JavaScript disabled. Please enable JavaScript to use My News, My Clippings, My Comments and user settings.

If you have trouble accessing our login form below, you can go to our login page.

If you have trouble accessing our login form below, you can go to our login page.

Small business

The jobs we hate - and love - the most

April 4, 2014
Should those of us who are not clergy consider a career change?

Should those of us who are not clergy consider a career change?

“It’s just a job” is a refrain heard often these days, a sad remark to denote the indifference people feel towards their work. They don’t love their job but neither do they hate it. Which professions, though, are worse than just a robotic means to an end? Which ones attract the lowest levels of satisfaction? 

Last month, the British government released the results of a study that shed some light on those questions. The objective was to provide jobseekers with additional information when deciding their next career move, taking the focus somewhat off money as a primary determinant.

Of 274 occupations, the ten in which workers seemed to be the most dissatisfied with their life were (in order from worst to least-worst):

  1. Publicans and managers of licensed premises
  2. Elementary construction jobs
  3. Debt, rent and other cash collectors
  4. Industrial cleaners
  5. Floorers and wall tilers
  6. Telephone salespeople
  7. Sports and leisure assistants
  8. Care escorts
  9. Bar staff
  10. Plastic process operators

It’s interesting some of the toughest professions aren’t on that list. Garbage collectors. Sewerage workers. Embalmers. Sex workers. Abattoir workers. 

That last job, astoundingly, might even be considered to have made it into the top ten with the highest rates of life satisfaction (numbers three and eight):

  1. Clergy
  2. Chief executives and senior officials
  3. Managers and proprietors in agriculture and horticulture
  4. Secretaries
  5. Quality assurance and regulatory professionals
  6. Health care practice managers
  7. Medical practitioners
  8. Farmers
  9. Hotel and accommodation managers and proprietors
  10. Skilled metal, electrical and electronic trades supervisors

I raise the abattoir worker because it’s been front of mind since I saw Speciesism this week, an excellent documentary about the merciless practice of factory farming. The most disturbing part of the film wasn’t so much the undercover clips of animal cruelty but the apathetic reaction of the workers.

Take, for example, an owner of a chicken farm who dispassionately argued her chickens had plenty of room in their cages … but refused to prove it by letting the cameras inside. And then there was the farmhand who proudly counted the number of pigs squeezed into tiny compartments. “If it wasn’t good for the pigs, they wouldn’t be doing it,” she says imbecilely.

Two other workers doing similar tasks provide a more realistic glimpse into the effects of such work. “I’m not particularly fond of it,” says one, implicitly referring to the forced desensitisation he’s gone through to make money. The other worker, a former owner of a pig farm, shut down his business because what he experienced stopped him from “being a man” and, he added, perhaps more importantly, a human being.

It’s hard to see how those types of jobs could have anything but a deleterious impact on people’s mental health.

And no job is immune, really. Three years ago, the Australian National University published a long-term study of 7000 people on this issue. The researchers wanted to discover whether the characteristics of some jobs were such that employees may be better off (mentally at least) back in unemployment. The findings suggested that’s the case when there was:

  • Lack of control: minimal freedom to make decisions and exert influence.
  • Lack of security: concerns about the future of the company and the job.
  • Lack of pay: perceived unfairness in how performance is rewarded.
  • Lack of complexity: simplistic work, little learning, and an under-utilisation of employees’ skills.

It’s important to note, too, that just because an occupation made it on to one of the lists above doesn’t mean it causes satisfaction (or dissatisfaction). It merely indicates a relationship of some sort, however flimsy.

The point is simply that, sometimes, it’s astonishing what people will tolerate or endure for money. It’s enough to make them lust for the beige neutrality of “just a job”.

Do you have a gruelling job? How do you get through it?

twitter Follow James Adonis on Twitter  @jamesadonis

61 comments so far

  • One job I had was selling underwater insurance. There's not a lot of scope there, for building a successful business as I had trouble floating a loan, what with the fluctuating rise and fall, and was all at sea for some time, until I drifted right off that course, into a process worker occupation, drilling the tiny holes in the top of toothbrushes on the assembly line, ready for Nigel, the next operator, to fit the correct number of bristles into each hole. Needless to say Nigel was a good golfer, often scoring a hole in one.

    Commenter
    Wilbur
    Location
    Date and time
    April 04, 2014, 7:00AM
    • well done wilbur. have you been waiting for an article about jobs by any chance?!

      Commenter
      supersquirrel
      Location
      Date and time
      April 04, 2014, 11:52AM
    • well played

      now go get a real job

      Commenter
      the fat man
      Location
      Date and time
      April 04, 2014, 12:33PM
    • The Fat Man - Lighten up

      Commenter
      qwe
      Location
      asd
      Date and time
      April 05, 2014, 8:11AM
  • Abattoir workers! you never mention anything about them. Farmers and farmhands yes, however Abattoir works are in a different environment altogether and have various roles from the kill floor to the packing room. Different experiences for every position.

    Commenter
    devilsman60
    Location
    brisbane
    Date and time
    April 04, 2014, 7:49AM
    • Might suit the bloodthirsty, perhaps. I still remember the chilling story of a female abbattoir worker years ago in NSW who murdered her husband, carved him up, and boiled the pieces before disposing of them. All that time in the abbattoir would have inured her to the horror of it, I reckon.

      Commenter
      alto
      Location
      Date and time
      April 04, 2014, 2:29PM
    • That is a chilling story, alto. Something to think about.

      Commenter
      Unhappy Wife
      Location
      Date and time
      April 04, 2014, 6:09PM
  • So, to be clear, you've seen a list of jobs offering varying levels of satisfaction. None of these is an abattoir worker. However, you thought you'd raise it because you watched a documentary last week on certain farming practices. Which actually have nothing to do with the abattoir, but rather the farm. And this relates to the original headline how?

    Commenter
    JZCarr
    Location
    Sydney
    Date and time
    April 04, 2014, 8:46AM
    • Well to be fair it's written as : this was release, here's the bottom ten, here's some jobs I would have though'd be in that list, then top ten, then abbatoir workers which were in that list of jobs I mentioned before kinda changing the subject onto 'good' jobs.

      Perhaps if it had simply been written with the best jobs list up front, or right at the end, it would have read more easily. yeah? I think reading it without the best jobs list this is a far better read

      Commenter
      Raida
      Location
      chewing salty razors
      Date and time
      April 04, 2014, 9:39AM
  • When it comes to work-satisfaction so much depends on workplace culture and that's ultimately about management. I suspect study outcomes have more to do with management and workplace culture with in particular industries than the actual nature of the work activity. Its more complicated than the article suggests.

    Commenter
    Monique
    Location
    Sydney
    Date and time
    April 04, 2014, 8:58AM

More comments

Make a comment

You are logged in as [Logout]

All information entered below may be published.

Error: Please enter your screen name.

Error: Your Screen Name must be less than 255 characters.

Error: Your Location must be less than 255 characters.

Error: Please enter your comment.

Error: Your Message must be less than 300 words.

Post to

You need to have read and accepted the Conditions of Use.

Thank you

Your comment has been submitted for approval.

Comments are moderated and are generally published if they are on-topic and not abusive.