Job versus Self-esteem
If my employer tells me to do a job that is considered to be sub-standard and not under the job profile of my employment, should I do that?
Signed: Nikkii, male age 34.
Dear Nikki, this is a great question. I’m sure you are not the only person today who feels that their self-esteem is challenged by their job. You didn’t define what you mean by “sub-standard.” One way to look at it is from a quality or performance standpoint. Sub-standard in that context would mean that the work or work product is below accepted quality and doing the work in that manner is below your personal standards. Another way to look at “sub-standard” is from the view of social status. Some jobs or tasks, such as being a medical doctor, carry high social status. Other tasks, such as cleaning bed pans tend to carry lower social status. And yet it is interesting that nurses who are often expected to handle bed pans are ranked by Forbes Magazine in 2006 to be the 3rd most highly respected profession in America; only slightly behind that of medical doctor.
Here are some things for you to consider.
- It is natural for you to have stress over a part of your job that you feel is challenging your self-esteem. It is good that you are looking for solutions. This demonstrates that you are willing and able to take action for your own good. This is far better than suffering in silence and letting it interfere with your enjoyment of life. We spend so much time at work that it is hard to keep it from defining who we are but that may be part of your task ahead.
- You have a number of options for addressing the situation including the following. A) You could ask your boss to reevaluate the task assignments. B) You could look for another job within the company. C) You could look for different ways of accomplishing the task that is more acceptable to you. D) You could accept the task and do it with grace. E) You could actively seek another job. Each of these options has its advantages and disadvantages.
- You could ask your boss to reevaluate the task assignments. Use some of the advanced communication methods on this link to explain your concerns and request a different assignment. You can also ask for clarification on why you have this assignment. I know of companies who made major job adjustments just to keep people on the payroll through difficult business changes. Whether you succeed or not, you will have made your point and can feel better knowing you have taken action.By the way, any good job description these days should end with “And any other duties as assigned.” That opens the door for the employer to provide just about any task assignment. Smart employers know not to abuse that option.
- You could look for another job within the company. This may be an opportunity for you to seek advancement. See what you are qualified for or could become qualified for by taking courses or training.
- You could look for different ways of accomplishing the task that is more acceptable to you. Look for ways to do the job more efficiently or differently so it becomes a new job or the job goes away. Help your employer innovate and improve. For example, when I was cleaning up trash inside one business I started to keep track of what was being thrown away. I wrote a report and helped the company save over $50,000 per year in raw materials, supplies, and product that had been ending up on the floor and in the trash. Yes, I got a bonus and a lot of pride out of that dirty job.
- You could accept the task and do it with grace. If you tell yourself “It’s just part of the job and I will do it well and proudly,” then that is what you will get – pride in a job well done. If you are worried about what others might say or think about you take pride in the fact that you are demonstrating that you are willing to go the extra mile to be the best employee possible. If your employer appreciates your positive attitude and extra effort it will pay off for you. If they don’t care about you even after you’ve talked with them, then maybe it’s time to move on.
- You could actively seek another job. This is usually the option of last resort. Good jobs can be hard to find but that does not mean that you should not keep your eyes open for ways to improve your job situation. You should look to do better for yourself. A job is usually first a means of supporting yourself and family and second a means of self-satisfaction. It really helps if you can do what you love or at least tolerate without stress. Think about what’s important to you about a job (wages, stress, working conditions, opportunity for advancement, job security, benefits, job elements, coworkers, location, hours, etc.). Now see if you can find that with your current employer or you should start a job search. Just be careful as the grass is not always greener on the other side of the fence.
Personally, I’ve quit very high paying jobs because the boss was intolerable. At the same time, I’ve stayed in lower paying jobs because I absolutely loved the work.
I’ve also crawled in the dirtiest and darkest places inside factories because my peers thought it was beneath them to do that job. My peers called me a fool but I called myself a smart guy who was willing to work hard to get the job done right. In going that extra mile, I’ve enjoyed both personal satisfaction and been rewarded by my employers (usually but not always). After a while my peers stopped laughing and became envious of how I advanced in the company.
Self-esteem is what you tell yourself about yourself all day long. You can improve your self-esteem by just changing the story.
Please understand you have free will. This advice is given only in the realm of personal growth and self-help. This is not to be considered a substitute for therapy or professional counseling. We wish you well.