Sharing news and commentary about education, careers, investing, and life.

Sharing news and commentary about education, careers, investing, and life.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Getting Rid of "Bad" Work

Have you ever found yourself dealing with "bad" work? "Bad" work refers to the kind of work that you might call menial labor, such as making copies, shredding paper, packing boxes, and the like. We've all dealt with it, but here's a tip for avoiding "bad" work in the future:

Don't do "bad" work to the best of your ability. Now, you should definitely do the work because not finishing your work would be bad advice and you may get fired; just keep in mind that when you are given menial tasks that aren't time critical, you should conscientiously take longer doing the "bad" work than meaty assignments that make you think and use your skills.

For example, let's say you've been asked to reformat some documents and then load them onto a server, renaming each one by one. This hypothetical task will take you hours. Let's also say you've been asked by a few other co-workers to be a big contributor to a project, making this "good" work. The best way to avoid "bad" work in the future, without making a scene, is to do the best job you can (as fast as you can) with your contribution to the big project... and to take a longer than usual time reformatting the documents and then renaming them. Think of this as a subtle way of managing your managers to give you the work you want.

The old way of thinking where young workers needed to do menial work all the time to "earn their stripes" has been thrown out the window. Yes, we know that some menial work is unavoidable but we're referring to situations where almost everything you do is menial labor.

The advantage young workers (and really all workers) have right now is that the general job market is so competitive. If you're still doing almost all menial work after being on the job for a while, you should probably be looking for positions at companies that will actually use the skills you spent so much effort developing.


Becca said...

Wow! I very much disagree with you! This is a first, I believe.

Call me idealistic, but I feel that ANY job (with a decent explanation for why it needs to be done) is worth doing and should be done to the best of one's ability. Granted when there are "more important" projects that require attention, your so-called "bad" work can and should be put off, but when it comes time to do it, it should be done right! Why drag out the unpleasant task of copying or renaming files? Just get it done and know that somehow it helps someone!

Maybe I'm wrong. Perhaps there are enough "good" projects to tackle in a given day that there is no down time to "waste" on menial labor. But I've worked "real" jobs, too, and have found that these tasks, when done right, are often the most appreciated.

So quit your whinin'! :-)

College Knowledge said...

This refers more to when you're a younger worker starting out and all your coworkers are shoving their bad work on you. If you don't do something about it, you just end up being the person who is always completing the bad work and you get stuck with that kind of work.

The other alternative is still doing the bad work being shoved off on you, but doing a much better job when you get those good, meaty assignments... and to help you do a better job on those good assignments, you have to do slightly worse on your bad work.

And sure, doing bad work for colleagues is appreciated... but then it becomes expected and you fall into a trap of being the person who always does the bad work.


Becca said...

I suppose this makes sense. Of course one shouldn't spend one's day doing others' "bad" work that they don't want to do, and in doing so facilitate their ability to do well on the "good" work. I guess I was thinking more about the general "bad" work of the office, not specifically some one else's that they simply want to avoid.

And I should add that no matter which one of us you agree with, this is an incredibly important topic for young workers to consider. Whether conscientiously objecting to "bad" work in favor of good (as CK suggests) or doing reasonable "favors" for everyone on the basis of keeping the office running smoothly (as I encourage), young workers should make the choice and not feel that they are required to do the "bad" work to "earn" their way into the company's hearts. They hired you; they like you already.

Becca said...

NOTE: It has come to my attention that the above comment makes it seem that College Knowledge objects to doing favors for colleagues in the workplace. This was very much unintended and is completely not true. We both agree that these sorts of tasks are necessary and good sometimes. The post is more about avoiding becoming a "slave" than anything else. I was merely trying to distinguish our two opinions on the topic. Sorry!