Chapter 10. A Job that Grinds Away Your Life
A 2005 study of job satisfaction in America revealed that 55% of American workers are dissatisfied in their jobs. The study, however, provided no revelation to Hollywood, which has been including this popular theme in movies for 30 years. Notably, the 1980 film “9 to 5” portrays 3 women who triumph over a sexist and egotistical boss. The 90’s dark comedy “Office Space” allows moviegoers to vicariously burn their workplace to the ground. In ’94, “Clerks” portrayed the frustration and cynicism many experience in their jobs. Others are “Reality Bites,” “The Devil Wears Prada,” and the list continues. Odious jobs are common theme in American movie entertainment, and movies including such themes continue to flourish because job frustration is common in America.
Sometimes, however, the stress and frustration gives way to a far-too-real homicidal frenzy. In my lifetime the slang phrase “going postal” has gained usage to describe sudden and violent outbursts of deadly rage. The phrase comes from a series of incidents beginning in 1986 in Edmond, Oklahoma, when a postal worker, Patrick Sherrill, shot and killed 14 fellow workers and wounded 6 more before taking his own life. Between 1986 and 2006 more than 40 postal workers were killed in 20 incidents across the United States.
Jobs that grind away at us are usually accompanied by a high “dread factor.” The “dread factor” is not due to the fact that you would simply rather be doing something else. It is a daily anxiety, dread or suffocating malaise that washes over you on a regular basis as you face the prospect of another day on the job. Jobs like this are characterized by one or more of these three things:
- The job is taking a toll on your physical or emotional health.
- The job is crippling your family life and relationships.
- You are bored and unchallenged with no prospect of advancement.
Although “burnout” is not a pathology recognized and described by the American Psychiatric Association in their published manual of mental disorders (the DSM), there does exist a well-accepted standard for identifying burnout. It was first defined in research published in the early ‘80’s by Dr. Christina Maslach and her colleague, Susan Jackson. They went on to develop the Maslach Burnout Inventory, which has become the recognized measure of choice for burnout.
The inventory contains twenty-two questions which measure the subject’s attitudes toward the workplace. Three interrelated subscales are quantified in the inventory: emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and reduced personal accomplishment.
Reduced Personal Accomplishment