Even a Miserable Job Can Pay Well

by Jennifer Miller on September 6, 2012

in Learning, Personal Effectiveness, Workplace Issues

Hello my name is MiserableEarlier this week, it was Labor Day, our country’s holiday celebrating the American worker.

We all have Jobs We’d Rather Forget stories. Bad bosses, conniving co-workers, filthy or dangerous work conditions.  . .most of us experience at least one doozey in our lifetime.

They make for good stories, but only after the fact. And, if you’re lucky, you can take away something from the experience. One of my stories goes like this:

Many years ago, during a college summer break, I hired on as a home care aid for a woman with emphysema and severe mobility issues. My duties were to do light housekeeping, cook meals and perform whatever other tasks my client “Sally” needed assistance with. My shift was four hours long, in the afternoons, Monday – Friday.

The first day, I showed up, ready to be helpful. It felt good to know that I could help someone stay in their home a bit longer rather than having to go into an assisted living situation.

That warm and fuzzy feeling last about 2.3 seconds.

“Well, it’s about time you got here.” (I was five minutes early.)

[Heavy sigh] “Well, I guess, if it’s not too much trouble to you, you could make me lunch.”

So, I set about to make Sally her lunch. She wanted an egg. Basted. “You DO know how to baste an egg properly, don’t you?”

I confessed that I wasn’t quite sure about basting. Was it like more like poaching, or frying?

Sally painstakingly described how she like her basted egg and off I went, into the kitchen.

Want to take a guess on how much Sally liked the basted egg that I prepared for her?

And on it went . . .the vacuum was too noisy, . . . I didn’t really understand how to dust properly . . .no, Sally did NOT want me to adjust the volume on the TV, well, wait maybe she DID, now that she thought about it (and I was walking into the other room) . . .

I toughed it out for ten weeks, dreading every day.

When it was over, I knew this: I deserved better than that. I did not need to withstand an employer’s abuse, even one who was in pain and sick. I understood that Sally had very little control over her life. And I cut her slack for that, I really did.

But in the end, she never let up on the snide comments and seemed to perversely enjoy having me at her beck and call. Not once did I sense any sort of gratitude.

And I decided that if I ever was in a position to employ someone, I would never treat them like that, even if I was in abject misery.

My pay scale? $3.45/hour.

My life lesson: priceless

What have your nightmare jobs taught you?

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Prasad Reddy September 6, 2012 at 8:21 am

I realized what I learnt only after leaving it and after some time when a tough situation confronted.

I was really grateful to my nightmarish job experience as it made me lot more tougher and matured.

Jennifer Miller September 6, 2012 at 2:02 pm


Yes, I think the valuable lesson can only be realized after you leave a difficult employment situation. How amazing that you consider yourself “grateful” (in hindsight) for the experience – a true hallmark of a mature person.

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