There are no menial jobs, only menial attitudes.

There are no menial jobs, only menial attitudes. – William J. Brennan, Jr.

Do you help when it is needed, or do you say "It's not my job, I didn't make the mess!" ?

Do you say “It’s not my job, I didn’t make the mess!” or do you pitch in and help clean up?

What does that mean?
Have you ever thought, or heard someone say, that a job is beneath them? It could be cleaning an icky mess, or some other form of manual labor. It might be something that is considered beneath their station, or perhaps they have ‘people’ to take care of that.

Those are examples of menial attitudes. Attitudes that say the person is too important to do such a lowly task. It says that it is the job of someone else, and implies that the designated person is somehow less for that assignment. And avoiding that ‘being less’ is the whole point, right?

Jobs are simply jobs. Someone has to do them. Whether it’s changing your baby’s diaper or latrine duty, it has to be done. Arguing with others in the house regarding who was next in rotation to do the task isn’t going to get anything accomplished, is it?

If we aren’t careful, we will get focused on ourselves, or on the person we believe is not doing their ‘fair share’ and lose the big picture. Fortunately, most babies are quite capable of refocusing our attention on the problem at hand, regardless of our distractions. Do the job!

Why are all jobs important?  
There is an old joke about different body parts arguing over which is the most important body part. In the end, the most menial part wins the argument. Consider how quickly most garbage strikes end. Nobody wins when refuse builds up, except the rats, odors, and diseases.

Some consider garbage collecting a menial job, or perhaps dishwashing at a restaurant. But consider what life would be like if no one did that job. The dishwasher is a critical, not menial, job at a restaurant. Without it, there would be no clean plates on which to serve the food.

Not all jobs are glamorous, and some are more than a little disgusting. If you’ve ever seen Mike Rowe’s TV show “Dirty Jobs” you have a feel for what I’m attempting to point out. But all of them are necessary for the world to function properly. It may be small comfort, but it’s true.

Where can I apply this in my life?
How many times have you seen things grind to a halt because some ‘menial’ task needed to be done, and all anyone wanted to do was get someone else to do it? How frustrating was that? How many times did you volunteer to do it, just to get things back on track?

I imagine we’ve all been there at some point in our lives. Perhaps someone else beat us to the task, but even recognizing what the real problem was and considering the solution is a bigger step than many are able to take. Bonus points if you actually took one for the team and did the task.

In my opinion, far too many people focus on who has to do something and being ‘fair’ (at least in their minds) about the distribution of unpleasant or menial tasks. Life isn’t fair, so I try not to get hung up on that point. I believe we should work as a team and get things done.

Yes, with that attitude, you’ll get more than your ‘fair share’ of the crappy jobs. But what is the big picture? Do more things get done, is the greater good served by your willing to do the menial, to do the icky, or the unpleasant things? If so, quit whining and get busy!

There was a recent example of some note. The new Pope, shortly after his inauguration, went to a prison and washed the feet of the prisoners. Washing feet is one of the lowliest jobs possible in most cultures. That’s not his job, right?

Many would say that the job is clearly beneath anyone of any significant stature or status. Yet the Pope did so out of humility and service. One could presume that he didn’t have a menial attitude. And we can learn a lot from such an action. We can just go ahead and do the job and get it done.

How much do you resist these jobs? When you do, what is your mindset? Are you deliberately trying to stop things, or are you doing something ‘noble’ by fighting for your dignity? Is it the turn of someone else? I don’t condone shirking, but neither should you hold progress hostage because of it.

If it is slowing things down, take the issue offline and deal with it there. There are bigger things at stake. The turning point for me was when I had to change diapers. That really put things in perspective for me. Watching Mike Rowe’s show helped remind me that there are some things far worse than I have ever had to do.

Perspective. Is the job really as menial or as bad as you think? Who cares what others think if they see you helping out or lending a hand? Some do, but I don’t. What is too menial for you? Has the definition changed, having read this post? I hope so.

From: Twitter, @cyberbonn
confirmed at :
Photo by danieljordahl

Happy Birthday to former Associate Justice of the US Supreme Court, born 25 April, 1906.

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12 Responses to There are no menial jobs, only menial attitudes.

  1. Nik l 24 September 2015 at 4:01 am #

    Only bullies would perpetuate such a myth. If you don’t stand up for yourself and appear competitive or not f your boss just doesn’t like you, you will get menial tasks. These article is meant to keep sheep in their place like most of the self help books. Bullies who really need to follow these advice do not follow it themselves but perpetuate it for their advantage.

    • philosiblog 25 September 2015 at 3:56 am #

      Thanks for stopping by, and for leaving a comment. However, I disagree with your analysis.

      I am truly sorry that you feel that way, as you have missed the point entirely. I believe your statement to be incorrect for truly there are no menial jobs. You may not like them, you may feel you are too good to do such a thing, but that is not the fault of the job. You have put an inappropriate label on it due to your attitude towards it.

      That said, if your boss is a bully, find a better boss. If there is no other job option, you either submit or you fight. And you abide by the results, win or lose.

      As for human nature, there are bullies in the animal world, so for as long as there have been humans, there have been bullies. What are you willing or able to do to change that?

  2. akthar pasha 20 September 2015 at 3:35 am #

    im nt getting an exact answer for my question “why is it wrong to think some jobs as menial “

    • philosiblog 21 September 2015 at 10:14 pm #

      Thanks for stopping by, and for asking a clarifying question. I’ll try to discuss the points, then to answer the question directly.

      Most of the jobs which are considered menial are labeled so due to how trivial they are, or how unpleasant they are. Such jobs usually go to the youngest/newest person, and when a new person starts, that’s what they get. It is, in one form, an enforcement of hierarchy, where the most senior avoid the nasty stuff. On the other hand, not doing the jobs which require minimal skills allows them to put their skills to work doing things the new person is not yet ready to take on. That is more of a why they exist, but I’m working

      With the background discussed, I will try to answer “Why is it wrong to think some jobs are menial?”

      Define menial job. It is a bit subjective. But consider what life would be like if no one ever did the ‘menial’ jobs. Have you ever used a restroom that was so disgusting that you went somewhere else instead? Has that job, however distasteful, become more important?

      Also consider the thought process. Are you saying you are too important, or too high above others, to do something as lowly or coarse as that? In some societies there are still classes or castes, where some work is considered beneath them. This quote is from an American, and we don’t believe in such constructs. Yes, some people are treated badly by other people, but it is usually an individual thing, which can sometimes form observable patterns, but we try our best.

      For those who try to live in the moment, whether we are enjoying tea or washing dishes (or the bathrooms), we try to stay focused on the task. There is also pride in achievement, when you have done the best job you could possibly do. Consider when the boss (supervisor, spouse, etc) looks in, will they say “wow” or “eww”?

      There are many reasons for not thinking anything is so menial as to be beneath you, but ultimately, you and your societal values will be the primary forces shaping of your view. If it doesn’t work for you now, I’m fine with that. Just revisit the question from time to time, and see if you still agree. You may find things change with time.

  3. Beth 7 October 2014 at 9:05 pm #

    Really love that quote (menial jobs), which is what brought me to this site. I plan to share it and wanted to be sure I was quoting the right person. Noticed in the links when I Googled the quote that it has been attributed to two different individuals. Dug further and found the following (cut-and-paste) on the website It’s a post from July 10, 2010, by Seth Stern who co-writes the site’s blog, and it begins here: I came across an interesting quote I hadn’t seen attributed to Justice Brennan before on Twitter today and wondered what the source might be: “There are no menial jobs, only menial attitudes.” Many online quotation sites – and a book of quotes aimed at “preachers, teachers & writers” – similarly attribute the quote to Brennan. It’s a nice thought, one Brennan might have well have agreed with, given his emphasis on the concept of human dignity. But a little searching on Google reveals it actually appears to be a quote from a conservative pundit and former cabinet member with a similar name: William J. Bennett. The quote appears on page 348 of Bennett’s 1993 book, The Book of Virtues.) It’s possible Brennan said it first but I can’t find any evidence of that so far. Let us know if you find anything suggesting otherwise. (end of cut-and-paste)

    This has cleared things up for me. It’s a wonderful quote to share…and remember.

    • philosiblog 8 October 2014 at 4:04 am #

      Thanks for stopping by and for digging into the origins of the quote. I do what I can, but I don’t always have the time to really dig deep and confirm beyond a shadow of a doubt.

      I hope you were able to enjoy the blog post despite the possibility of mis-attribution. 8)

  4. Kendra Francesco 7 March 2014 at 5:09 am #

    I’m late to the party, but I agree wholeheartedly. I’ve had to remind people of this many a time in the last dozen years. The terrible sense of entitlement has grown so much that anyone not in a “real” job (one that makes over $50K yearly) is reviled.

    • philosiblog 7 March 2014 at 7:12 pm #

      Better late than never! Thanks for stopping by, and for leaving a comment.

      Yes, a sense of entitlement has become pervasive in many cultures. Unfortunately, that means there will be a lot of anguish later, when their results do not align with their expectations. Sadly, the people I know with that attitude have the smarts and the ability to make a great living, they just don’t want to have to work for it. My grandfather would rather have starved than go to the government for a handout. As an immigrant, America is where you went to make something of yourself. If you couldn’t make it there, what good were you? He came here to be successful, and was. Not because he was talented, but because he worked hard. Sadly that work ethic, in many parts of the world, has given way to the cry of “Give me what I want! NOW!” Reminds me of where the term “mob rule” came from, back in the days of Rome. Sad to think we might be slipping that way again.

      • Kendra Francesco 8 March 2014 at 11:16 pm #

        Yes. They want to be Sir Richard Branson or Oprah Winfrey or Bill Gates (or any of a hundred wealthy people) without putting in the time and effort it takes to be them.

      • philosiblog 10 March 2014 at 1:49 am #

        Sadly, most couldn’t tell you what any of them did to make their money. The long hours, the hardships endured, the effort required. All they see is the fame and fortune, and it looks effortless. Everyone is an overnight sensation. But even those are years, even decades, in the making.

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    • philosiblog 6 August 2013 at 4:28 am #

      Thanks for the kind words. I’m glad you found this to be useful.

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