Mule Work

We’ve all done it, we’ve all hated it and we’ve probably all avoided it as much as we would an advised colonoscopy. Today, I am looking at three different file types that have to all be converted to the same format and then merged before being sent off to our unholy printers in Singapore and/or China. Why not print in our home country? Well cost of course! This leads to potentially having to deal with customs as well–a uniquely harrowing experience that one does not wish upon one’s worst enemy–take that Voldemort! It’s not really my job but it was handed to me from a work colleague who I somehow find myself continually doing favors for…

This led me down memory lane and how I have accumulated points for mule work and then lost points on those few occasions I have said no to it. Urban dictionary–soon to be the official world dictionary on par with the Oxford English and the Merriam Websters of the world–defines bitch work (referred to as mule work in this piece) as “work that is given to lower level employees to keep them occupied for hours at a time, usually assigned by managers or higher level employees who are either too fat or lazy to complete the task at hand themselves.” I would expand that definition to include “too incompetent” as well.

As I’m staring down the barrel of the next three hours of my life being wasted, I try to recall three pieces of boring evidence that help me get through the tedium. No.1 Hitler was an avid mule worker–let’s not commend him for his deeds but let’s look at the trail of mule work that allowed him to become evil empire enemy numero uno. My friends Marie and Stacy (names changed to protect identities) who both hold stellar MBAs and told me they don’t make you smarter but make you better able to handle mule work–both are now working for leading global S&P 500 companies making enough money to buy and sell me four times over. And lastly, there’s Annie (name also changed) from Admissions–the single DULLEST bureaucratic paper pushing job on earth interspersed with random phone calls from parents that bring out her brightest, cheeriest Bank of America sales girl voice.

What do I see when I look at these three examples? 1. Mule work really does help career progression 2. Mule work is not above anyone’s paygrade–you could be the global digital marketing manager for one of the leading sports retail brands and still have to spend hours a week doing mule work–that’s not me by the way, I watch proverbial paint dry at my job 3. Mule work is something that can not be allowed to interfere with your mood when dealing with clients, colleagues, your family, your pets–please spare Fido for once!

I realize now how important mule work is. Dealing with it however can be numbing and emotionally and spiritually draining, on top of being stressful if you are a perfectionist and have an erratic boss. Here are six tips that work for me:

– Listen to music. I listen to contemporary classical, some people listen to heavy metal–true fact!–it just helps keep your anxiety at bay while you get on with “open file, save as, high quality print, cut copy, delete” rinse and repeat.

– Prioritize your mule tasks. Those who you can accurately target as being more helpful to your vertical mobility should get priority in how much mule work you do for them and how early you get it down. This takes some trial and error if you’re not sure as to the power structure or office politics and personalities yet.

– Do it with the mindset that you’re helping someone out. Every mule task that I complete brings a smile to someone’s face. Feeling like you helped someone and were thanked for it, for a few minutes, really does make it worth it AFTER it is done–even if it only lasts until your next mule task is handed to you.

– Think of it as a professional bank account. Mule work helps you deposit favors and loyalty that you can cash in later. When there are promotions or new positions up for grabs, you will have the support from that Head of the Music department for whom you spent hours laminating posters. Idiots are an exception. Don’t expect support from idiots. Or assholes on power trips. They usually come in the same package.

– Smile. Even if it’s fake, I’ve found this makes it easier for me. Also, write down while singing in your head “the hills are alive with the smell of bull shiiii-iiit!”–please insert any other inappropriate children’s show tune you wish to desecrate. Faking positivity while acknowledging the wretchedness of the task makes you feel at once grounded in the reality that a) this sucks b) meh, it’s not so bad.

– Breathe. Know this too shall be over soon. Remember that you’re not the only one going through it and that the rest of your life will consist of it. So find a way to tune out a little bit, try some transcendental meditation, focus on yourself and the task and send up a prayer to the universe. Those three hours you feel like you’ll never get back? They’re preparing you for more tedious tasks/practice you’re going to need to get through to get to the position you want to be in.

I hope reading this has made it a little easier for you to get through the tedium. And remember “Doe a deer, a female deer. Ray who won’t shut the fuck u-up.” Big smile from the Professional Emotional Guru. Get to it Manic Maria!

– Manic Maria

Manic Maria is an analysis, marketing and project design shark. Someday, she will make the world a better place at her own breakneck pace.

To have your expression (photographs, paintings, poetry, videos…. anything share-able) featured on this site, please email me at with a photograph, three line bio and relevant contact/social media information. Namaskara!

1 thought on “Mule Work

  1. Interesting piece. I’ve had to do this kind of work when I was cleaning the data for the dictionary. It was boring, repetitive and tiring. However, like the article says, it was a necessary evil. The favours I hope to cash in later is a good reputation for building what looks like a complete online dictionary. I think “mule work” is better handled in a distributed manner, where a lot of people do a little bit of the boring and repetitive tasks. It’s just that the manpower is not always available.

    Liked by 1 person

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