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Monday, 11 February, 2002, 11:24 GMT
What is the worst job in the world?
Many organisations are trying to find better ways of working and supporting their staff.

But for many employees the promise of an improved work-life balance is just a dream.

According to the Industrial Society, 270,000 employees in the UK take days off due to stress.

Sick days cost an estimated 487 for each employee and 12bn to the economy as a whole.

Tell us your bad job experiences. What do you feel is the worst job in the world?

This Talking Point was suggested by Chris Warwick, UK :

What is the worst job in the world? I've got a feeling it's mine but I want some comparisons and a good giggle.

If you have any suggestions for Talking Points, please click here.

This Talking Point has now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.

Dealing with an endless amount of sick passengers

Louise, Sydney Australia
Working on a day cruise boat (that had a bad roll, and pitched from side to side) in choppy water. Dealing with an endless amount of sick passengers.
Louise, Sydney Australia

I once did two weeks work in a rock wool and fibre glass factory. The itch was incredible. When I finished working there, I was itchy for another five days.
Mark van der Born, The Netherlands

Worst one I had was shelf stacking in a major supermarket chain. I worked on night shifts under two supervisors who came straight out of a Charles Dickens novel.
Alun E Williams, UK

Quality control on cat food. Test 1: Bury face in a huge tub of it and sniff it to make sure it's fresh. Test 2: Plunge arms in it up to the elbows and grope for bony bits and take them out. Test 3: Scoop up huge dollop of it, smear it flat on surface and prod it with fingers to test how much gristle is there. Uggghh!
Jon Hanson, England

Working in an egg factory, where you spent a Saturday morning on your back under the machines scraping rotten eggs off the conveyor belts and into your face is the worst possible job ever!!
Marion, Scotland

I was once asked to weed the pitch at Chelsea's Stamford Bridge ground - by hand. At least there were four of us doing it, so the time simply flew by...
Nick, UK

The worst job has to be teaching in England.

SI, England
The worst job has to be teaching in England. Low paid, long hours after children have gone home, and abusive children and parents alike. If teachers are expected to do a good job for very little money (17500.00 p/a) they should be respected by the public. I am not a teacher but lots of my friend are. I am paid more for a job which is less then half of what they do. Get out of teaching and get a life is my advice.
SI, England

Working in a large cake factory, labelling lids for microwave ready chocolate sponges. We got so bored we would print anything other than "chocolate sponge, best before 02/02" on the lid. What made the job worthwhile was checking in the supermarket afterwards and seeing "I hate this job" written on the cake lid!
Rob, England

I think it's high time we found out what Chris Warwick's job is/was that made this suggestion for Talking Point come about!
Marion, UK/USA

Not the worst, but the most pointless. I once had to change the price tickets on 200 blazers from 79.99 to 80.00. The next day, down came the price again to 79.99.
Paula, ex-UK

Help Me! I'm trapped in the stick making machine.

James, England
During my gap year between school and university I worked on a kibbutz in Israel. It was a really exciting job. I worked on a machine which pumped out little black plastic sticks. They fell into a really big box and I had to pick up a handful of these sticks and then put them in a smaller box, in line. Actually, it wasn't that bad. I got very good at pick-up-stick! And to while away the time I would put notes in the boxes (which were, I believe, shipped to Holland) saying things like 'Help Me! I'm trapped in the stick making machine'. Not very funny, perhaps, but it made me giggle.
James, England

As a summer job during one college break I worked for the sewer department in the village where I lived in Long Island New York. Every Friday, I would have to descend 3 levels underground where the sewer lines of the entire North side of the village converged (after being chopped by huge grinders) into a 6 meter cubed size cement room. The grinders would be stopped, and the room pumped out. It was then my job to don boots, gloves, and slicker then, armed with a small fire hose, climb down into the room on a small iron ladder and proceed to wash the entire room down with the hose, hopefully without slipping. That job gave me the inspiration to complete school and find a cushy desk job, and a new found appreciation every time I flush the toilet!
Kevin McGoldrick, USA

After doing my A-levels in 1996, I worked as a steward serving refreshments on coaches. I regularly had to work 80+ hours per week, including straight 24 hour shifts, whilst earning barely 100 a week (pre-tax!!). You were regularly blamed for cancelled services that occurred in other parts of the country, and often held personally responsible for traffic delays holding up the service. On top of this, the post was self-employed, and you had to pay for uniform hire, provide the drivers with free coffee and lunches, as well as your own, from your own pocket, all for the privilege of being allowed to work on the coach by the company representing it. Although not physically repulsive, it has to be the most mentally demoralising job I have ever done. Despite all this, I lasted for almost a year!!
P Gleave, UK

Fortunately I didn't have to do this, but at a cake factory I worked for one summer, several people had the job of sitting at a conveyer belt along which a load of dried fruit travelled. Their task was to ensure that no two raisins went by joined together. All seemed a bit pointless given that they fell off the conveyer belt into a bin where they probably stuck together again anyway. Having said that, a friend used to sex hamsters...
Emma, UK

At 3AM every single day, I used to head off to the local farm in America where I had to pick sweet corn. This comprised walking through the corn (in all weathers) behind a tractor, ripping the corn from the plants 4 ears at a time and then throwing it into the tractor's baskets. A joy I hear you say. It gets worse. After a hurricane the fields were flattened, meaning that we had to go about our tasks bent double for 4 hours, rooting around for ears of corn, ripping our hands and arms to shreds on the sharp corn plants. It was a really good laugh thinking back on it now, from my boring office....
Andrew, UK

One elderly woman emptied a full chamber pot over me

John, England
In my days as a student (mid '70's) I delivered leaflets for a double glazing company. 12 hrs per day, 6 days per week and I only got paid if people actually made an appointment to see an "advisor". I got beaten up twice (ended up in hospital once). I got called every foul name under the sun. One elderly woman emptied a full chamber pot over me - I stank so badly that I couldn't get on a bus, and I had to walk 11 miles home. In the end I got fired for kicking a dog that it's owner had set on me. Still, it was a lovely sunny summer!
John, England

The Leader of the Opposition.
John , UK

I work 12 hours a day on Tondo refuse tip; it's now midnight in Manila and I've just finished my shift. I am constantly ill with various contaminated waste as it is processed for repackaging to sell to you in the West. You NEVER get used to the smell as there are too many chemicals involved. I only rest Sunday when I attend the Catholic Church. God gets me through these days when it feels like no-one cares anymore.
Dinah , Manila, PHILIPPINES

I used to go home with sugar in my ears and up my nose

Jeremy, UK
In a sweet factory putting sugar coating on sweets. I used to go home with sugar in my ears and up my nose, and the smell, ugh at least it put me off sweets. Also in a hospital kitchen dishing out food - I had to put the plates on the trays. They were boiling hot and despite using gloves your hands would be red and swollen after a short time. Now I work on an oil rig, which is much better.
Jeremy, UK

Try working for the royal mail, getting up at 5am, six days a week, carrying heavy mailbags in all weather, and worst of all having to deal with the public.
Anon, UK

Mine has to be a summer job at a well known butter supplier. My task was to take skips of butter and manually scoop it out with my bare hands and throw it into the blenders. I lasted two days, and eight years later I'm sure my hands still maintain the stench of butter. Another summer job involved attaching handles to paint pots. I lasted one week there. My rise up the job ladder was looking okay when I started working as a software engineer for a well known telecommunications company. Though I have now been moved from a software engineer to a tester - so I sit down all day pressing a button or two and taking log files - yawn.
Les, UK

I once worked in a factory which created various egg based produce - my job was to pummel eggy mess into something resembling scrambled egg for airline meals. It tended to play hell with your knuckles kneading cooked egg on a steel table and the place absolutely reeked of bad eggs. I managed two weeks before I had had enough!
James, UK

I worked one summer in the kitchen of an old people's home. Some residents couldn't eat solid food so I had to liquidise sausages, beans, potatoes - anything - with water and a powder thickener and then pour it onto the plates for them - yuk. Not as bad though as my friend's job who worked there as a care assistant. She had to feed it to them with a straw!
O, Wales

Chasing monkeys in the glowing sun for eight hours

Marin, Canada
Some time ago I went to a safari zoo. The way it works is that you are caged-in in a car and drive around from one reserve to the next. Monkeys always climb on top of the car and usually enjoy a free ride for a while. At the exit of the monkey reserve is a zoo worker equipped with a stick. His duty is to prevent monkeys from leaving the reserve on a car. Imagine chasing monkeys in the glowing sun for eight hours.
Marin, Canada

I worked on a fairground game stall during university holidays. This was the worst job in the world because a) I was expected to work from nine to midnight six days a week b) I had to stand-up outside in the freezing cold bouncing a basket ball the whole time, and c) at least 50 percent of the people I spoke to expected me just to give their children a prize for nothing, then gave me so much abuse when I wouldn't. The only thing that made up for the long hours was the fact that despite being on minimum wage, I earned an absolute fortune.

I don't dare eat pies as a result of my student job

Stewart, Wales
The worst job ever undertaken by man or beast was one that I did many moons ago as a student. I worked in a pie factory and I had the task of lifting the small round pies and speedily position them onto another conveyor belt. The exact number of pies was announced with pride after each shift and I calculated that I moved an average of four pies per second in one painful four hour session. However what remains the overriding image of the time is that of the hands of one woman behind me who had to thump the mince with bare fists into a funnel which then pumped in the meat prior to baking. Her hands were absolutely covered in dozens of warts. I don't dare eat pies as a result of my student job! True story!
Stewart, Wales

I have worked in chicken farms cleaning out the dung, fish farms - up to my waste in water in sub-tropical temperatures for hours on end, looked down on as a post-boy, bored form-filler, stuck in a middle-management job where politics and hatred ruled the company books. Probably the worst thing is to be under the thumb of a small-minded boss. But whatever the job, it is down to you to make the best of it. I have always learnt to stick things out, make the best of the job and eventually you rise to the top. It's great when you get there and you can look back and laugh at the grimmer times! Hang in there - it will make you stronger.
Andrew, Spain

I work in a call centre and I think because people can't see you face to face they think they can speak to you like dirt. You've got to learn not to take it personally or you will go mad.
Anon, Wales

The worst job I ever had was my first. I had to call random numbers and try to get people to take long, boring surveys. Once I had a 45-minute one about Rice Krispees squares, and I was expected to complete one every hour. You're lucky to get one willing participant in an hour, even luckier to get one that fits the test's demographic. Everyone else treats you like crap. I cannot tell you how many people I called used a line ripped off from Seinfeld: "How 'bout I go to my office and call you at home?" Eventually I just started saying "I watch Seinfeld too, pal" - it was the only way I could retain some semblance of self-worth. Then one of the managers who eavesdrops on conversations tried to get my pay cut back for breaking the rules.
Patrick, Toronto, Canada

The boss in a law firm tried to take me to court as he said he paid me far too much

Andrew, England
After leaving university I found a job in a small law firm. It turned out to be a complete nightmare where the highlight of my day was cleaning the coffee machine and having every fax I sent read by a woman whose English was far worse than mine. Upon leaving the boss then tried to take me to court as he said he paid me far too much. Oh happy days.
Andrew, England

Screwing lids on pepperpot jars in a greenhouse during July when the temperature outside was 30C and inside was too hot to imagine. The pepperpot jars would come down the conveyor belt and you had to grab a lid and screw it on the pot. There were so many pots that a few would get spilt and pepper went everywhere. I only lasted a week but I found out that some people had been doing that job for six years.
Nick, England

After wearing a headset for eight hours a day I started hearing voices in my head

Neill Traill, UK
Nothing can be worse than working in a financial call centre. After wearing a headset for eight hours a day for six months, I eventually started hearing voices in my head after my shift had finished.
Neill Traill, UK

Weekend schoolboy shelf stacker in a large supermarket. Manager A gives you a task. Part way through manager B gives you another and tells you to forget about the first one. Part way through that Manager C does the same. By lunchtime you've got three managers screaming at you for not doing as they told you. And you're a cheeky insubordinate troublemaker if you dare to suggest that they decide between themselves whose task you get on with!

Wearing the cap backwards was a sackable offence

My worst job was at a large car manufacturing plant in the west of England. The rules were so rigid that if you were going to be more than a few minutes late you had better not turn up at all. You had to be at your desk, in uniform at 8 am (this included the IT department that I was working in as well as the factory floor). The uniform consisted of a lovely white boiler suit (which I am certain made absolutely everyone who wore it look hideous) along with steel toe-capped DMs and a green baseball cap - none too flattering for women. Wearing the cap backwards was even a sackable offence! To top this all off, the nearest pub was 30 minutes drive away, we only had 40 minutes for lunch and we weren't allowed off site in uniform. I lasted nearly nine months and now know that however bad things get, they could be worse. I could be back at that factory.

The worst jobs in the world are undoubtedly the ones where your ideas and individuality are taken from you and crushed to mould you into something that fits into their jigsaw puzzle. I recently left a job that paid me an incredible salary to sit and nod when my managers (several layers of them) said stupid and uninformed things. When I tried to put things right I was told that I didn't understand how the corporation worked. When I asked to be transferred I was told that I had an attitude problem and put on probation. So I left for a job that pays much less, but where I'm not only allowed to use my brain, but encouraged to do so!
Christine, UK

Bathing overweight residents was no barrel of laughs

Olga M, London, UK
How about my stint as a care assistant in York where, aged 17, I had to regularly clean up the toilet floor for elderly incontinent residents. Use your imagination! And bathing overweight residents was no barrel of laughs either. The owner must have been making a fortune - I was paid 1.50 an hour, admittedly in 1987, but still I think an absolute disgrace.
Olga M, London, UK

Any job where you have to deal with the general public has to be the pits. The British mentality regarding service is still stuck in the Victorian era and anyone in a supposedly 'servile' position is considered fair game for abuse, both physical and mental. Personally I'd sooner work in an abattoir than have to deal with a procession of imbeciles who think I'm inferior in some way simply because my job might have some sort of service element.
Bill, UK

I had to make 200 tuna sandwiches in the morning

Paul, UK
During the summer break at university I got myself a job working in the kitchens of an army barracks. I had to make up 200 tuna sandwiches in the morning and then in the afternoon I had to wash up the lunch time dishes in water that I swear was hotter than boiling point. Needless to say I only lasted one day.
Paul, UK

I used to shovel manure into bags on a farm and got paid by the bag. It was great fun!
Fraser, Essex, England

The worst job is working for a depressed boss whose job is safe at a time when career-wise, you can't afford to move. Leadership is absent, the situation isn't sorted out and taking the initiative leads to rabid reactions of territorial claim staking. What a nightmare.
Rhys Jaggar, England

I lasted 5 months before giving in and getting a job in a pub

Anon, UK
My worst job was working in a public library while I was a student. I thought it would be much more civilised than bar work - how wrong can you be! Part of my duties included checking returned books for 'unauthorised contents' - things people left inside books. I have also been verbally abused by a little old lady for not having a romance novel she wanted (I'm sure MY gran never used that kind of language!), slapped by a woman for asking her to pay a fine for overdue books and accused of having an affair with a man when his wife found he'd borrowed a sex manual from the library! I lasted 5 months before giving in and getting a job in a pub...
Anon, UK

A company in Stevenage that will remain anonymous has to be the worst place ever. Run by managers with all the technical forethought of an earthworm.
Vince O'Hara, London, UK

Recently there have been a lot of programmes, documentaries and news reports on 'Britain's worse jobs'. Although I am sure that there are a lot of bad jobs out there, I believe that it isn't necessarily the job but the working environment that makes the job awful.
Nicola, UK

See also:

16 Aug 01 | Workplace
Your Rights at Work

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