I can personally vouch for all 5 of these over the course of my career. I’ve had people quit who thought my store would fall apart without them (usually it got better), I’ve had plenty of dick bosses (managed to survive all of them),and have worked with morons who made my job harder and who sometimes got promoted (I eventually surpassed them.) And the last one? It’s why I’m no longer a salaried manager–at one job I was working 6 days a week and my boss then told us we would also have to work Sunday, but “only a 1/2 day, and you don’t have to wear your tie.” You need to work to live, but you shouldn’t live to work. You can make all the money in the world but there’s no point if you don’t have time to spend and enjoy it.
#5. “This Place Would Shut Down If I Left!”
Let’s say you’re working a pretty common job. Maybe a desk job at a slaughterhouse, keeping basic data and organization. You are the central point between all the other departments, making sure that the people who punch the pig to death have their timing down so that when it arrives at the chainsaw department, it’s not still alive. It requires a certain level of fluidity and concentration, so not just anyone can step into your position.
During the busiest part of the day, one of the pig punchers breaks his hand and has to go to the hospital. Right as you’re trying to find a stand-in for him, the guy who’s responsible for flipping off the pigs as they exit the livestock truck comes to you and says, “I think a few pigs went by without me giving them the finger.” Meanwhile, a chainsawer is radioing you to say, “We somehow have an extra leg here, and we have no idea where it came from. We’re not entirely sure it came from a pig — it appears to be wearing pants. Should we just throw it in the leg pile with the rest?” The whole line is now held up, and the boss storms in, furious that you’re not doing your job.
“And another thing! Why are we wearing suits on this job?!”
Somehow, you get everything back to the well-oiled, pig-fucking machine that it was, and everyone else disappears back to their jobs. Nobody thanks you. Nobody acknowledges how good you were at solving that problem. For that matter, the boss still seems pissed off. What the hell? Don’t they know what you just pulled off? Let’s see those assholes step into your job for even one hour. They couldn’t handle it. They’d run screaming from the computer the very first time a pig rebellion alert popped up on the screen. If you walked out right now, this place would come to a screeching halt. The whole business would collapse. In fact, you should do that. That’ll show them.
The Harsh Truth:
You’re vastly overestimating your importance.
There was a 15-year span in my youth where I had roughly 20 different jobs. I just bounced around, trying to find anything at all that didn’t suck enormous amounts of balls. I’ve seen walk-outs in almost all of them. I’ve walked out of a handful of them myself, including a midnight shift where I was the only worker. I once saw an entire crew of 14 people walk out of a job in unison. I saw a manager get into an argument with the owner, pack his shit on the spot, and tell him, “Run this place on your own. Let’s see how far you get without a manager.”
In all of those instances, I’ve never seen a business shut down as a result of someone quitting. It doesn’t matter what skillset the person had — when they walked out, the most destruction it caused was some slight annoyance for the other employees who had to cover their shifts. Even in the case of the manager, they just slid an assistant manager into his spot, and the day moved on as if he had never been ejaculated into existence. They had a new manager in place before the weekend.
Aside from your dramatic departure not having the desired business-exploding effect, you’ve now damaged your work history and references. If you made any friends at your job, they’re definitely going to be pissed off at you for making them cover your workload. And that’s not even the worst of your problems, because now you have no money coming in. Don’t count on unemployment, becauseit’s very likely that you’re not going to be eligible.
I completely understand why people say this phrase, though. We need to feel important. We need to know that our employer cares about us and puts trust and respect into our position. Nobody wants to feel like a faceless cog that can be replaced in a moment’s notice. We want to feel like we’re so good at what we do, if you removed us from the system, the whole reactor would go into catastrophic meltdown.
Shit. We’re gonna need a new fry cook.
But it doesn’t. You have to embrace that humility, because it’s one of the biggest sources of motivation you’ll ever have for growth. It’s what makes you become better and better at what you do. And it’s what prevents you from getting too comfortable, becoming a cocky asshole, and being totally flabbergasted when the bosses have enough of your shit and tell you to fuck all the way off. I’m not saying you have to work in a constant state of trembling fear — that’s not good for anyone, even your employer. But you do have to keep in mind that this business functioned long before you were hired, and it will continue to function long after you’re gone. You’re not the first person they’ve seen quit on a dime, and you won’t be the last.
Where employees are concerned, there’s a huge difference between important and necessary. In any strong, successful business, the latter doesn’t exist.
#4. “My Boss Is A Total Dick!”
Back in high school, David Wong and I worked at a fast food restaurant, under a manager named Bill. Bill was the douchiest of all bags, and the running joke among most of the employees was that he was one part human, one part robot, and two parts The Devil. He made attempts at connection with the workers, but they were the most awkward exchanges I’ve ever seen.
When you arrived at work, you’d start your pre-shift chores, and without fail, Bill would walk up behind you and ask how your day was. You’d start to answer, but when you turned around, he was gone. He had walked away mid-sentence, leaving only the faint smell of Old Spice and contempt in his wake.
That became a running theme in pretty much every job I’ve ever worked. The manager says just enough words to satisfy his corporate requirement of “speak with the workers so they think you’re human.” Otherwise, all communication came in the form of nitpicky criticisms about the stupidest shit imaginable. With Bill, if you used the word “grease,” he would ream your ass in front of everyone, for not calling it “natural juices.” I once saw a different manager give a 10-minute, screaming lecture because a worker moved the mop from side to side instead of front to back. Another one almost fired a guy because he had a quarter-sized drop of oil on his hat … in an oil-changing garage.
“And what did I tell you about lifting up people’s hoods?!”
Granted, nice bosses aren’t nonexistent. You mostly find them in small businesses that don’t have a corporate machine to report to. But in my experience, they’re the Higgs boson of the employment universe.
The Harsh Truth:
In most cases, it’s intentional — they’re trained to be that way.
One of the most important rules you learn as a manager is to not become friends with the employees. Being friendly is fine, but becoming actual friends is bad. It makes sense even on a surface level. It’s extremely easy to show favoritism to a friend — to let bullshit slide with them, where other employees would never get that luxury. Ever have to fire a friend? A good manager won’t have to, because she’ll never put herself in that situation to begin with.
“Oh, don’t forget: We’re starting our Gilmore Girls marathon tonight.”
There’s a weird and extremely effective psychology at play behind every good manager, and there are tons of seminars out there that teach them how to pull it off. It’s this delicate balancing act between appearing concerned and connected, while at the same time being able to cut off that connection so that they remain cold and distant. Stay in the conversation too long, and you become “one of the guys.” Pull out too quickly, and you’re an emotionless psychopath who’s impossible to work with.
As harsh as it might be, it’s necessary. If you’re a manager, you don’t ever want a scenario where your actions at work can destroy a friendship after hours. “I can’t believe you yelled at me like that today. I thought we were friends!” Or just as bad, your friendship outside of work, destroying your career. “Why didn’t I fire him for that? Um … well … it’s a complex situation.”
I’m not saying that to be a good manager you have to be a total cockhole. I’m saying that, when you get it right, it creates this odd symbiotic balance where the employees are comfortable working with you, but there’s always a slight fear that you’re capable of pulling the trigger on their job without batting an eye. On the rare occasion when you do pull an employee aside for a friendly talk, it feels like a reward. They walk away feeling special and appreciated.
OK, that may be a bit of an overreaction, but you get the point, right?
But since you’re not 100 percent committed to being a friend, most everyone who works with you will consider you a dickhead. A cold, robotic, slightly Satany Bill. What I’ve learned through the many Bills I’ve encountered over the years is that if you want to be on their good side, play along. Don’t try to force a relationship that isn’t there. Don’t try to drag out conversations that he’s clearly trying to end. Do your job and call the grease “natural juices.” In all likelihood, he’s not demanding that you use that monumentally stupid phrase because it’s his pet peeve. He’s doing it because his boss is making him.
#3. “My Co-Worker Sucks At His Job!”
You work as a cashier at a medical waste resale facility that sells buttholes by the pound. For the third time in an hour, the cashier next to you gets on the loudspeaker and says, “Linda, please come to the front. I need the key.” You know that the key is needed to override a mistake, and the key holder, no matter what store you go to, is always named Linda. Something inside your brain pops, and it takes every ounce of willpower to keep from unleashing a verbal beatdown on that moron, right in front of the customers. When you get home, you unload it all on your wife.
“Seriously, how hard is it to remember? Buttholes are $1.87 per pound. Whole butts are $18.70. That dipshit screws it up every single day, and it just drives me nuts. How does she even still have a job? She’s 30 minutes late to work every day of the week. She’s always 15 minutes late, coming back from break. She doesn’t know how the credit card machines work. She can barely count to 10, let alone give correct change to a customer. Hell, screw wondering how she still has a job — how is she even still alive? I’m going to talk to Linda. She needs to be fired.”
Meanwhile, you didn’t notice that your wife had slowly backed out of the room after your second sentence.
“Maybe I should frame her for murder.”
The Harsh Truth:
You’re probably going to come out of this looking like a twat.
This is a really complex issue, because there are a whole bunch of factors that you have to take into effect. The most important question you need to ask is this: “Is this person negatively affecting my job?” In a team environment, the answer is likely going to be yes. But in jobs like the butthole cashier example, it gets kind of muddy. Are you having to stop what you’re doing in order to help her out? Are you having to cover for her mistakes? When she comes in late, are you unable to do your job?
If the answer is, “No, it’s not really affecting me,” then why do you even give the flyingest of shits? Let her fail all day long, because you will look like a butthole-selling prodigy by comparison. If you’re working beside someone who’s that incompetent when evaluations come around, guess who’s getting the bigger raise? Or are you complaining because she’s making the business look bad? That’s great. It’s one of the bigger qualities that a manager looks for when promoting someone. But there’s a catch.
Complaining to a manager or a supervisor about someone else’s performance, especially when it doesn’t directly affect yours, can make you look like a drama-starting, whiny, tattletale piece of shit. Trust me, I’ve seen it happen over and over throughout my life. At first the employee is thanked because they’re bringing a problem to the attention of management. But, eventually, the more complaints that person makes, management starts to just roll their eyes. “Fuck. What now?” If it keeps up, you will absolutely be told, “Why don’t you worry less about her job and concentrate on getting better at your own.” At that point, the shitty worker isn’t the problem in their eyes … you are.
So let’s say that this mental abortion actually is affecting your work. Have you talked to them about it? Keep in mind, that’s not always an option. Some businesses strictly prohibit employees of an equal level from confronting each others’ problems. Or you just may not be comfortable talking to a co-worker about that stuff. That’s totally fine. There’s nothing wrong with bringing it up to a supervisor. You can’t have another person making you look bad. If you miss out on a raise or promotion, that should be dictated by your work and not the buttfuckery of an inept co-worker.
“But I’ve talked to the supervisor several times about it, and the problem is still there.” Then it’s time to go over the supervisor’s head. If you talk to the manager and still nothing is being done about it, you may want to consider the following things: 1) That person may not suck as badly as you think. 2) This person’s suckage is annoying, but it’s not affecting the actual business in a negative way. And most importantly … 3) All of the upper-level people already know how bad this person sucks, and they’re just waiting for an opportunity to shitcan her.
That last part is important. You have to remember that if you’re a manager or a business owner, getting rid of a bad employee isn’t as simple as walking in and showing them the “YOU’RE FIRED” tattoo on your dick. Do it wrong and you could easily end up with a wrongful-termination lawsuit. Or in some cases, having to pay out a severance. And it can bring about a more subtle effect of gaining a bad reputation as a company who fires people for no reason.
“What’s it mean when the calculator laughs itself into a coughing fit?”
But that’s really the problem here, right? All you can do is file your complaint and then sit back and hope something happens. You just have to be super careful about how hard you press the issue. Once you get stuck with the “drama queen” label, you’re screwed for the rest of your time at that job.
#2. “They Keep Picking Complete Morons Over Me For Promotions!”
Man, you are just dick-slapping the shit out of everyone in your office with sales. You’re setting records. Nobody can keep up with you. You’ve won so many Employee Of The Month awards, they had to map the announcement to a hotkey. New client placement isn’t even a question anymore. They get dumped into your lap on a silver platter. You own this place.
It’s especially nice to finally shove it in Chad’s face. That incompetent dickhole gets lauded as the Golden Boy, but after a full year of kicking his ass in every statistic imaginable, it’s impossible for them to overlook you now. They asked you to shit money, and you clogged their toilets with Ben Franklins.
“Ladies and gentlemen, may I have your attention, please? I just wanted to take a minute to congratulate Chad McFuckface on his new promotion to assistant manager. Congratulations, Chad; there is nobody more deserving of the promotion, and we’re all extremely proud of you!”
… … … … WHAT THE HELL?!
The Harsh Truth:
Until you understand your employer’s definition of “leadership material,” this will never stop happening to you, and there’s not a goddamn thing you can do about it.
Wait, let’s back up for a minute. Did you make it known that you wanted that position in the first place? If you didn’t, or if you failed to stress it enough to make it stick in your boss’ brain, you have only yourself to blame. When the upper-level people make a list of managerial candidates, they don’t just stick a bunch of names up their asses and select the one that they farted the furthest. And they definitely don’t evaluate every person in the office. They first consider the people who have shown an interest in the position. Yes, there will probably be a couple of names in there who didn’t express a desire to be in management, but for the most part they have a pretty good idea of who does and doesn’t want the job.
“What about Crying Guy? Think he’d be interested?”
Second, you have to put yourself in their shoes. Taking a really good salesman out of sales is a bad idea. That’s true of any job. If your best roofer can shingle a house in half the time as everyone else takes, what do you benefit by pulling him off of that job? Can he teach everyone else how he does it? If so, why hasn’t he taught them already? Have you taught the other salesmen how to close like you do, or are you just in this for yourself? Doing the work and managing the work are two completely different skillsets, and unless they can see you demonstrating their definition of “leadership material” for long stretches of time, promoting you to that position is a huge, huge risk.
Management isn’t a solo effort. It’s a team sport. Your job as a leader is to make sure everyone is growing. If you’re constantly demonstrating that ability to spread the wealth, you are going to become their new Golden Boy. Unless one of the managers has made a friend who he wants to promote instead.
Oh, I didn’t mention that part? Yeah, that’s totally a thing that happens all the time. I talked earlier about how making friends is a bad idea for a manager, but that doesn’t mean it never happens. And that’s probably the harshest truth of all: Sometimes, no matter how hard you work, and no matter how good you are, some jack-off is going to get the promotion because he sucked just enough ass to make it happen.
Ciaran Griffin/Photodisc/Getty Images
“That’s so weird. Ever since I promoted Chad, everyone seems to love me!”
#1. “They Act Like I Have No Life Outside Of Work!”
After covering for three call-ins in the last two weeks, you just wrapped up 15 days of work without a day off. You clock out and head straight home, where you bust out a special bottle of weird booze made from onions and yak milk that a friend illegally mailed you from Mongolia; 700 shots later, you black out, knowing you can just wake up whenever the hell you want.
Three hours later, you get a call from work. Four people have called in sick, which is weird because they were all supposed to be at the same party that you weren’t invited to. The manager is at the store, alone, and nobody else is answering their phones. They’re so sorry to bother you, but they need you to come in and help out, “just this once.” They didn’t want to call you, but they didn’t have a choice.
Angrily, you throw on your clothes so hard that you injure your arm. You call a cab because you’re in no condition to drive. Just before you leave, you glance over at the sweet katana that you bought at an anime convention, but shake the thought out of your mind. It’s not worth going to prison over.
“Do you want me to clock in, or should I just start chopping?”
As you fight the urge to vomit in the back of the cab, your brain is on fire. “These damn people, man. They think my entire life is wrapped up in that job. I haven’t had a day off in over two weeks now, and nobody gives a shit. I can’t even have one goddamn day off without those cockhole dickbag cunts calling me in. I swear to God I’m going to burn that whole damn store to the ground!”
You look up into the cabbie’s mirror to find him staring at you in wide-eyed horror. You realize you were saying all of that out loud. Embarrassed, you focus your attention out the window and mentally prepare for work.
The Harsh Truth:
What you want out of this job is the dictating factor on whether this is a good or a bad thing. Regardless of what you want, there is no way to make it stop sucking.
OK, well, almost no way.
Here’s the good news: If you’re wanting to grow with the company and move up the ladder, you are doing the right thing by covering shifts. Even if you’re not looking at it in terms of the long haul, you have an immediate reward in the form of a larger paycheck. Especially if you’re putting in overtime. See, there’s a little secret that they don’t teach you when you first enter the job market: If you work enough overtime, your employer has much more incentive to put you on salary (which often comes with benefits). And salaried positions are often associated with more important titles, like manager, administrator, senior pig puncher. So why do they do that?
Overtime pay laws weren’t just implemented to compensate you for working over the standard 40-hour week. They were also made to punish employers for overworking their staff. If they pay you overtime for long enough, it just starts to make more financial sense for them to throw you into a salaried position, which pays you a flat amount no matter how many hours you work. And, for you, a position like that means more security. It means they’ve accepted you into their business as an important, reliable employee, and you’re on your way to climbing the ladder. If you weren’t full-time before, you are now.
In pretty much every job I’ve ever had, the willingness to work when you didn’t have to was the number one deciding factor in who we promoted.
“I just got promoted to Dad Slapper, and I’m prepared to work overtime.”
Now, the bad news: If you don’t want to make this job your career, you’re kind of screwed. Coming in to cover those shifts makes you their dumping ground. Any time they need an extra body on the floor, they automatically think, “Call Worky Workerson. He always comes in.” It’s the employment version of a bully. “Call the weak guy because he can’t say no. Pussy.”
So, do you want to be running this business in 10 years? Or do you just want a simple 9-to-5 job for now while you look for a more solid career? There’s nothing wrong with that at all. People do it all the time, and they’re very happy with that arrangement. But if that’s what you’re looking for, you have to make it clear right up front. And then you have to reinforce it every time someone tries to call you in because another assfuck is faking an illness to get out of work. And here’s where that double-edged sword really kicks in …
No matter how hard you work, and no matter how reliable you are, if you start turning them down when they try to call you in, another stone goes on the side of the scale marked “Unreliable.” Yep, someone else’s sick day can make you look like a bad worker. Messed up, isn’t it?
Hey, I never said these were pleasant truths. But, again, knowing them ahead of time will at least help you understand where the negativity is coming from. Being able to sort that shit out takes a whole lot of stress away. It does for me. At the very least, keep this in mind: All of the things I’ve talked about in this article doesn’t just happen to you. It happens to every single person you work with. Your shitty, dickhead manager. The moron with the undeserved promotion. Even the fake-sick assholes who make your life miserable. The difference between you and them is that at least you’re going in prepared. Let the rest of them crash and burn. When they crack from the pressure and leave, you’ll be the one running the show.