What is a "soul-crushing" job?

I have seen the phrase “soul-crushing job” on SDMB more than a few times. I don’t recall bumping into it anywhere else. What is a soul-crushing job? I’ve had some exhausting ones, boring ones and even pointless ones, but I never felt crushed. An example and it’s soul-crushing characteristics would be helpful. Anyone care to enlighten me? Thanks.

I consider mine to be soul-crushing. I work in a call center taking inbound calls and have to suffer more verbal abuse than you can imagine. Yelled at cussed out, made to feel less than human on a daily basis.

It pays the bills, is the only GOOD thing I can say about it.

I would say any job that you absolutely dread going to is a soul-crushing job.

I haven’t had one, even though I have worked really hard, exhausting, dirty jobs. But I can imagine one.

If you have to do things that make you feel like a shit of a person. Or that didn’t allow any bit of creativity on your part. Something that made you feel more like a machine than a person.

Suppose you had to move one thing from one machine to another machine all day long. That’s all you did. Basically, you’re a link between two machines.

Or, if your job was to kick people out of their homes so the banks could reposes them.

Yeah, I came in to mention call center work, especially in a busy, high-volume place. 140 calls a day, with 139 customers who treat you like an absolute nonentity. As soon as you’re done with one, you’re onto another call or management breathes down your neck about your “stats”. You don’t have the power to solve the problems customers call about, but you’re responsible for ensuring “satisfaction” anyway.

It’s a barrage from all directions.

Being a moderator on this MB. :slight_smile:

For me, a soul-crushing job would be one where I felt like a peon and there was no hope of ever not being a non-peon. And most importantly, I didn’t feel like I deserved to be a peon. If I thought I had something to offer other than grunt work and I wasn’t allowed to expand, I would hate that job very quickly.

My friend had a job that I would consider soul-crushing. He was the district manager for newspaper delivery. So he was in charge of newspaper routes for a region.

It sucked because if a carrier called off and there was no sub, he had to do their route. If 2 people called off? Two routes. At one point I think he had 7 routes down.

That is 7 days a week that the paper has to go out. If he can’t get carriers to do them, he has to be up 7 days a week doing all of their routes.

Then once that was over he had to go to work and take the angry calls and emails from people who didn’t get their paper, who got their paper wrong (on the driveway and not the porch, etc) or who canceled and still got their paper.

Then his crazy bitch boss would force him to participate in after-hours community events that the newspaper would sponsor, for no money of course.

Just hearing about it made my head spin. He eventually got out of it but not before going through 3 years of hell. I pointed out to him that the only people who were still working there as DMs were people with zero self esteem (the battered wife, the ditzy young woman, the middle-aged obese guy).

Thanks for the replies. I spent most of the first 14 years of my adult working life at jobs like that. I often dreaded going to work, and I didn’t have any good ideas about how to do better. I never felt the soul-crushing part. Work was just something I had to do to live, and that seemed bearable if not ideal. It wasn’t until I got fired from the worst job I ever had that I followed my father’s advice and went to community college. Things got better after that.

I had a soul crushing job once.

I worked as a researcher for a crazy guy. It paid good money, and I had just graduated college in a small town with few job opportunities and not enough capital to move to some place a bit more promising.

To begin with, the job was a home-office situation, where my boss would often be lounging around in his bath robe, eating breakfast, and generally just hanging around. For a young woman, that’s usually going to be a bit uncomfortable, and I never got used to it. But that was something I could suck up and live with. He wasn’t touching me and I didn’t feel in danger, it was just creepy. Whatever, I could handle being slightly grossed out for a few hours a day.

But the guy was crazy. He once had me plan an entire birthday party on the other side of the country, complete with renting a banquet hall to buying plane tickets and hotel rooms for the attendants, only to make me have to call all of his close family members canceling it because the whole to-do was actually just an elaborate attempt to manipulate an 80 year old critically ill woman into complying with his crazinesses. That’s right, my job was to make the elderly cry because their loved ones were evil.

He had a conspiracy theory lawsuit that nobody would touch. When he wasn’t ranting about it to me, he’d have me call lawyers to try to find someone to take the “case.” I kid you not, I’d spend weeks at a time on the phone with law offices, trying to convince them to take on an absurd, out-of-statute-of-limitations, crazy man’s delusional “lawsuit.” I’d be apologizing the whole time to these poor lawyers. But I’d still be there, calling a long list of people who should probably hang up the phone on me.

And when I fucked up, according to his bizarre, uncommunicated, non-sensible measures, he’d yell at me in an abusive, personal way. And I always fucked up. I called delis trying to cater this party, and I priced them by meat’n’cheese trays and chocolate cakes. I prepared his best options, and he blew the hell up because I didn’t ask about a shrimp platter. “WHO has a party without shrimp platters!!! You stupid girl!!!” he’d rave. Everything was like that. I knew as I set out on each and every impossible and pointless task, it would inevitably end with me being in trouble somehow. Eventually I realized that was my job- to be abused and to feed his madness.

One student managed to stomach it for a year. I saw three or four people walk out in the couple of months that I was there. I could only make it so long. It would make me cry while I was there, and actually lead to a pretty tough bout of depression. Something is deeply disturbing about being made to do literally pointless tasks. I didn’t have other options, and I struggled a lot financially after quitting.

God that was horrible.

I once worked QA at a pill-bottle filling plant. The shifts were 12 hours long, standing on a concrete floor. The machines were horribly finicky, so bottles were constantly jamming in the heat sealer, labels applied crooked. Every bad bottle had to have the label scraped off with a razor and sent through again. I say the shifts were 12 hours, but you had to work until the lot was finished, and the finicky machines frequently turned these into 16 hours shifts.

One where the pay is low, the workload high; no matter what good things you do, one error wipes them all out and will haunt you for years; where whatever you do is never good enough; where red tape always wins out over progress. In other words: a government job.

I suppose it’s different for different people.

It sort of goes beyond just being filled with dirty, unpleasent or annoying tasks that make you hate your job. A soul crushing job makes you hate your life. The job itself might actually be pretty easy.

One of my internships while still in college one summer was at Mobil Oil in Dallas. It was my very first exposure to the working world, and I was very excited.

My job consisted of making copies of every purchase order and sending them via telex to offices in Norway, Indonesia, Turkey, and Nigeria. I was then required to DHL overnight another copy of each purchase order. I found out rather quickly that both copies were unnecessary - they received an online copy themselves in the internal mail system, which was relatively new at the time. (1991, PROFS system).

After corresponding with each office (using the new email system) and finding out that 100% of the time every single Telex and DHL package was tossed, I went to my boss, proud of how much money I was going to save them in DHL shipping alone. I was told to keep doing it b/c that’s how it was always done. IOW, my new exciting job in the working world was to waste a fortune sending paper all over the World that was thrown away immediately.

Oh, and every day at lunch the eight of us or so would drive to a strip club and drink, then drive back to work drunk.

My college buddies thought it was awesome. I’m certain if I hadn’t quit after three weeks it would have killed me both physically and mentally in short order.

I think there are two elements that are usually present in soul-crushing jobs - the first is that you don’t feel free to quit (you need the money, you need the benefits, there are no other jobs available, etc.), and the second is that you are usually doing things that don’t seem to benefit the world in any conceivable way (like Morbo’s example of sending paper out that wasn’t necessary and was thrown away immediately). Humans need a feeling of doing something useful and valuable with their time; making photocopies and shipping them out knowing that you are doing something unnecessary feels like a waste of time, even though you’re getting paid for it.

The feeling like a disposable employee or a piece of breathing furniture tends to go along with soul-crushing jobs, too.

A job that makes you feel like a caged ADHD chihuhua on redbull. You contemplate on throwing bricks in the window, store vodka in your desk, smear your feces in the supply room, jacking off on the restroom to entertain yourself, heat your 3 day salmon and broccoli leftovers to watch people gag. All that jazz.

I also work at an inbound call center. “Soul crushing” is definitely a term I’d use.

My job is scheduled in a way that makes it more-or-less impossible to have a normal social life or attend school (I work weekends and evenings). I’m frequently subjected to meetings explaining how lucky I am to work here. There’s no functional “downtime” since, when one call ends, another starts. No personal Internet access, which might alleviate something.

All work functions are completely depersonalized. A couple times a quarter, we have “office parties” which consist of buffet lines of cheap food. Scheduling is automated and faceless. Having been here two years, I’ve had essentially no personal communication with anybody at a higher level than my immediate supervisor.

My job is repetitive, frequently abusive, and can border on feeling dishonest. Without going into detail, despite my title being “technician” and “Customers FIRST!” signs all over the walls, much of my job consists of negotiating people out of wanting credits for poor service or trying to sell service customers don’t need instead of fixing problems. Doublespeak is incredibly prevalent; supervisors frequently won’t communicate requests to employees because the functioning of the company is too opposed to stated policy or mission statements.

The worst part is that 0% of my job improves me as a person. I’m learning no skills I ever hope to use again. I’m not improving my resume (especially since retention policies make it difficult to even ask for a recommendation). I have no future here, but the job kills much of the time and energy I’d need to move laterally. Every day I feel myself growing older, dumber, and less capable of shifting into meaningful work. I wake up with night terrors about dying while working here – it would be a life wasted beyond anything I’d ever thought possible for myself.

Lately, I can keep my head down and just keep going (and fantasizing about the day I can quit). Between my one and two year marks was the worst; for a couple months, I was daily fantasizing about getting into a car accident during my commute. I didn’t want to be killed, mind you. Just maybe injured enough to be hospitalized for a week or two.

Man. My soul is crushed just reading about some of these jobs.

My wife did this job for about five months at a factory.

The saddest bit was that it was a company that made plastic blister packs. She wasn’t even helping produce a product, she was just helping create the annoying packagets are sold in.

Here is a story:

Imagine you are the primary developer working on a software project remotely from Georgia to the Philippines.
It is, quite literally, on the other side of the planet. 12 hours TZ difference.
You are working on the development during the day and the implementation during the night.
Probably 10 hours development and 6 hours implementation/debugging.
That is a crappy job, but not soul crushing. The night part was done from my home most of the time.

Then, your wife, ill from the results of chemotherapy for leukemia, slips on the way to the bathroom and fractures a vertebrae.

It is early morning, and you have to be at the office to do your work.
Remote is not an option.
There are people you have to be with to do your job.

The entire project hinges on your ability to coordinate what is being implemented.
You designed the whole thing and there is nobody in the entire organization who can replace your expertise. The client is a huge multinational billion dollar company.

What do you do?

That, my fellow Dopers, is soul crushing.

I took my wife to the hospital and stayed with her and eventually lost my really well-paying job.