Why we love hating our jobs


Oh, we all hate our work, don’t we? Just can’t stand it. Did I ever tell you about the time I called in sick for a week because I couldn’t stand looking at my boss for one more moment? Or mention the time I cut my own arm off so there was no way they could make me take minutes in the meeting that day? How about the time I faked my own death to avoid the commute? If you were in any doubt about just how much we loathe employment, you could take another look at lifelong.disappointment.com, a website for those wanting to vent their spleen about workplace miscreants.

One infuriated contributor writes about their boss: “Mark reminded me of the kind of bloke who drives an unlicensed minicab for the sole purpose of raping drunken passengers. His minuscule IQ was matched by the number of baths he had a year.

“Working in a factory can be a dull job at the best of times, but Mark managed the quite amazing feat of being both dull and infuriating at the same time. I’d find myself grinding my teeth into anger-powder at his banal and bigoted comments, while simultaneously berating myself for letting such a degraded Hobbit get to me in the first place.’’

And that is one of the more restrained entries.

While you’re trawling the ‘Things we hate about work’ bit of the internet (which you do all day, because you just hate your job so much, remember!) you could also take a look at Jobsworth cards: greetings cards bearing slogans such as “Helen had solved ‘the boss problem’... Now, where to hide the body?” And “James had finally worked out how to turn the damn thing off” beneath a picture of a man bludgeoning his computer with a rock.

The site and the cards are both funny, of course. You’d have to be slightly weird never to wonder if there was a way to make your boss disappear. Nor can there be a person on the planet, relying on a computer for some essential and urgent piece of work, who hasn’t within five minutes wanted to hurl the thing off the nearest cliff.

No one could deny that a day in the office is a feast of irritation, frustration and sheer wonderment at the ridiculous things that your fellow human beings can say and do with, apparently, no sense of shame.

But is that a problem with work — or with life? If you spent all day, every day in your own house, you’d be Googling for a website where you could record rants about home life before lunch on day one. Why does the postman always have to make such a racket? Who is this lobotomised streak of inanity who has somehow got a job presenting a national radio programme? Why are the streets filled with people whose default speed is “slow shuffle’’ between 9am and 5pm every weekday? Most things in life are just annoying, especially if you don’t have much choice about them, if they are repetitive, and if they require interaction with people you haven’t personally selected for the purpose beforehand. It’s just that we spend more time at work than anywhere else, so we think it’s the fault of the job when it fact it’s just the fault of, well, the world in general.

Can modern work be all that bad? We aren’t compelled to do it, after all, apart from in the material sense. But if it was really so vile, we’d all just throw our hands up in despair and disappear off to the hills to raise sheep. And even that would get irritating after a while — do you have any notion quite how stupid sheep can be?

Try forming the words: “Actually, my job gives me financial security, a role and purpose, a sense of self-esteem, intellectual stimulation and social interaction and a warm place to sit during the say. I love it!”

But don’t worry: you can bitch and moan about it, while carrying your clandestine affection for gainful employment deep within your secret heart. Perhaps — just perhaps — one day you’ll be able to shout it from the highest hill, but for now it must be like this: the love that dare not speak its name.