• Office grunt work can seem menial and mindless
  • Grunt work is what keeps the company’s daily operations running
  • Reframe your mindset on grunt work and you’ll be happier for it
You’re not a fucking intern anymore - that was ages ago.

Yet, here you are doing what is essentially entry-level type of work.

Your boss handed down several tasks for you to do. And, every single one of them could probably be done by a well-trained circus monkey.

Shit always rolls downhill.

Do you really need a college degree to format the font size and type in the Powerpoint presentation?

Should you be manually keying in numbers into the system database?

Is printing and collating the TPS reports a good use of your time?

For the masses of us that are not in the senior or executive ranks, doing these kinds of tedious and menial tasks are an unavoidable part of the job.

And, oftentimes, doing this kind of grunt work feels beneath us. It feels like bullshit work.

But it’s not.

Let’s get into it.

The Origins Of The Term “Grunt Work”

The origins of the word “grunt” come from the military. It was a term used to classify and identify low-level infantry personnel that are often assigned hard manual labor - things like digging trenches, moving boulders, building fortifications, etc.

When these infantry workers were lifting and moving heavy things, they’d always grunt. It’s no different than how you’d grunt trying to move something heavy too.

And so their audible grunting became synonymous with their low-level position and the manual hard labor that came along with it.

Soon enough, they were known and referred to as “grunts” and the work they did was “grunt work.”

And like other military terms like M.I.A. (Missing In Action), the term “grunt work” became part of the office vocabulary.

Today’s “Grunt Work” In The Modern Office

In today’s modern office, nobody’s digging trenches or moving boulders. However, the low-level manual labor and/or tasks are still there.

At the very entry-level, it can be the intern making a coffee run in the morning for the team, printing and collating files into binders, packing and shipping items, running miscellaneous errands etc. Real manual labor kinda stuff.

It’s not limited to interns either.

All entry to mid-level positions usually have some amount of grunt work. Generally speaking, if you’re not a manager with direct reports, you’ll have grunt work to do.

Grunt work at normal entry-level positions are things like doing manual data entry, filling out forms, processing paperwork, organizing digital files, coordinating meetings and events, etc.

Positions above entry-level without direct reports, will usually have to do the same stuff as the entry-level positions but with more added responsibilities. These include things like building and formatting the Powerpoint presentation, setting up the excel spreadsheet, gathering research, etc.

These are all manual tasks that are digital in nature for the most part and are usually handled by mid-to-low level employees.

Why Doing Grunt Work Matters

Doing grunt work can seem like a waste of time.

Why should you spend hours on end performing mindless menial tasks when you could be working on something more important and more strategic in nature?

The answer is that grunt work matters!

Remember the military infantry grunts and the work they did?

They were the ones that dug the trenches, built the fortifications, filled the sandbags, etc. These are all critical and mandatory items for survival during warfare. Nothing else happens unless these basics get done first and on an ongoing basis.

Doing office grunt work gets the core day-to-day tasks done and allows the rest of the company’s functions to operate.

It’s also important for you too. Here’s why.

1. Mastering The Basics

This isn’t just about knowing how to copy-paste in Excel or how to use clipart in Powerpoint. It can be even more basic than that.

We’re talking about mindless things like making copies, ordering team lunches, organizing and filing papers, etc.

On the surface, they’re low-level intern-type tasks. However, each of these tasks has details that when they’re not paid attention to, it becomes glaringly obvious that you missed the mark.

Get these details right and everything else gets to move more smoothly.

You’ve been in meetings where the projector wasn’t prepped ahead of time and there were all sorts of technical problems. These meetings always start 10-15 minutes late.

However, when it’s set up and prepped ahead of time, everything goes smoothly.

Embrace the task and be the ultimate error-free master.

2. Getting Your Momentum Going

Sometimes, the hardest part of your day is just getting started. Getting momentum going takes a lot of effort. But, once it gets going, it’s easier to keep going.

The beauty of grunt work is that most of the time it’s not overly complicated. It’s easy to do, although tedious.

You can use this to your advantage and begin your day with simple grunt work tasks to get your momentum going. When you can knock out several tasks in a row, you’re getting in the zone with work.

And once you’re firing on all cylinders, you’re gaining steam and being productive.

For each small task you complete, you’re giving yourself a little dopamine hit of satisfaction. So, be sure to celebrate small victories throughout the day to keep the good vibes flowing.

3. Proving Your Value & Commitment

To a boss or manager, any employee that has a snobby attitude about doing simple tasks just won’t be around for long. They’d better prepare for job loss ‘cause it’ll only be a matter of time before their ass gets canned.

It's important that you never see yourself as being "above" a task because it is your commitment to the company and all of its tasks that give them value.

When you are assigned to do mindless or menial tasks, it's important that you put in the same amount of effort and commitment as doing any other task. This way your boss knows how much they can trust your work ethic because you have shown them with these smaller tasks.

The key to proving your value and commitment is always being willing and enthusiastic about doing the little tasks, which proves that you care. 

4. Building Your Reputation

When you're building your personal brand and professional reputation, it's important to show that you can handle tough and mundane tasks. You should be seen as someone who is willing and able to complete challenging projects with ease, but also understands when grunt work needs to get done too.

Everyone often forgets that they’re judged by every single thing they do at work. It’s fodder for all the office gossip that goes around.

For example, if one of your colleagues is given an uninteresting task and they complete the task but failed to pay attention to the details, it gets noticed in a bad way.

Likewise, maybe another coworker had a similar task but went above and beyond and not only addressed the details, but also took care of other items that nobody else saw.

That’s the difference between just getting to first base and hitting a home run.

Some people are great at only challenging tasks but drop the ball when dealing with grunt work they see as beneath them.

The great ones can do both.

Strive to be described not just as someone who challenges themselves (and excels) or has strong attention-to-detail skills; instead, have everyone talk about what a hard worker you are because of all the various tasks you get done.

5. Seeing The Larger Purpose

It is easy to get lost in the multitude of tasks we are given throughout our day. However, it helps to find some sort of meaning through work.

No matter how tedious or boring any task might seem there is always an element that makes a difference and provides you with a purpose for being at work.

For example, if you were sorting paperwork all day long but found out that what you were doing was supporting the preparations for launching an all-new product for the company that could bring in millions in revenue then suddenly that small task isn’t meaningless.

Seeing things this way makes your job more fulfilling and awesomer.

There's an element of meaning in every task we do. Even if it seems tedious, boring or stupid, there is at least one aspect to the job that can make us feel as though our support matters.

You never know what you're going to be faced with when you start work. Sometimes, all it takes is a little creativity applied toward your attitude and outlook on the day-to-day for things to be not so bad after all.

6. Keeping The Machine Running

There are a lot of core functions in a company that is essential to operations. And, we’re not talking about things like accounting, sales, distribution, etc. Those are all definitely important functions but there are other more elemental things that are crucial.

You know how frustrating it is when your computer has issues or when the copier is malfunctioning, right?

Well, if it wasn’t for the IT helpdesk person or the copier repair technician doing the “grunt work”, your productivity would tank.

The same could be said for the small tasks that you do day-in and day-out.

Think about how some fucking clueless executives can’t build a Powerpoint deck or put together an Excel spreadsheet or even more simply, auto-collate hard copy printouts.

If it wasn’t for your support, the shit wouldn’t get done and they’d be far less effective.

All of your efforts in doing the small stuff is what keeps the organization running. Don’t forget that - so, be sure to be your own best cheerleader to remind yourself how much you kick ass every day.

Reframe Your Perspective On Grunt Work

Your mindset and attitude have a big impact on how you go about doing grunt work.

If you feel that your grunt work is beneath you, then your ego is not going to allow you to do the best that you can. You’ll half-ass it and the output results will reflect that.

Don’t let this happen.

Remember when you were a kid, eating dinner at the table, and you didn’t want to eat your veggies or whatever?

Your parents told you that there were kids in the world that were dying from starvation.

As real as that was, it just didn’t connect with you at that time, right? It’s because you were too young to understand the big picture.

Well, now you’re a grown-up in the working world.

Imagine if you didn’t have a job, no income at all. And, your savings are almost depleted. The possibility of getting booted from your home is very real.

How much would your life suck?

Seriously, think about that for a minute.


Knowing that layoffs and reorgs are always a very real thing that can happen at any time will change your attitude about grunt work from one of snobbery to one of gratitude.

And gratitude is the simple little trick to triggering happiness at work which helps to keep things positive on the grunt work you’re doing.

For even more perspective, check out this 3-minute video clip montage of Discovery Channel’s Dirty Jobs.

VIDEO: Dirty Jobs - 200 Job Look Back
YOUTUBE: Discovery Channel
LENGTH: 3:27
Summary points:
  • Cleaning up any kind of shit - human sewage, animal, etc. is THE worst
  • Roadside carcass clean-up is a close second
  • We’ll take ANY kind of grunt work office job over these every time
Compared to real-world dirty jobs, doing grunt work in an office is heavenly.

It’s this kind of broader perspective that will ground you and keep your ego in check.

Bang It Out & Get ‘Er Done!

Doing office grunt work can be discouraging as fuck, but it’s a necessary part of building your skills, reputation and career.

You have to do the grunt work in order to get ahead. You will never reach your goals if you are not willing to put in the effort to do so. Plain and simple.

You can’t just go through the motions of doing grunt work either. You need to see that this kind of work is critically important for the organization - no matter how small it may seem.

It’s important that it gets done because if it’s not, things start going downhill fast.

But, that won’t happen to you.

All of the TPS reports got done, with cover sheets too!

You’re the grunt that just can’t be stopped.

‘Cuz shit gets done when it’s on your watch.

Feel Better,

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