How to Master Your Thankless Job

Beep, Beep, Beep!  The alarm goes off at 5am on a Monday.  You slap the alarm with the force of an ogre and the alarm hushes abruptly.  You’re left in the gloomy darkness of a morning without sunlight.  You throw off the covers and begrudgingly roll out of bed.  You’re not totally alone though.  The creaks, pops, and groans of an aging body are there to accompany you.  The morning work ritual begins anew.

Sound like a standard work morning?  You’re not alone.  Only 38% of employees indicated being very satisfied with their job from the latest survey from the Society of Human Resource Management.  For those not in the know, SHRM is one of the leading representatives of human resource professionals and overall workplace condition.  While that doesn’t necessarily mean the rest of the employees hate their jobs, it does provide an interesting topic.  How many of those non “very satisfied” employees feel like they are in a thankless job?  Many of us have had, will have, or have a thankless job.  It can be difficult to trudge into work, day in and day out, just to feel unappreciated.  So I’d like to discuss those particular feelings.

You Might Have a Thankless Job When. . .

My cousin used to have this old picture that hung on her bedroom wall that said “When I do good, no one remembers.  When I do bad, no one forgets.”  She had it because the dog in the picture looked exactly like her dog, Gizmo the Loveable Pooch, but as I got older I realized how poignant that simple statement was.  It also happens to be one of the key facets of a thankless job!

From that SHRM survey we see that trust between employees and management is very important to 61% of those surveyed; it’s tied with overall compensation.  Think about that, almost two thirds of employees, across all sectors and industries, feel that management can make or break a job.  Two thirds of people also feel that management is AS IMPORTANT as being paid fairly.  If your manager is constantly over your shoulder over-analyzing you, it might be a good sign that you’re not appreciated.

Here are some other things to consider as to whether or not you’re in a thankless job.  If your morning wake-up ritual sounds a lot like the opening paragraph – you probably need to evaluate your tenure at the company.  What about your friends who don’t share much about what they do for employment?  It could be embarrassment or they’re just not that into you.  Or they may be in a thankless job as well.

Here’s another key sign to know if you work in an industry that you’re under appreciated.  You work in public service.  Hah, that’s a little joke.  Yeah…a joke.  Excuse me, I feel like I need to go sob uncontrollably in a corner for no reason at all.

How to Deal with a Thankless Job

Luckily, it’s not all doom and gloom.  There is an absolute upside to having a thankless job.  Part of it is just toughening you up because it’s hard.  The funny thing about things that are hard is that it gets easier.  Why?  Because as humans we’re great at adapting.  So, let’s talk about some ways you can adapt to this kind of job.

At the end of the day — even if your boss hates you, you’re paid peanuts, and you’re pretty sure a coworker stole your sandwich – we are responsible for our own happiness.  It’s okay to pat yourself on the back and say I am darn good at my job.  Just because your immediate boss doesn’t recognize your work doesn’t mean somebody can’t (even if that somebody is you)!  It also doesn’t negate that fact that someone else in the organization appreciates your work.  Think about it: how many departments or co-workers see what you do?  Probably quite a few.  Everyone appreciates somebody whose work they don’t have to correct.

Finally, when you do receive compliments or gratitude, keep note of it.  Write it down.  Who said it, where are they from, can you help them professionally?  It’s a great networking strategy.  After all, if you’re feeling downtrodden in the company there is a definite chance they feel the same way you do.  By returning the favor you strengthen those friendly ties.  For company culture to change it has to start somewhere.  By building someone up, and the bond you share with them, you strengthen the entire company.


Thankless jobs can be hard to work in, but they also build discipline and rigor.  More importantly, the build a sense of confidence in the work you produce.  You have no other choice! If people couldn’t be proud of their own work, nobody could stand a thankless job for more than a year.  The skills you sharpen, the ability to find confidence in dark places, are invaluable.  They build you for success.

Dealing with Thankless Job

Thankless Job = Success

You may wonder what kind of success.  Largely, that’s dependent on the person.  However, they usually turn into effective leaders.  Those who have worked the trenches tirelessly are the commanders you want ordering you from afar – in any industry.  You can read about what I learned from my agencies effective leaders during Hurricane Matthew here.  In order to get to those leadership positions, you’ll need to work tirelessly with your new skills.  40 hours doesn’t cut it.  Work hard, understand your worth, and keep fighting.  Then you will find the true value in a thankless job.

Celts, have you ever worked in a thankless job?  It stinks, doesn’t it?  Share your thoughts and how you dealt with the under-appreciation in the comments below! 

If you’re looking to stay up to date with the Celt be sure to like my Facebook page by clicking *here*.  If you would rather do business with the Celt in Central Florida, be sure to follow my Facebook page by clicking *here*.  Thanks for reading!


Cash Flow Celt

I'm just a local business and finance nerd looking to help people get educated about small business, marketing, and personal finance! I write about anything and everything that I can tie into those themes. I'm also Central Florida's only Kilted Realtor, so I write about Real Estate too! Check out my About Me page to see the origins of Cash Flow Celt.

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8 Responses

  1. Catherine says:

    Thank you for another great column. I like your advice to keep a notebook and write things down when you get praise. It took me many years in the corporate world to learn to do that but eventually I did and it paid off well. It’s also invaluable when you’re up for a promotion.

    • As a child, my uncle always told me to write down my thoughts. Have two books – one for wins and one for losses. Wins help you later on, but by writing down losses they help you understand why and that helps you now.

  2. Erica Penner says:

    All I know is thankless jobs, so thank you very much for this blog post.

    • Thanks for stopping by Erica! Being young in my career, it’s all I knew as well. However, as a Realtor I experience a lot more thankfulness. Not so much because I’m helping people buy homes, but rather because it allows me a platform to showcase my talents and knowledge. What’s your platform?

  3. I have definitely worked thankless jobs that nobody else notices. When most people ask me what my role is, I explain that I try to act like the glue in the organization. If I’m doing my job correctly nobody will notice and I can remain under the radar making sure everything stays together. Normally it’s when I leave an organization that I hear later, I had no idea how much you did and how much we could still use you. Unfortunately by that time it’s too late 🙂

    • Aren’t those amazing words? “We had no idea”. That, to me, is validation of one’s importance (and maybe room to negotiate a higher wage at an organization you actually liked!). I love that glue metaphor though.

  4. Toni says:

    Thank you for sharing. Sometimes I feel like I have a have a thankless job when things are not going the way everyone expects. This was very helpful.

    • Hey Toni! I appreciate you stopping by and commenting. That’s a funny thing isn’t it? In an otherwise great job it can still feel thankless. Especially when other people start noticing that it’s getting hard for you. I’m glad it was some help for you. And just keep pushing!

      Also, as an aside, I love your website layout. The lazy load page is always an easy way to make your site look “hip” but keep your load times down.

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