Updated on 05.12.10

The Love and Hate of Work

Trent Hamm

I recently had a conversation with a 66 year old woman who had retired from a fairly lucrative career, only to take on a completely surprising job as her “retirement job.”

She’s a grade school lunch lady.

Why did she choose to take on such a job? The reason was simple, she told me. Her grandchildren, her grandchildren’s friends, and the grandchildren of some of her friends attended that school. She had a lot of experience working with food over the years working at soup kitchens and the like and she really wanted to put her skills to work making great meals for the little kids she cared about.

To put it simply, she loves her job. She really, really enjoys doing this, and I could tell by some of the stories she told me.

I told her that her job seemed like it could be pretty thankless – the kind of job that Mike Rowe might shadow. She thought about that for a minute and said something pretty profound.

If you hate your job, a good situation can become a bad one. If you love your job, you can turn a bad situation into a good one.

What do you do if you hate your job, I asked her. She dropped another piece of wisdom on me.

If you hate your job, stop doing the parts you don’t like and spend more time doing the parts you do like. The worst that can happen is that you get fired from a job you hate, and is that really a loss? The best that can happen is that you start producing much better work that helps you move up the food chain.

She told me that her job was to put healthy, tasty, and fun meals on the table for the kids. She knew what guidelines she had to follow and she followed the health-related ones, but she would often spend her food budget in creative ways to get healthy and fun food out there. She also didn’t “waste time” on unnecessary paperwork and meetings, stating that if there’s something important, they’ll find her in the kitchen actually doing her job.

I think every job benefits from a bit of her perspective. At my previous job, I loathed the bureaucracy and paperwork aspects of the job. Eventually, I reached a point where I pretty much ignored them until there happened to be downtime – in other words, I moved the aspects I didn’t value to the lowest possible priority. I missed a few minor deadlines, to be sure, but it made my job a lot more enjoyable and, unsurprisingly, more productive, too.

I keep this same philosophy in my writing work. If I’m not enjoying the work, I do something else, and almost always, it works. Why? Because if I move to something that’s fun within the range of stuff that I do professionally, I usually produce something great. If I grind against the boring stuff, I hate it and produce stuff that’s poor.

This is true of almost any job, from flipping hamburgers (some people are better in the kitchen and some people are better at service) to office work. If you hate your job, find out what you hate about it and do less of that. Figure out what you like about it (or at least hate less) and do more of that. You might miss out on a few details, but you’ll produce much better stuff in the areas that matter. Any boss worth his salt will see that and reward you for it (or at least overlook the little things that you miss).

I’ll leave you with one final anecdote from a friend of mine who manages a convenience store. One of her high school aged employees seemed really down, so she took him aside and asked him what the problem was. “I hate working the counter. I hate talking to all these people.” She made a deal with him – if he turned it up a notch with the other tasks, she’d take him off the counter completely. He brightened up quickly. Now, the bathrooms are spotless, the floor is mopped, the products are stocked, and the other employee working the counter is happier, too, because she likes dealing with the customers.

Everyone wins when you don’t hate your job. Find the parts you like and do more of that instead. The happier you are with your work, the better you’ll produce. If you’re worried about how it’ll go over, talk it over with your boss first, but give it a go. You’ll do better in your career, go home happier at night, and be much more likely to receive better pay.

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  1. guinness416 says:

    The “they can just fire me” approach is only right if you’re not affecting other people (unless you’re totally selfish) which may be okay if you’re self employed but I can’t see as feasible anywhere I’ve ever worked. I’m tempted to procrastinate on billing reviews and timesheets all the time, but I’m not going to squeeze the timelines of our admin and accounts people. And when my junior guys don’t make certain calls because they don’t like talking on the phone it impacts my ability to get deliverables out and leave on time. Neither are fair. Asking, like the store’s counter guy, is a totally different thing but “they can just fire me”? I don’t know.

  2. Kurt says:

    I recently read ‘First, Break All the Rules’ & ‘Now, Discover Your Strengths’ and their message was very similar: Do more of what you were born to do & less of what you weren’t. That’s how you achieve excellence. If you spend your time doing “damage control” for your weaknesses, at best you’ll end up average (and probably neurotic).
    Keep the great posts coming!

  3. Woody says:

    I suppose in the end its just about finding and doing something you totally enjoy. Success is happyness!

  4. Hannah says:

    This is such terrible advice. If you start ignoring the parts of your job that you don’t feel like doing, isn’t it likely that you’re just going to make your coworkers pick up the slack? Honestly, what are the chances that they will just so happen to enjoy cleaning bathrooms or doing paperwork for you? You will be _that guy_ who everyone goes home and complains about after work.

    If you never want to advance in your career, follow this advice.

  5. pat says:

    I worked in a school lunch program, and it is worth noting that “wasting time” on paperwork is part of the job. The government, who is footing part of the bill, expects to have a certain amount of accountability from those who are cooking and serving the food. This paperwork, which includes records of the time and temperature of the food when it is served, is necessary for safety. If there is a problem, there must be accountability. It doesn’t help anyone when there is a person working there that doesn’t feel that “all that paperwork” is just busywork. I appreciate the point of this post, but feel that sometimes all parts of the job are necessary to follow, not just the parts a person likes. This is especially important when the safety of food is addressed.

  6. Jon says:

    First off, terrible advice to ignore stuff at a job you may not like parts off and knowingly get fired. Secondly, it was just a couple of weeks ago you were going off about the “Zen Sate of Slog Work”. Make up your mind already. Nothing is worse than a blogger trying to preach to both sides of the fence.

  7. J. Anderson says:

    Thanks Trent! I just graduated with my Bachelors Degree in December and have been working part-time at a bar & grill while while working part time at a legal office. I enjoy the atmosphere at the bar and grill and look forward to going to work to socialize with the people that come in. I feel that it is very fulfilling although some may not see it the way I do. I actually once had an old teacher from my high school come in for lunch one day while I was working and she asked if that was what I went to school for. It was a really snarky comment, but I realized I was doing what makes me happy. I think the point of the article is do what you enjoy, sometimes the money isn’t all that great but I would rather happily go to work everyday at a place that may not pay as much than to a place where I dreaded to be. It’s all what we make it.

    Well Wishes-J. Anderson

  8. Rachel says:

    I agree with Hannah #2. I have to do the stuff my coworkers don’t feel like doing because I am the admin. assistant. My coworker has been working on an inventory project for over three years but not getting it done, so it was reassigned to me. That is not in my job description and I was NOT offered more pay to do his tasks in addition to my own. He makes more than I do yet does less. It’s not fair, and it does NOT help morale whatsoever.

  9. If you hate your job, you hate your job. It makes sense to slack off and try to make the best of a bad situation and if you hate the job, it really doesn’t matter if you get fired or not. That might just be the push you need to do something better with yourself.

    Not everyone will find a job they love to do. That is just reality. At my old job, there were aspects of the work I really loved and excelled at, and other aspects I just hated (redundant paperwork). I worked my butt off doing what I enjoyed and did the paperwork as infrequently as possible (but I still did it).

    I think there needs to be a balance in this approach. Maximize the time doing what is enjoyable and minimize the aspects that aren’t but don’t ignore them or pass them onto other people. Don’t waste your time on things that are not productive to the job (meetings) if you don’t absolutely need to. The less time spent doing things you don’t enjoy, the happier you’ll be at the job.

    Good article and nice to see another perspective than to just slog away miserably at work with no course of action.

  10. Sharon says:

    I’m not sure that you should do this in a passive-aggresive manner by just ignoring bits. Talking to your supervisor or co-workers so you can swap responsiblities is better idea. I personally cannot imagine anyone who would prefer mopping floors to dealing with people …but I would want him on my shift.
    It helps to think about why you dislike certain parts of your job and deal with a side issue. Data entry was about 30% of one of my jobs. I HATED it. Finally I realised that since I could schedule my day, I planned to do all my data entry during a favorite talk/radio show which provided just enough destraction and rhythm and so I became much better at it.

  11. steve says:

    This is effective advice for the person it’s coming from: a retiree with little to lose from such a casually-adopted job. I imagine that this would also be suitable advice for someone who is happy with an entry-level job, and doesn’t wish to take on additional responsibility. Someone who has already paid their dues simply won’t care about the annoying minutiae they don’t want to deal with, and by default some other coworker will be left to do it. On the flip side, the world is full of enthusiastic slackers, and this kind of behaviour comes natural to them. It cuts both ways.

    For those who are seeking to advance, be promoted, acquire better pay and more responsibility (as well as more independence at work), I would discourage them from only doing what they like best. When you abandon tasks on the job, there is no magic wand to wave and solve the problems you create…Your discouraged coworkers need to pick up your slack, or your boss replaces you with someone who is agreeable to performing within their job description.

    Now that I think about it, tenure or perhaps nepotism seem the only ways to defeat this eventual outcome.

  12. I think this advice can be used well if you’re able to but I see it in a different light.

    My job is alright. I don’t love it and sometimes I even hate it but it pays the bills. On my FREE time though I spend it doing only things I love from gardening, cooking to running and spending time with my husband. My life is wonderful because I don’t make work my life.

    Same with my husband. Though his job is fulfilling he doesn’t love it and so he ran for public office in our city to make extra cash and find something he’s passionate about. He also spends his free time expanding his hobbies and making them profitable from brewing beer to building computers.

  13. Johanna says:

    Even if you’re purely selfish and don’t care about your coworkers or your organization at all, it seems to me like you’d be better off quitting the job on your own terms than throwing a passive-aggressive temper tantrum and getting yourself fired. What happens when you apply for a new job and they ask why you left your old job, or they ask to contact your old employer?

  14. There are thousands of different types of jobs…find one you like. Don’t be miserable everyday by staying in something you just don’t like. Better yet, live debt free so you can work when (and where) you want to.

    Dollars Not Debt

  15. Jon says:


    “What happens when you apply for a new job and they ask why you left your old job, or they ask to contact your old employer?”

    You could always whine about how they tried to pay you to do your job description and you refused. :)

  16. guinness416 says:

    @ Johanna, Jon

    I guess it may be fine advice for some – the woman who’s retiring in six months and doesn’t give a damn what anyone thinks of her performance, the guy in some sort of an unfireable union job, the part-time teen who’s not planning a career in food service, the guy so low on the totem pole that he doesn’t do any key tasks that impact clients/coworkers. But that doesn’t describe most of us!

  17. Ellen says:

    I have to agree with most of the replies that this isn’t great advice. Part of being a grownup is being able to accept the fact that at least a portion of any job/work you do will be tasks you don’t like, but doing them anyway. The balance has to be how much of the boring/annoying stuff you are willing to do, & that drives what jobs you accept. Most people find a way to make those parts more tolerable to themselves. There’s nothing wrong with ‘shining’ at the parts you enjoy the most, which might get you moved into a job that involves more of that. But willingly & uncomplainingly handling the grunt work will also reflect favorably on you down the road. I feel my employers have hired me to reliably perform my job functions, not to pick & choose what I want to do.

  18. Profit From My Closet says:

    I just left a job in January that I loathed going to. I did medical billing and follow up for a medical practice. The worst part of my job was to call patients on Tuesdays and ask them to pay their balances with us. Talk about going home with a headache and depressed after being screamed at , cursed at and hung up on all damn day. I couldn’t NOT do it that was my task for the day. Some people are so micro-managed that you can’t pick and choose the parts you will and will not do.

    Usually I agree a lot with what you post but this one I can’t.

  19. Becky says:

    Sure, an idiot could use this advice to justify torching their career, but that’s hardly the point.

    Following this method got me several promotions and consistent raises. I was a receptionist/admin. I hated answering phones and dealing with the public at the front desk, but I liked doing stuff on the computer, including learning MS Word backwards and forwards, writing macros, automating tasks, and other “IT lite” stuff. I also kind of like some kinds of slog-work; data entry, information compliing, research.

    I did a great job at the stuff I kinda liked to do, and an adequate/marginal job at the stuff I hated. This got me promoted – first off the front desk into an admin position, then to management, where I supervised the other admin assistants, was admin to the corporate CEO, and a contracts administrator.

    So yeah, it’s not OK to totally blow off work that’s in your job description. But there’s nothing wrong with demonstrating clearly where your talents lie and where they don’t. If you put lots of effort into doing a great job at the parts of your job that you hate, you WILL get more of those loathesome tasks to do. This will probably make you a real jerk to work with, and people nobody likes don’t really succeed in the long run. Except possibly in the legal profession.

    There really are very few tasks that *everybody* hates to do. If there are such tasks in your job, focus your creative energy on finding another way to get that task done, that is not so hard on you and your co-workers! You’ll be a hero forever.

  20. Dan says:

    Bad advice. It’s one thing to skip meetings (which can be a major time sink) but it’s totally different to skip “unnecessary” paperwork. (What is that, anyway? If it’s that unnecessary, why is it even asked for?) I can just imagine some sort of “unnecessary” paperwork getting done and the place getting shut down for a couple of days because the health inspector got a little pissy.

    If you’re outright skipping some aspects of your job, and you’re just a cog in the wheel at your company, then your boss *will* call you out on it. Plain and simple.

    I also can’t imagine that advocating someone try to get themselves fired is good advice. It’s always best to quit on your own terms, not theirs. At least if you quit, you can say that you left because the work wasn’t challenging or inspiring. Getting fired? Now you have to do a creative dance around the issue.

  21. Johanna says:

    Maybe I’m lucky and unusual in that I work for an organization run by intelligent people. But it really amazes me that out there in the corporate world, so many people find themselves so bogged down in stuff that’s (1) outside their job description, (2) unenjoyable, and (3) completely pointless.

    It seems to me that if there’s a piece of paperwork, say, that really is a waste of time – it doesn’t benefit the company’s overall operation in any way whatsoever – somebody would be smart enough to make the decision to just eliminate it. Then everybody would be more productive, and everybody would be happier.

    Could somebody give an example of what this “waste-of-time” paperwork/bureaucracy is all about, that you keep being assigned to do, but that is completely separate from your “productivity”?

  22. Money Smarts says:

    What I got out of this post isn’t necessarily that if you don’t enjoy your job, just slack off and don’t do the things you don’t enjoy. I got that you should work at making the best of your situation. It’s all about the attitude you approach your work with.

    Sure you may not enjoy doing certain tasks, and at time you’ll have to do them. But what you CAN do while you’re in that job try to find something you’re really good at, work hard at it and excel at it. Make the best of your situation and excel at the things you enjoy!

  23. Jane says:

    This is really terrible advice. It’s not a big deal if you get fired? What about your job history? Who are you going to put on your next job application for references? Everyone has parts of their job that they hate to do. If they never do those, they will not advance very far and will be known as the slacker in the office. Of course this reputation won’t last very long, considering you will be the first person they fire!

    If you hate essential parts of your job that much, it is best to quit like others have said rather than be fired.

  24. Jon says:


    “It seems to me that if there’s a piece of paperwork, say, that really is a waste of time – it doesn’t benefit the company’s overall operation in any way whatsoever – somebody would be smart enough to make the decision to just eliminate it. Then everybody would be more productive, and everybody would be happier.”

    Most large companies move at the pace of a snail. Or too much micromanagement from every level that requires even the most mundane decisions to be passed all the way up to the top and then back down (rinse and repeat), until (usually), no one even has the energy to care anymore.
    The problem with bureaucracy in large companies is actually finding the person who is “authorized” to make such a decision. That is why it should be required that every procedure, type of paperwork, or workplace rule have a single person’s name attached to it to contact. Not a group, not a chain of command. Force everything to have a single owner. That would cut down on stupid rules and time wasters because no one would want to be constantly annoyed by answering questions about it.

    One time waster I have is having to email my boss my project hours every day, and then having to enter them in on the time tracking website as well.

    Also, pointless required meetings that only 5 of the 40 people attending really need to be at.

  25. Aubrey says:

    A coworker and I kind of use this system. It just so happens that what we like/hate balances out. She does what I don’t like (customer interactions stress the heck out of me), I do what she doesn’t like (cleaning and general grunt work bores her), and we help each other when need be. Neither of us feels stuck with the bad stuff, or like the other is slacking off. It’s a team effort in an otherwise “every man for himself” environment, all the work gets done well (and usually pretty efficiently), boss and customers are happy, and we’ve both gotten employee of the month recently. Of course it wasn’t a conscious decision one of us made, it was a routine we naturally fell into.

  26. Kat says:

    In an economy with an unemployed population that includes those who WANT to be working (which is almost all economies), having a work ethic of not caring if you get fired will get you fired. And it will make you no friends, networking is hard when you have the reputation of not doing your job (thus, OTHER people are doing your job and hate you for it, there is a big difference between delegating tasks and just not doing it and making others pick up the slack). This is all nice to say when you are taking a part time job while you are retired and don’t need the money, of course you can be choosy about what you do…in the world of needing full time employment to support yourself and any dependants, this advice is just bad.

    Becky, doing an adequate job on some things and excellent in others will get you promoted, yes. Trent’s advice is to NOT DO IT. So, if you never answered the phones, ever, would you really have been promoted?

    Johanna, large companies often have a long chain of command and many departments. Want to buy a paperclip? Well, it needs to be in the budget that Department X okayed, and it has to be the brand that Department Z standardized, and your own department is trying to cut expenses in paperclips so they can buy staples instead, so nevermind, I don’t need a paperclip! Now, try doing things that are complicated, require multiple departments’ approval and actions, and it snowballs. Mismanaged meetings are also a common problem at businesses of all sizes.

  27. If you don’t like your job, than work somewhere else Or a least find somewhere tolerable.

  28. Amanda B. says:

    I think the commenters may be missing the point. This is suggesting a different world view than the one most people hold, i.e. the “I have to keep this job, get promoted, and make as much money as possible” concept. I think the point is more about readjusting your life so you don’t hate 8-10 hours of most days. That either entails doing more of the work you love at the job you have, or finding a job you love. I think you may also find that a lot of the work you think is awful is not actually a primary job function of yours, and thus shouldn’t be on your plate in the first place. Personally, I think the comments here combined with the one on the mailbag yesterday (one about how it is stupid to think we should all like our jobs) are pretty sad. Depending on your spiritual beliefs, this may be the only life you have, should you really be miserable for the majority of it? Just so you can buy more stuff and be successful by the standards of a broken and generally miserable society?

  29. Maya says:

    I think many of the people who have so far commented on this article are completely missing Trent’s points. Any piece of advice, when taken too extremes, becomes bad advice.

    I think that Trent is simply encouraging people, especially those who hate their jobs, to reconsider how they go about carrying out their duties. He is simply suggesting to identify the duties you like the most (or hate the least) and to try to put more time (it doesn’t have to be all of your time) toward those activities. Then try to find ways to minimize the time you spend on more dull/meaninigless tasks.

    I don’t think Trent would ever suggest that someone slack off on an important task, nor would he suggest making others pick up that slack.

    Trent even mentioned talking with your boss for those of us who are micromanaged. I have a great boss now, but I’ve had bad bosses before.

    Even if your boss seems crazy, I would suggest at least trying to talk to him or her about re-working your job duties, and to be sure to put the focus on how doing so will help them and the company overall. If you’re completely miserable at your job, then obviously something’s got to change. And even if the talk doesn’t go well, at least you’re trying to change your current situation.

    That’s the funny thing about change. It never happens until we start trying to do at least one thing differently.

  30. J says:

    “The worst that can happen is that you get fired from a job you hate, and is that really a loss?”

    Well, for my wife and my kids who depend on me to earn enough money to pay the mortgage, feed the, clothe them and provide medical benefits, yes, it really would be a loss. We do have an emergency fund, two paid for cars and only a small amount of debt, but I bring home the majority of the income. My job is mostly bearable, but sometimes there are projects, people or deadlines that make it absolutely suck. At those times I have to “man up”, face it, and get it done. I often can’t just stop doing these things because I don’t like them. They have to be done, as regularly as taking out the trash or cleaning up the house. I don’t like doing those things, either, but SOMEBODY has to do them, and it’s not fair to my wife to have her do it all the time, either. Sometimes adult responsibility sucks.

    I do agree that you should definitely find a way to make peace with your own chosen vocation, or find a way to change into a job you love, but some of the stuff you are advocating here is going to get you on a quick trip to the head of the layoff line. There are plenty of unenlightened managers and also plenty of people beating down the doors of any given workplace who are happy to take that job you hate right now.

  31. Jeremy says:

    Wow, just wow at these comments.

    Trent may have not done the best job of explaining this theory, but it seems that everyone read it as “Act like that guy who I work with who slacks off and everyone hates.” That’s not the point here.

    I agree with Amanda B, life is too short to do a job you hate or do tasks you hate at a job that is ok. Maybe i’m more unique in the job i work in that I thought, but I have to to stuff I hate doing all the time, and I actively take steps to either remove those things from the necessary workflow or push them off to someone else.

    Like the convenience store example, just because one person doesn’t like a task, someone else could prefer it. I want to be in the gritty details of a project, not managing the list of 15 projects and which ones need to be highest priority, so I make my boss responsible for that, even though it has historically been my responsibility.

  32. J says:

    @Johanna – I’ve actually come to the realization that people who use the phrase “outside their job description” are part of the entrenched bureaucracy who make getting anything done in a large organization impossible.

    The people who get ahead are those who take initiative and responsibly. “It’s not my job” is a complete abdication of initiative and responsibility. “Let me help you solve your problem” or “I know the right person to help you” are far more positive and empowering, both for you AND for the person you are working with.

    Then, people want every process “fully documented”.

    Here are a list of things that take away from my productivity
    – Emails that are sent to too large of an audience
    – Regular “staff meetings”
    – Tools that don’t work properly, that aren’t pre-tested, or that have been orphaned.
    – Participating in a review process that starts in February and ends in May, that produces several artifacts that only exist to support the review process for next year.
    – Having to work with ticketing systems which were “temporary” …. five years ago
    – Multiple messaging systems (email, phone, bug tracking, help desk, IM) and having to keep up with them.
    – Dealing with outside vendor’s own trouble tracking systems.
    – Writing up “business cases” for purchases which no one in the purchasing chain actually reads, although they are required.

    And I work in an organization where eliminating waste is a top priority. But I only have so much time to spend on telling other people how to do their jobs!

  33. Angie says:

    It looks like the comments are divided – those people who have had to pick up the slack for “That Guy/Gal” and those who are “That Guy/Gal!”

    For the record, I agree with most of the commentators. I had someone at my office decide not to do a fairly important, but boring, task. An admin was assigned the task and she filed wrong reports for more than 5 quarters. Now all of those reports have to be reviewed and revised by an attorney. That reflects poorly on the whole department. Not good times.

  34. J says:

    And in regards to the convenience store anecdote — what’s going to happen when someone walks through the door happy to work the counter, sweep the floors and not require special accommodations? What happens when he needs to work the counter because the other person is sick or not scheduled? What if she decides she doesn’t like dealing with customers?

    What a sense of entitlement from that young person when something like one in ten people are out of a job! The manager should have put a “Help Wanted” sign up immediately. I bet she could have found somebody who could dazzle the customers, keep the floors spotless and who would be hungry to run the place one day!

  35. Todd says:

    Trent tends to give examples that pull toward two extremes. I think the point here is to work on maximizing your talents rather than wasting too much time on your weaknesses. Of course, in the real world we all have to do both.

    Long ago, while working an entry level clerk position, I had an attitude about the menial work and one day said, “What are they gonna do, fire me because I don’t file properly?” An older woman who worked with me whipped her head around and said sternly, “Look, buddy, I consider this my chosen profession. You might think it’s beneath you but I’ve been here doing this for 30 years and I’d appreciate it if you’d treat it as a job worthy of respect!”

    I learned my lesson once and for all about respecting any job, and about never copping a “If they don’t like it they can fire me” attitude.

  36. J says:

    Cough *moderation queue* cough

  37. Laura in Seattle says:

    @ Johanna #14:

    Years ago I worked in the regional office of a bank. Every day a very long report would print out from a dot matrix printer in the office (which was way outdated even then). Of the 20+ people in our office, NO ONE, not even our group supervisor, knew what those reports were or were for. But we had been told to get the report printout each day and file it, so that was what got done. There was an entire file cabinet full of these reports.

  38. JW says:

    I think there are two sides to this coin. First, the cafeteria worker seems to have her priorities right to me. She works in a school. What should her top priority be? KIDS! Reports must be done, yes, but getting kids good food and getting them to eat it should be job one. There are many kids who might only get one nutritious meal a day – the one at school. And you might be simply amazed at how important cafeteria workers become in the life of some kids! The good ones really are gems.

    I am a teacher, and a few years I noticed that I was becoming negative. I was volunteering for committees, going to meetings, and stressing out about the parts of my job that I didn’t enjoy, parts that actually made me more negative in the classroom. This was all done out of the best of intentions: I wanted to make our school a better place, and our school was going through some really tough times. However, it was negatively affecting my work where it mattered – with my students. I cut out all non-required committees and meetings and started to focus on what I could control – teaching my students and making my classroom a place where they wanted to be. I started to work on insulating them from all the nastiness that was happening around them – things they should not have had to deal with in the first place. Now, I love my job again. I have tough days, yes, but I feel like what I do during the day matters, and I’m not frustrated with the endless slog of meetings that never seem to make a real difference.

    On the other hand, I’ve also worked briefly in sales. Cold calling is tough – very, very few people enjoy doing it. But if you want to be successful in sales, you’ve got to get your product in front of customers, and when you’re starting out, cold calls might just be the only way to do that. If you avoid that activity because it makes you uncomfortable, you will probably never be as productive as you really could be. Although it was hard at first, it became easier with each contact I made. Interestingly enough, through contacting customers I learned a great deal of confidence, which has helped me tremendously in just about every endeavor I have undertaken since then.

    So yes, there are two sides to this coin. Sometimes you need to minimize the parts of your job that really hurt your overall performance. On the other hand, sometimes in order to be productive and become a top contributor, you need to simply train yourself NOT to hate those activities. The trick? Figuring out which situation is which.

  39. Todd says:

    @J #25 Why the cough?

  40. Nicole says:

    @#28 I was thinking *cough* proofreading *cough* but it hasn’t actually been so bad these last few posts so I didn’t bring it up.

  41. J says:

    Because it’s obvious that there are issues with Trent’s moderation queue, but there’s nothing from him that says “thanks for letting me know”, a personal follow-up or anything else like that.

    Trent has mentioned before that he doesn’t like moderating the moderation queue, and it won’t surprise me if this is one of the duties that the soon to be hired apprentice gets.

    But given this post, I’d not be surprised if this were something that he decided he didn’t like doing at all and he just doesn’t do it. Which is fine, it is his blog, after all — but I personally would just rather see posts rejected outright (ideally, with a reason why to allow the poster to correct the comment) rather than accepting the comment and having the boilerplate “please be patient …” message that never goes away. Alternatively, comments could be turned off entirely (a la Zen Habits)

    It’s a prime example of how choosing not to do something can have an effect on others.

  42. denise says:

    As a RN I think that itis important to work in the area that appeals to you. Every job will have some aspeets that you do not like and you can not just let someone else do those things because it will cause problems.

  43. wanzman says:

    This advice brought to you buy a guy who really does not have a job. That should be sufficient enough evidence that this advice is BS.

    It’s called the real world. Sometimes you have to do things you don’t “love” to do. Some people in this world actually have to work for a living.

  44. Jon says:

    @#20 Jeremy

    “Wow, just wow at these comments.

    Trent may have not done the best job of explaining this theory, but it seems that everyone read it as “Act like that guy who I work with who slacks off and everyone hates.” That’s not the point here.”

    I seem to read that a lot here, that everyone misunderstands what Trent is trying to say. I disagree. Trent used a quote from a woman that clearly states to stop doing the parts of your job you don’t like and the worst that will happen is you will be fired from a job you hate. He is clearly making an argument here for only doing what you like and drawing a paycheck as long as possible. The convenience store example is a completely separate example from this.

  45. Jules says:

    I really don’t get what people here are griping about. The point is to do what’s important really well and don’t sweat the small stuff.

    And wanzman: I challenge you to do what Trent does and produce two meaningful 500-1000 word pieces a day. Believe it or not, that is, in fact, a job.

  46. Leah says:

    things I ignore in my current job that work out just fine. I work at a nature center teaching field trips and birthday parties.

    – email. I’m a temporary worker, and I have yet to receive a single email that applies to me. I wish I didn’t even have the address. I check it once a week to delete all the crap I received.

    – cleaning bathrooms. I’ll replace TP if necessary or pick up some paper towels, but that’s it. we have someone who cleans bathrooms once a day.

    things I do even though I don’t love them, because they need to get done:
    – answer the phones when the secretary is busy (am doing so right now)

    – vacuum

    -empty the dishwasher (oy, never ending!)

    Basically, you need to recognize what in your job is drudge work that you’ve just got to get through and what in your job isn’t really necessary for you to do and distracts from your real job. You can’t just ignore everything you dislike, but you can pull your weight while still figuring out how to have time to excel in your best parts.

  47. Ben says:

    WOW!! Great post I thought – until I read the comments!

    I’m a teacher and completely agree with my reading of the post. If I did the job everyone else seems to view I should be doing I would be a full time parent to 120 teenagers, coach and manager for a sport team and shoulder to cry on for parents etc, etc …

    Actually teaching a group of students something worthwhile and interesting wouldn’t even make the top 10.

    What do I do? I skimp on the bureaucracy and political correctness and make teaching my number 1. Sometimes things are a little late but I don’t neglect anything important to the children’s education and I don’t pass the buck.

    What happens in my job? I have happy students who mostly enjoy my lessons, are interested and do well and leave believing in themselves.

    Stuff the busy work!

  48. Nicole says:

    @30 J

    I am totally with you.

  49. Gretchen says:

    Ditto #19 but sub “woman up.”

    And to 21, when you are the right person to help them, but you just don’t like that part, what happens then?

  50. J says:

    @Gretchen — well, that’s why it’s called “work”. Maybe I should say “person up”

    More seriously, if a part of your job includes something you don’t like, there are a variety of avenues to explore — should you look for another job? Change careers entirely? Find a way to change that part of the job to still deliver the same thing in a better way?

    If you are going to take a stand and decide to not do something (for whatever reason), you should be prepared for one of the following:

    a) Explain why. Be prepared to back your reasoning with actual data and reason. “I don’t wanna/I don’t like it/It’s booooring” are not acceptable. I don’t accept those answers from my kids, I won’t accept them from an adult.

    b) Develop an alternate plan. Ideally, you have this on hand with your reasons for (a).

    c) Implement (b)

    d1) Realize that (a), (b) and (c) are non-starter ideas and doing it the old way was actually better. Swallow your pride and learn from it.
    d2) Succeed wildly and enjoy your future success.
    d3) Pick up your pink slip in HR. Your belongings will be sent to your house in a box.

    There are countless examples of people who have done the above and who are now wildly successful. They are known as “innovators”, “people who get the job done”, “reliable”, “promoted”, “adaptive”, “on the cutting edge”, “assets” and “problem solvers”.

    There are countless examples of the people who just say “no”. They are known as “obstacles”, “quitters”, “roadblocks”, “uncooperative”, “not team players”, “black holes” or “unemployed”.

    Becky’s comment is a good example of this in action. She did her job but found ways to take her career in an upward direction. Managers like managing people they don’t have to manage much — and they do not like when they get a call from someone whose work is not getting done because of that employee.

  51. valleycat1 says:

    The final anecdote (where the worker talked with the boss and reached a mutually acceptable agreement) is better advice than the “lunch lady” attitude of just not doing something if you decide it isn’t important or enjoyable. Sometimes those pesky little details & boring bits can have a big impact further up the chain, whether you are aware of it or not.

  52. deRuiter says:

    If you don’t like the job description don’t take the job. Slacking off on required work will get your fired, there’s a couple of job seekers for every position which comes available in this economy. Think your resume with “fired for refusing to do the work” will be a marvel? Show that you’re pursuing your dreams? Show your indpendent streak? Employers hire you to do the job, do it well, or resign and go follow your dreams. Most jobs are work, they are not leisure activities. If you want a relaxed opportunity to follow your dreams, marry someone with money or a steady job, good benefits and grat health insurance, which will give you the ability to relax and explore your potential without worrying about putting groceries on the table.

  53. Kate says:

    As an elementary school educator, I am glad that the 66 year old woman is willing to work in a public school setting. It is people like them who can make a huge difference in a child’s life. They aren’t caught up in the craziness and paperwork that now dominates the education of our children and takes up so much of our teachers’ time and effort. I applaud her and am thankful that there are people like her. They are unsung heroes.

  54. mary m says:

    Sounds like the philosophy of playing to your strengths. If I owned a convenience store, I bet I could find a ton of people willing to work the counter, but who in the world would willingly want to keep the bathrooms spotless?

  55. Harrken says:

    I work as a computer programmer and I love writing programs. I hate doing the paperwork and documentation required to move the programs to the production environment. When I first started I would write a program, test it, then do the paperwork before moving to the next program. Recently I have changed my method so that I spend 4 days a week writing programs and one day where I do the paperwork. Now I only have one day of dread work and four days doing what I enjoy. It has made my work life much easier and less stressful.

  56. There are some bitter folks around these parts…

  57. cffb says:

    I think it depends on how important the “hated” things are. If the item is critical you have to do it, unless you can arrange for someone else to do it – you can’t ignore it.

    However, it is of marginal importance, say something that is just traditional, then practice “creative procrastination” (can’t remember whose term, but not mine). Do the more important things first, which you should be doing anyway. The hated thing will either not get done or it will be done by someone else. You will be doing your job – the most important things first.

    If your work is very good on the whole, once in awhile you can take a stand to not do something. I am thinking of an example where one salesperson was demanding *and* unappreciative; Because my work was good, and the other salespeople were either laid back or demanding and appreciative I “got away with” just stopped supporting that salesperson. The co. hired a consultant to work with him and eventually severed the relationship with him.

    In short I think you have to prioritize but importance to the company (and then your own progress), not whether you like the task. But if you are overloaded, and several tasks are of the same importance, might as well do the ones you like.

  58. kristine says:


    Your ability to do as you say is the best argument I have ever heard for tenure.

    I am also a teacher- no tenure, and I do not have the luxury of foregoing the political correctness, or the committees, or the non-essential nonsense. As a result- I work all the time at home every night making sure my lessons and the kids do not get compromised, while my family does, I get stressed out, and nobody wins.

    If you want to know why teachers need tenure, this is it. So we can forgo the nonsense, and do what really matters, without fear that a brown-noser will take your spot- one who puts making the admin and BOE feel important above working with the kids.

  59. m says:

    Geez… grow up!!!

    There will ALWAYS be part of any job that a person “will not like”. This type of thinking is why our society is in the mess we are in… don’t like paying bills??? Then don’t do it! Don’t like working??? Then don’t!

    Get real my friend.

  60. m says:

    Right on wanzman!!

    This advice brought to you buy a guy who really does not have a job. That should be sufficient enough evidence that this advice is BS.

    It’s called the real world. Sometimes you have to do things you don’t “love” to do. Some people in this world actually have to work for a living.

  61. Emma says:

    I agree with the many, mane people who have already said that this is bad advice. I enjoy 90% of my job, so why would I risk getting fired over not doing the 10% I dislike?

    Besides, life is full of unpleasant tasks, and just ignoring them is rarely the best solution. Just suck it up, get it done with, and move on to something else.

  62. Amateur says:

    Sounds like a good theory like most theories sound good but they really are not. Why not just put the blinders on, grind at the part that stinks or is really annoying to do, and really work that energy to do parts that are good?

    Why waste the time procrastinating on parts that are undesirable and risk being fired over something so silly? A job is usually a means to an end, food, shelter, family responsibilities, and entertainment. The rest are details, but picking a job/career that is relatively satisfying is important as well, but much of work is not fun. They call it work for a reason.

  63. reulte says:

    It seems to me that in many cases, the part of work we ‘hate’ is the part of work that takes up time but produces nothing of substance. Like the endless printouts mentioned above by Laura in Seattle, they are done because it’s ‘always been done that way’ or it is ‘mandated from a highter level’.

    Perhaps the best way to cope with that part of the job we hate is to research and understand it. Perhaps you’ll discover the files are no longer needed and your department just wasn’t notified (“oh, we haven’t collected those for years!”) or perhaps you’ll come up with a better idea to change what you hate and your superviser will take note. Or perhaps you’ll discover the reason and you’ll still hate doing it.

  64. J says:

    I think the thing that irks me the most is that may people here are struggling through paying down debt, reducing bills and other PF techniques. If someone said “I don’t like paying my credit card bill and mortgage, so I’m going to quit doing it and just save for retirement”, they would be told that they were heading for financial ruin. But somehow, just not doing whole parts of your job is somehow a path to career success? I’m not buying it. In the financial example, people would actually encourage creative solutions to reduce the credit card debt, call it a “harsh lesson” and so on. For the mortgage, people would encourage selling the house, refinancing, working with the bank, etc. But when it comes to your livelihood, not to mention the impressions that others get of your work, which builds your social network, and helps you throughout your career, just quitting is somehow OK?

  65. Evita says:

    I really enjoyed the lunch lady’s story but to qualify her answer as a “piece of wisdom” and actually recommending it to the readers is pretty silly.
    Another piece of advice that is totally disconnected from the real world!

  66. Brittany says:

    I work in education, as do most of the people I associate with, and am amused that everyone saying “Yup!” are all teachers. This makes lots of sense for the afore mentioned reasons.

    Although I would point out to everyone else that Trent’s advice was to minimize the time you spend doing the parts you hate, not to quit doing them entirely (slightly different from the cafeteria worker’s advice). There are many ways to do this that don’t leave your work for someone else to do. Get all the week’s crappy tasks out of the way Monday morning, go to the pointless staff meeting, and then spend the rest of the week being productive. Multitask. (Probably wouldn’t work in a business setting, but I generally take mindless prep stuff (cutting out manipulables, making nametags, creating small visuals, etc.) to do during the (very unproductive) staff meetings. I can cut paper and still listen/contribute, so I get two things I hate done in half the time). When you hear a coworker complain about something they hate doing that you don’t mind, offer to help out… and see if there’s anything you dislike doing that they can do. If it works, suggest it to your boss as a permanent change. However, if not of this works… do your damn job and quit bitching.

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