Nightmare Job: In honor of Labor Day in North America, tell us about the one (more than one) job you could never imagine yourself doing (but remember really doing).

As a retiree, I’ve had more than 40 years of work … and unavoidably, more than a few nightmare jobs.

There was the job for which I was paid exceptionally well. To do absolutely nothing. I was assigned to sit all day in front of a computer and look busy. Not fall asleep. I was not allowed to read, play a game, or write a personal letter. I had to sit there and stare at the screen. Worse, I had to “work” overtime. A standard 8-hour day was not bad enough. I had to continue the farce for 9 or 10 hours.

I am told there are people who crave such jobs. For me, it was as close to actual torture as you could get.

There was the job where I was paid top dollar, had a gorgeous office. And nobody cared what I did. They only hired me because a big contract required a manual. My job was to write it. No one read it, checked it for accuracy. I could have filled it with nursery rhymes. All they wanted to know was “Is it big and heavy?” and “Does it look impressive?” And people wonder why manuals aren’t as good as they should be!


Working under the micro-manager is another one of Those Jobs. Had a few of them. These are the bosses who stand behind you. You can hear them breathe, feel their hot air brush your neck. Icky. They watch to make sure you are doing Your Job and Nothing But Your Job. For me, that means I can’t do my job. I’m a writer. I can’t write with someone watching over my shoulder. The micro-managers also stands by the door in the morning hoping to bag any worker who has the temerity to show up a millisecond late. I was once called on the carpet — really tore me a new one — for being three minutes late. The good part? When I made a genuinely serious mistake — I forgot to place a full-page full color advertisement in the magazine — just left it out of the issue entirely, which no doubt cost the company serious money? It wasn’t any worse a dressing down than I’d gotten for being three minutes late.

It turns out if you yell at your employees for everything, after a while they become psychically numb and nothing you say or do has any effect at all. That’s also true for parents and pet owners. If you yell all the time, no one hears you at all or takes you seriously. To quote Teddy Roosevelt, “Speak softly and carry a big stick.” That works better, though it didn’t get him re-elected.

I had a stupid job at a college. Briefly. The work was easy, basically receptionist stuff. Some annoying women came in and asked me my name. I told her. She said, “I don’t like that name. Do you mind if I call you Jane?”

I looked at her, “Yes, I mind. My name is Marilyn. Mrs. Armstrong to you.”

I got fired. I didn’t mind. It was a horrible job anyhow.

This is not the time or place to discuss the wonderful jobs, the terrific bosses, or the great work I’ve had the honor to do. The awful jobs — mostly — didn’t last long. The good ones more than made up for the bad ones.

Retirement is the payback for any professional suffering I endured. I love retirement. It’s the best job of all.

Categories: Work

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19 replies

  1. I entered the workforce after doing my job in the Air Force during the Vietnam War. I was a trained electronic technician, high skilled troubleshooter with experience repair the most sophisticated electronics in our most advanced fighter planes. My first full time job in the civilian workforce was with a transformer/power supply manufacturer in New Jersey. It was in what was known as a sweatshop, practically forced labor for small wages and zero benefits. It was an extremely dangerous job because there were no safety precautions in place on the job. I dealt with lethal high voltages with no safety mat of electrocution prevention measures built for my job. I survived 3 years without killing myself or injury. That was my low point in life.


    • The bad old days. I’m amazed we all survived. I guess we were very careful, huh.


      • I blasted myself with up to 2500 volts but it was just a glancing contact so it wasn’t lethal. It taught me that safety was up to me, not the company. If the threat level was too high I refused to do the task. Too many companies have “passive” safety plans that are in place just to meet government requirements. They don’t give a damn about the employees, only their insurance responsibilities.


        • That’s the way it was. Garry did incredibly dangerous stuff and people in his business, still do. No one cares how dangerous it is, as long as they get the story. I was mostly in an office, so I had fewer obvious hazards. But no one had heard of ergonomics and a lot of us, including me, suffered serious long term injuries to necks, wrists, shoulders, and backs. Now it’s different — for most people, but not everyone..


          • I learned the importance of ergonomics myself with my heavy use of my computer and editing pictures. That’s why I’m getting my new chair that I will quickly modify to include a good armrest with mousepad area for my wireless mouse and magic trackpad.


  2. OH my gosh! She didn’t like your name? What kind of narcissist dares to say something that crude? I wonder where her life took her…


  3. Two for me… The first, like yours, was to look busy but do nothing for 8+ hours a day, five days a week. Stayed until I could land a job where I felt needed and appreciated. The second one I quit outright when the manager insisted that I accompany him on the road in his Cougar. I only put that one down on one further application since the jerk claimed I never worked there. Fortunately, I had several worthwhile and fulfilling jobs over a span of 45 years. AIN’T RETIREMENT GRAND! 🙂


  4. My nightmare job was in customer service.


  5. I had a job similar to the first job you described, but this was before computers were so ubiquitous. Mine (thank god) was a temp job, and my sole purpose in life was to answer the phone. The phone rang maybe five times the entire two weeks I was there. I couldn’t bring a book of course because I had to look professional and they didn’t have any other work for me to do… And! my desk faced the wall. That was two weeks in boredom hell.


  6. Now I know why I got an instruction manual for my vacuum cleaner full of things like Jack and Jill went up the hill and Mary had a little lamb. I thought it was strange. Retirement hit me when I wasn’t expecting it, two years too early although because of my 30 year service to the company they paid me full wages for the two years. Somehow it was probably cheaper than keeping me, or they didn’t like my face in the office. I wasn’t ready for it, but Mr. Swiss found it was a good thing. He had already been retired for four years. So there we are, both sitting around doing what senior citizens do and waiting for the next department. Yes we enjoy it.


    • It’s the best job I never had. I wish they would send the previous paycheck, but not working is a reward too. Neither Garry nor I were ready to retire. I got taken out by illness … he, like you, because they decided someone younger should do his job. It’s taken us a while to work out the details, but I think we’ve finally got it.


  7. I learned from all my jobs, even the two bad ones. Caddying & pin-setting for ladies in a bowling alley. I don’t like golf or bowling.


  8. So what is worse? Getting paid exceptionally well to do nothing, getting top dollar to write a manual that no one reads, or working for a helicopter boss (i.e., micro-manager)? Tough choice.


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