10 Valuable Lessons You Can Learn from Working a Totally Crappy Job

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Crappy Job
Photo via Envato Elements

What can I learn from a crappy job?

  • Employees deserve to be valued
  • Relaxation should be a priority
  • Good management makes great experiences
  • You won't get along with everyone
  • Communication can make the difference
  • Scheduling and respect go hand-in-hand
  • Taking initiative can promote happiness
  • A good environment can outweigh pay
  • Priorities should determine your decisions
  • Sometimes you can’t win (and that's okay)

If you’ve ever worked a crappy job in the service industry, you probably have a story or two about how you were treated. Maybe you have some positive associations: receiving a generous tip or connecting with a customer.

Chances are, however, you remember plenty of negative experiences, too. Whether these memories involve silly complaints or ridiculous requests, it's possible these interactions outweigh your positive memories.

And since the “customer is always right,” it's no wonder people working in sales, support, and food are among the most depression-prone workers in today's professional field.

However, these jobs (even the depressing ones) can actually be an opportunity to become a well-rounded, experienced professional.

In this post, we'll discuss ten reasons why working a crappy job is actually a good experience and what you can learn from it.

Employees deserve to be valued

Negative experiences are impactful, but even bad memories can be valuable. Let's say you're a server in a restaurant, for instance, but today you're going out with a friend. You may be playing the role of customer today, but you still understand the value of treating your server with kindness.

And that understanding is empathy, one of the most important aspects to interacting with others. You’re probably less likely to explode into a fit of rage over a tough steak or a flat Coke if you’ve been on the receiving end of a similar situation.

What's more, empathy is positively related to job performance, meaning valuing the employees in your workplace will help your performance as an employee. Oh, and people will probably like you more, too.

Relaxation should be a priority

Because negative work environments and unenjoyable jobs can be stressful, relaxation should be less of a pastime and more of a requirement. In fact, stress can cause physical and mental health problems, which is why relaxation is actually extremely beneficial for you.

Luckily, there are a number of ways to relax, both physically and mentally. According to University of Michigan’s write-up on stress management, anything from guided imagery to a warm herbal tea can help you ease your anxiety. Anyone who has worked a stressful job knows even a night of vegging on the couch can do wonders for your mood.

Good management makes great experiences

If there’s something that can contribute to stress levels, it’s poor management. In fact, 31-35% of corporate employees are unhappy simply due to their boss or the internal politics of their career.

Most of us have experienced some form of poor management in the workplace. You may have seen cliques form, bosses play favorites, or simply, a lack of organization.

Luckily, seeing what can go wrong in the workplace makes us more apt to seek out companies doing it right. Additionally, “good management” will feel a little different to everyone, so consider what is important to you.

You won't get along with everyone

While good management is extremely important, you also want good coworkers—coworkers who gel with you. The truth is, however, you won’t always get along with everyone. But it's not the end of the world.

For instance, you wouldn’t expect to befriend everyone at a party, just because each of you knew the host. In the same way, you shouldn’t pressure yourself to click with everyone at work, just because you’re all employed by the same company.

Still, a full-time job requires far more of your time than a social event. This makes the task of ignoring behaviors more complicated than it might be at a cocktail party.

Luckily, there are ways to maintain affable, professional relationships with coworkers you aren’t destined to befriend. Maybe you decide to give yourself plenty of personal space; maybe you choose to rise above irrational behaviors; whatever the case, find a way to interact with others in a way that works for you and the business.

Communication can make the difference

The way you communicate determines the way you're viewed and the way others interact with you. While this can be unfortunate (even discriminatory at times), there are certain language aspects everyone can implement in order to communicate effectively.

Consider whether or not your language seems accusatory, passive-aggressive, or aggressive in nature. “Hey, when do you think you’ll be finished with that assignment?” sounds less harsh than, “Are you done yet?”

Additionally, it’s a lot healthier to say, “I appreciate you getting here early today,” versus, “Oh, you actually got to work on time for once.”

In the same way you might proofread an email to check its tone, listen to your thoughts before you say them. If it’s something that would offend you or might offend someone else, consider rewording.

Scheduling and respect go hand-in-hand

Service jobs typically have erratic hours, and they are often dependent on the customer. Closing at 10? Not if someone comes in at 9:50. Get off at 3? Not if you’re on a call.

These jobs can also be challenging for people who want to make weekend trips or holiday plans.

Luckily, many of us are able to land jobs with consistent schedules after a while. Even still, a job with an unaccommodating schedule sticks with us. We remember the early hours of a Black Friday sale or the fun events we didn't get to attend.

Because of this, it’s important we respect the employees who work for us, as well as their time. If you offer flexibility when creating a schedule, this will not only show an investment in your employees, but statistically speaking, it will also increase productivity.

If, however, you schedule an employee without considering their feelings, concerns, or personal life, you're communicating a lack of respect. Put in the extra time and consideration, and morale will be higher for it.

Taking initiative can promote happiness

In order to feel truly engaged in your job, you should feel empowered, important, and unafraid to make decisions.

In other words, you should be able to take initiative when necessary, especially since this will help you feel more engaged in your work. This could involve communicating an idea, spearheading a project, or approaching your boss about a change.

Of course, these examples are much easier said than done. Rejection, negative attention, and the fear of being reprimanded are just a few reasons we fail to speak our minds, especially if we aren't receiving consistent encouragement.

Luckily, there are many ways to take initiative in the workplace, and you can choose a time and method that suits your preferences.

A good environment can outweigh pay

When we think of a crappy job, we might think of the work we did in high school or college—draining gigs that didn’t pay well. However, there are numerous professionals who work ill-fitting careers, simply because the money is good.

And right about now, you might be hearing your mother’s voice reciting the age-old adage about money not providing happiness. Of course, we also know living paycheck-to-paycheck isn't typically the key to happiness, either. Still, there may be something to Mom's favorite school of thought.

Studies show happiness in the workplace depends on career fulfillment, rather than pay. Additionally, people want more than a secure job; they want work that recognizes their individual talents and interests.

In other words, money is secondary. Choose the job where you'll fit in best, not the one that fills your pockets the most.

Priorities should inform your decisions

Have you ever worked somewhere that felt out of line with your priorities? If so, you know the kind of strain that can put on you.

Perhaps, for instance, you work under someone with values different than your own. In a case like this, you may be pressured to advise people against your better judgment, or you may go to work feeling like a half-version of yourself.

Because of this, it’s important to understand when you should stand by your beliefs. This doesn’t mean excusing bad behavior or starting arbitrary arguments.

However, it does mean sticking to your guns. If you witness wrongdoing or are wrongfully accused of something, it’s important to trust your gut. Look to your values for guidance. And if the job isn't a good fit, it may be time to look elsewhere.

Sometimes you can’t win (and that's okay)

Even when you've read all the books and have done all the teambuilding—sometimes you just can’t win. And that’s okay.

If your job isn’t a good fit, there are other opportunities out there. Sure, you may have to hustle to make connections. And yes, you may have to work some crappy jobs to find the good opportunities. But the good opportunities are out there. You can find them if you work hard enough.


No career will ever be perfect, but that doesn’t mean you can’t find a job you love. And it doesn’t mean you can’t learn from the crappy jobs you hated. Consider the work you’ve done and all the lessons you've learned over the years. You may be surprised at just how much you know.