June 5, 2013

Why Can't We All Be As Happy In Our Jobs As This?

Lapham's Quarterly (5 June 2013) put up a matrix of the "Worst Jobs In the World," but the problem is that is completely misses the mark!

The worst jobs matrix has four dimension based on the functions of jobs being treacherous, tedious, difficult, and disgusting. 

The matrix has some doozy jobs listed, such as the food taster for the emperor (i.e. testing for poison) and the banquet attendant who cleans up guests vomit and holds the pot for partygoers to urinate in.  

However, while this infographic provide some interesting job tidbits, it completely misses the point of what it really means for a job to be bad or worst. 

What doesn't necessarily make a bad job?

- It is not how treacherous a job is, because treachery can be in the name of patriotism (such as someone who works in the Intelligence or National Security community and may commit treacherous deeds, but they are for a noble cause to protect our people and country).

- It is not how tedious a job is, because many jobs are tedious but they are necessary and important, such as working "on the line" in many traditional manufacturing jobs producing goods that people want and need. 

- It is not how difficult a job is, because often the more difficult a job is, the more rewarding it is, such as a surgeon, scientist, social worker, teacher, and so on. 

- It is not how disgusting a job is, because many jobs involve blood, guts, and gore, but are jobs that save lives such as doctors, fire and rescue personnel, and even our warfighters. 

What does necessarily make a bad job?

- If you work for a cruel boss, you have a bad job. A bad boss--one that is bullying, arbitrary, unfair, egotistical, mean, and abusive--can ruin even the best of jobs. When you work for a great boss, you can learn, grow, and are well treated and for a boss like that, you will go the extra mile. 

- If you perform meaningless work, you have a bad job. One of the most important factors in worker satisfaction is whether you perform purposeful and meaningful work. If you do, then you have a reason to get up in the morning, and that is a great feeling, indeed. 

- If you work and are not fairly compensated, you have a bad job. Most people don't mind working hard as long as they is a fair performance management system, where they get rewarded and recognized for their contributions. However, if you aren't fairly compensated and can't make ends meet to provide for your family, you have a bad job. 

- If you have a job that doesn't provide for work-life balance, you have a bad job. Generation Y really appreciates this, and they have taught us all something about the importance of maintaining a healthy work-life balance. This means working to live and not living to work. If you have a job where you miss your kids' ballgames, have no intimacy with your spouse, and don't have time and energy to take care of yourself physically, mentally, and spiritually, you have a bad job. 

Many people work in jobs that are challenging--whether they are treacherous, tedious, difficult, or disgusting--but they are in good jobs. Other jobs are for cruel bosses, doing meaningless work, and are not fairly compensated and don't have work-life balance, and they are in jobs you would never want to have in a million years. In fact, food taster and banquet attendant may sound pretty darn good in comparison. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)


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