Earlier this month, the New York Post reported the story of Daniel Kochanski, who so despised the work he was doing that he reportedly sat at his workstation, typing “I hate my job, I hate my job,” over and over again. That sounds like a trenchant scene from the movie Office Space, except that Kochanski didn’t work in an office – he worked in a Manhattan courtroom, as the official court reporter. As a stenographer, he was responsible for accurately recording every word of examination and testimony during trial, but according to the Post, over the course of about 30 trials, Kochanski would sometimes instead repeat his plaintive message, and other times would simply pound away on random keys.
I am picturing Jack Nicholson and Tom Cruise re-enacting the results:
“You want answers?”
“I think I’m etahgaohvpq9u5vps9hg 82.”
“You want answers?”
“I want the truth!”
“I hate my job! I hate my job I hate my job I hate my job . . .”
Kochanski’s story actually sounds rather sad. His family suggested that, in part because of the pressures of work, he had been struggling with alcoholism, and that the disease cost him both his marriage and, in 2012, his court reporting job. Kochanski himself claims that he “never typed gibberish,” and that he is now in recovery and nearing the end of a year of sobriety. I sincerely hope that this sudden notoriety does not set him back. He does not deserve that, particularly because, in a perverse, unfortunate, and surely unintended way, he has done the world a favor.
After all, has there ever been as clear an illustration of the costs of hating one’s job as Kochanski’s? The very act of expressing his despair directly interfered with his work. Sure, if he had been able to bottle it up, he might have kept his antipathy from affecting his work product. But that’s the point — he was not able to keep it all inside; it leaked out, through his fingertips and into the transcripts he was producing. And it marred his work.
Kochanski showed us all, in as vivid and literal an image as any storyteller could create, what happens when you force yourself, or are forced, to take on a job you can’t stand. If you cannot keep that hatred buried entirely — an effort so stressful that it may literally make you sick — it will manifest itself in some way, and when it does it will diminish what you do. Probably not as strikingly as in this case, but somehow: the snide comment, the halfhearted commitment, the slapdash product.
To be sure, sometimes we have to grind our way through grunt positions on the path to getting to where we really want to be. But if you’re not heading for a place like that — or if you thought you’d arrived there — and you find yourself dreading going to work every day, then it’s time to start mapping out a new path. Because, while it may not be as dramatic as jeopardizing convictions or climbing into a bottle, the bitterness is doing damage both to your work and to you.