Jan 18, 2011

Back to the Mines: Why Do We Stay in Bad Jobs?

In September 2010, 33 miners were trapped underground for an amazing 69 days, riveting the world’s attention. Leadership, endurance and faith were all factors in the astonishing survival of these men.

The miners took a vow of silence, promising never to speak of what life was really like in that dark pit. Imagine the moment when the last battery pack went dead, draining the last remnants of hope. Desperation, anguish and anxiety hung in the dank air. 

It took more than two weeks, but rescuers punched a small hole into the cavern, and the men were eventually pulled out one-by-one.

One miner, who at 63 was the eldest of the survivors, passed on this bit of wisdom to his grandchildren:

“Never go into a mine,” he said. “Study another profession.”

Predictably, many of the miners have found other lines of work. Some have gone back into the industry, driving trucks, working in administration or supervision.

But some have gone right back, working underground in other mines.

One man said, “It’s my work. I’m a mole and I’m happiest when I’m underground.”

The thought of their husbands going back in into the mines terrified some wives.
Lila Ramirez said on live television that her marriage to Mario Gomez would be over if he ever returned to the mines.

Carola Narvaez also expressed displeasure with the thought of her husband returning, but recognizing the good wages and benefits of mining, said, "Every man has to work."

If it were me, I would never enter a mine again. In fact, I would sleep with the light on the rest of my days. I would change all my 40-watt bulbs out to 100-watt torches. I would move to Ecuador and put my house on a swivel that that could always face the sun as it moved across the sky.

And I would never enter a mine. But then again . . .

Why do we work in bad jobs?

I’ve worked my fair share of bad jobs, in poor working conditions with terrible bosses. And I kept going back every day. I look back at some of those jobs and wonder why in the world I stayed?

There are a few factors at play when we stay in bad jobs:

Economics. Let’s face it. We need food for the table and a roof over our heads. When you add a family to the equation, it’s not smart to join the ranks of the unemployed. How many have walked off a job, only to find that “all you need is love” works only until you get the electricity bill.

Pride. I worked in an office where the boss was tyrannical. She had leapfrogged the competition and was out to prove her worth by putting others down. I was determined that I would stay, no matter what. One by one, team members bailed, finding other work in other departments. But I hung on, determined that she wouldn’t get the best of me.

Patience. I’ve seen people walk off the job out of frustration; the pressure was just too much. But in time, things got better. If only they would have stayed! There is some wisdom in this approach, because bad coworkers will do themselves in, the work will ease and the frustrations will melt… eventually.

Insecurity: When it comes to career change, I’ve been plagued with self-doubt. My current job is my lot in life. I often just don’t have the confidence to get something else. This only increases with age.

So, are you in a job that feels like your stuck back in the coal mine? What keeps you going back to the same hole every day? 

Post by David Rupert.

Image by Nishanth Joi, used with permission of Flickr.

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