People hate their jobs. FACT. The reason most people hate their jobs is not the work itself, or even the hours or pay— they hate it because of the other people there.
As much as I hate my job, I’ve changed a few times and know that a lot of the stupid, lazy jerks I deal with will be at the next job too in some form. There’s just no getting away from them.
When you start reading a site like PleaseFireMe.com, a user-generated workplace bitch site, this fact quickly jumps out at you. Almost every complaint is about things other people do:
Please fire me. My boss digs through our trash cans to see if we are writing notes to each other about her.
Please fire me. My boss ate all my Pringles after refusing to give me a raise.
Please fire me. One of my managers told me I was voted “Most Likely to Get Pregnant” in the office. I’m the only unmarried woman there.
Please fire me. Last week I was accused at work of thinking.
Please fire me. Our HR girl overheard me describing the plot of The Road to a co-worker. You know, the book about survivors of nuclear Armageddon who are being chased across a deserted America by anarchist cannibals. She asked, “Was that based on a true story?”
Please fire me. My boss just came into my cube and asked me how my internship is going. I am not an intern and never was one for this company.
And this is just a small taste of all the anonymous user comments that get submitted to the site every day. Not surprising really, as it would seem that every day at 6:00 across America it is Complain About Your Job Hour.
The premise of the Please Fire Me book is that people are being treated even worse by employers during these tough economic times, and that since people can’t easily change jobs, morale is getting worse. My experience online bears this out: I began tweeting as @MeetingBoy in June 2009 to have somewhere to vent about some of the ridiculous things my boss has done:
Yelled at for being late to a meeting I wasn’t invited to. When HR pointed this out to my boss, he said I don’t “take enough initiative”.
I know you like to surround yourself with pretty women, boss, but next time you hire a writer, it’d be nice if she could write.
My boss has magical powers: When he tells a lie, he knows it’s a lie, but when he remembers it a month later, he thinks it’s true.
My boss likes to brag “I don’t ask for permission; I ask for forgiveness.” Except he never asks for forgiveness; he serves up scapegoats.
And people responded. I have over 130,000 followers today, and the number one thing people ask me is “Do you work at my company?” Workplace complaints is a rich vein. In fact when PleaseFireMe.com first appeared, a few people messaged me to say it was a ripoff of MeetingBoy. Not true. MeetingBoy is office focused, the sort of place where meetings happen. Please Fire Me is more broad, including every job that sucks. And no one has a monopoly on hating their coworkers.
Is a worker revolution imminent, as Please Fire Me suggests?
The Please Fire Me book departs from the site by suggesting that a worker revolution is about to happen. People left with no options will eventually explode (though mostly this is played for laughs, as the main writer, Jill Morris is a comedian by trade).
I’ve always been skeptical about that— I’ve seen bad morale lead to people acting out at work, not working very hard (“in-cube, unnanounced strikes” as I like to call them), and even going so far as to sabotage projects. Not to say that revolution isn’t tempting. The revolution in my book always starts—
When the Revolution comes, I’m shooting everyone who says robust. Well, except the coffee roasters.
When the Revolution comes, I’m shooting everyone who uses a speakerphone without closing the door.
And the other day I started tweeting about Bastille Day in the office, and people started chiming in, appreciating the rage behind “Off with their head!” I got more tweets than I could keep up with, and people certainly embraced the idea.
The thing I like about the book is that it goes beyond the user submissions to the site. Sometimes it’s a rant:
Please Fire Me. The dude I sit next to makes a joke about TPS reports every single day.
Office Space is a funny movie. Heck, it may even be the best Office Space-esque movie out there. However, we have all seen it— all of us— at least twice. We know that they ask for a lot of TPS reports. It’s very funny when those paid actors did that in that low-budget indie picture. It was especially funny because no one had ever done it before.
…And for all its faults, at least no one at Initech sits around quoting Office Space.
And sometimes it’s some cool new content, like the Myth of Bizyphus, or The Gifted Engine That Shouldn’t:
No Place For Prisses in the Revolution
The Gifted Engine That Shouldn’t is the most inspirational tale of the power of suppression ever told. One of the greatest characters of children’s literature, Gifted Blue Engine has taught generations of children. Bright children learn from Blue that winning makes other kids feel bad. Of course, run-of-the-mill brats get to relate to the hero, Dumb Boss Train. The G.B.E. loves efficiently delivering toys, but he’s too good at it. However, after Dumb Boss Train tells him, “You cannot… You cannot,” he tells himself, “I should not… I should not.” From that day forth, Gifted Blue Engine carried only as many dollies and teddies as his quota demanded.
If I had one objection, it’s the part where they get around to talking about who should be recruited to rebel against the bosses, they have three categories— Recruit, Do Not Recruit, and Prisses. Prisses are people who have it good and have no right to whine. I disagree with this categorization, and not because I haven’t known a few prisses in the workplace. No, I object because as good as someone’s job seems to other people, it can always suck. It reminds me of this line from Two And A Half Men (though I know the idea is much older):
Charlie: For every gorgeous woman out there’s a guy tired of banging her.
Alan: But that guy is never me.
And to me that brings up why every job can suck— there’s always someone to ruin it. Very rarely do people complain about the work— it’s almost always their boss, their coworkers, clients, or vendors. Even the CEO has to deal with the board and the shareholders, plus the press. Trust me when I tell you every job can suck. Of course I wouldn’t be recruiting the big shots into any workplace revolution; we’re going to need someone’s heads to chop off at the Bastille.
Don’t believe me? Well, a high profile example of this is NFL players. It sounds like they have awesome jobs. Most of them seem to think so when they sign on. But lots of them only play 2-3 seasons and then end up bankrupt from medical bills within 5-10 years and then a disturbing amount die in their 50s, a good 20 years sooner than the rest of us.
So maybe the priss is just someone who isn’t good at complaining. And experience tells me every suckup is one denied promotion from Bittertown.
Which is why when someone tells me they love their job, I just nod knowing that it won’t last.