Job shaming is when you make someone feel that what they do is less important or less significant based on your own values and interpretations.
I have been job shamed and hearing Geoffrey Owens’s story about his recent job shaming while working at Trader Joe’s inspired me to write this blog post. You can check out Geoffrey’s story here.
Geoffrey Owens used to work as an actor on “The Cosby Show” and was recently spotted bagging groceries at a Trader Joe’s in New Jersey.
He wasn’t doing anything wrong.
He was merely doing honest work, making a reasonable wage.
But someone thought the job was “beneath” him and thus, posted a photo of him on Twitter and this is what sparked the discussion.
After watching his interview, he got me thinking. Yes, there have been times when I have been “Job shamed.” I remember going out with friends one evening when I was in my seventh year as a teacher. There was a guy who asked me what I do for a living, and I told him that I was a middle school mathematics teacher and coordinator. His response, “That’s cute.”
(WHAT? I asked myself and looked at him strangely.)
I asked him what he meant by that comment and he told me that he thought it was “very nice” that I am a teacher, but he said that I am sacrificing a better quality of life because I don’t make much money, and I work very hard for very little, but I should be proud of teaching people.
(Are you freaking kidding me? To say I was enraged would have been an understatement.)
I asked him what he did for a living, and he said, “I work for a major financial company. I’m successful. I make tons of money, and I get to do whatever I want.”
(Job Shame – Making someone feel that what they do is less important or less significant based on their own values and interpretations.)
I let him know that I made more than enough money to meet my bills, was running a successful consulting and tutoring business on the side, and didn’t feel my life was lacking at all. But here’s the kicker. He sensed that I was upset and told me, “You shouldn’t be upset. I was paying you a compliment.” I told him I didn’t need his compliments and politely moved myself to a different part of the room to talk to other people.
The next day, I told someone what happened, and like me, they were angry. However, we agreed that after I had released those feelings and upset, it was best to not give it any more energy by letting it bother me. The chances are I was never going to see this person again and his thoughts and feelings about what I did for a living, didn’t matter. Perhaps there was something inside of him that felt the need to put me down but I’m not a therapist, and it’s not my place to guess what his motives were.
To quote Geoffrey Owens, “There is no job that’s better than another job. It might pay better, it might have better benefits, it might look better on a resume and on paper. But actually, it’s not better. Every job is worthwhile and valuable.”
Since Geoffrey appeared on Good Morning America and told his story, he’s been offered several acting jobs and is grateful for the outpouring of love and support from Hollywood A-Listers, his peers, and people moved by his story. But in his interview, he stated that he didn’t want people to feel sorry for him. He was just doing what he needed to do to make a living. And he was grateful to be able to do so.
We are called to do something. Our work aligns with our core values. And how we “show up” and honor our core values is all about how we “show up” professionally and energetically. Whether your core values are that of service, communication, courage, profitability, leadership, or one of the dozens of core values you can honor, our calling is to do the best job we can.
Brene Brown tells us that secrecy, silence, and judgment fuel shame. To combat shame, we must talk about it. Tell your story to someone you trust and love. Talk to yourself the way you would speak to someone you love. And so, when we are job shamed, we must talk about it to release it and not give the shame any more fuel to grow.
When we do the work, we are called to do, we are proud of our work.
When we “show up” each day to best serve our teams, customers, and organizations, we take pride in our work.
When we wake up in the morning and say, “I get to go to work,” we take pride in our work.
To quote actress Justina Machado when she tweeted about Geoffrey Owens’s story, “No shame in my game and shame on anyone who thinks there is.”