type. It’s the man or woman who will do anything … anything … to get ahead. There’s not quite as many of these in my current job because, quite honestly, most people realize that “getting ahead” is a relative term, and they’re still going to be as poor as snakes even if they do get ahead. But the place I worked before this was filled with so many prancing sycophants that I felt like I needed a shower after every afternoon news meeting. I hold in equal contempt the brown-noser and the brown-nosee. Both make me want to puke.
Some people just have a knack for getting hired. They come across well in interviews — real go-getters — but their shortcomings come to light as soon as the rubber hits the road. I’ve worked with guys in the newspaper industry who didn’t know how to look up words in a dictionary. I’ve edited stories from reporters who clearly had no grasp of the English language. We’ve all worked with people that are utterly unsuitable for the job they’re performing. How does this happen?
We’ve all worked with the guy who always has something else to do besides what he should be doing. Usually this guy has a few favorite hiding places, and is very adept at disappearing as soon as you turn your back. But some are such masters of their craft that they can hide in plain sight. Back in my newspaper days, you could count the number of stories each editor had handled at the end of the night. Most people edited anywhere from 15-20 stories, but a couple were forced to handle upwards of 35-40 so the slacker could handle 2! Such an editor wasn’t even called an editor anymore, he was a craftsman.
Of all the different types, I detest the cheerleader more than any other. The cheerleader probably started out her career as a brown-noser, but soon rose through the ranks because of her winning attitude. A Big Orange cheerleader from Corporate HQ paid us a visit just a couple of weeks ago, and while some of the brown-nosers were “uplifted” by her message of positivity, the realists among us felt our gorge rising. While the realists kept working in other parts of the building (I mean somebody has to be helping the customers), a bunch of other employees joined the pep rally. There was applause and cheering as folks got psyched up by the promise of more hard work and low pay while the stockholders get rich. God, I hate a cheerleader!
The late person
With my overall attitude about work, you’d think I would tolerate a late person, but tardiness is one thing I can’t abide. Really, I have just Four Rules for the Workplace:
- Show up on time
- Do your job
- Shut the F*** up
- Go home
I really have no tolerance for the person who is always late. Look, I’m reasonable. I know flat tires happen. I know emergencies happen. But how is it that the habitually late person is always having an emergency? Here’s the thing: It’s not the company’s responsibility, and it’s not your co-workers’ responsibility, to get you to work on time. Plan for contingencies! If the weather’s really bad, did you ever think that maybe you should leave the house a few minutes early? Did it never occur to you that if the traffic’s bad, you might allow some extra time for your commute? I’m reasonable. Bad stuff happens to good people sometimes. But not ALL the time!
A little conversation makes the workday go better. I like to have fun as much as the next person, but in any job, there comes a time when you have to put your nose to the grindstone. However, there are some people who never stop yapping. I can’t take it, especially not at 5 o’clock in the morning, which is when my workday begins. Yes, some talk and planning is necessary among co-workers, but I really don’t want to hear the same story I heard last week, and I don’t really care what cute thing your kid did, or about Muffy the cat yarking in your living room. For the love of god, won’t you please just shut up for 5 minutes and do your job in silence? Please?
I’ve never met anyone in the workplace who didn’t screw up on occasion. Lord knows I once made a mistake back in 2011! A good co-worker will catch your error, maybe let you know about it, and then move on, confident that you’ll do the same for him one day. Not the back-stabber! Really, back-stabbing is just brown-nosing on steroids; it’s getting points with the boss by ratting out a co-worker, and consequently making yourself look good. Look, if I make a mistake, just tell me about it and I’ll try to make good. If you have a back-stabber in your midst, there’s only one way to handle him. Bide your time, because his day is coming, and when it does, grab something sharp and go for the kill!
I’ve had a couple of good bosses, but most of them have sucked. Don’t believe me? Just have a gander at the nicknames from four decades of contemptible human beings:
- Jeffy Go Bye-Bye
- Prince of Darkness
- Mad Dog
- Chicken Legs
- Captain Video
Well, the list goes on, but I can’t. Time to start psyching myself up for another work week!