People Divulge The Exact Moment They Realized That Hard Work Doesn't Always Pay Off
Photo by Marten Bjork on Unsplash

There's something very sobering about the moment you realize that it's not necessarily hard work that gets you into the door but connections themselves. It is truly not about what you know but who you know, and this can create significant tension because the lower classes don't have the privilege of making connections (such as through interning) when they have to worry about keeping a roof over their heads.

"Hard work" can also come with consequences: You might be doing a good job only to be slammed with more work because you've developed a reputation as a "work horse," a situation that can easily lead to burn out. (I''ve been there myself.)

After Redditor nannygal3 asked the online community, "When did you realize that hard work doesn't always pay off?" people shared their observations.

"When they reward you..."

When they reward you for getting your work done well by giving you everyone else's work to do.

Pretty much every job I've had.


"Those performance based raises..."

Easily retail. Those performance-based raises are deliberately rigged to not give people the best raises. I only really understood how much when I became a manager and was overruled on how much to give my employees a raise when I gave them a 5/5.

I was told, and I quote, "No one is a 5/5"

She came in whenever we called. Stayed late whenever we needed. Was the epitome of the perfect employee and was well-loved by everyone that shopped there.

They changed her evaluation from a 5/5 which was I believe a 50ish cent raise (still not enough) to a 3/5 which was a 10 cent raise.

She quit a few weeks after I told her and no one we've hired has been half as productive as she was.


"I declined the offer..."

Worked this office job for 9 years, ever since I turned 16. They kept giving me responsibilities, never any pay raise beyond the minimum they had to, all the while telling me how I was indispensible. Then Covid hit and they laid off all my coworkers. They told me I could stay, but for less hours than before and definitely no payraise -- just more responsibilities, either working from home or in an empty office. I declined the offer and quit right then and there. Felt pretty cheated though.


"Go above and beyond..."

By being taken advantage of repeatedly.

Go above and beyond the expectations in hopes to advance? You now have to do that advanced job with way more work for no pay increase and in less time than the people getting paid more than you.

Don't ever let an employer know you're capable or willing to do significantly more work than anyone else for the same pay. If an opening arises and you have been consistent, you're more likely to get the position than someone who does twice the work you do for the same pay just because you "follow the book" more.


"There wasn't one particular moment..."

There wasn't one particular moment for me, but the saying "It's better to be lucky than good." is oh so true at times. Sure working hard helps, but being at the right place at the right time is often overlooked by those that purely equate hard work with success.


"My living situation..."

I was working retail overnight and I worked my butt off (partly to keep from getting tired).

My living situation started falling apart and I had nowhere to go if I had to move, so I was very stressed. My "fun" boss who everyone loved came over to ask why I wasn't working as hard as usual.

I told him I was possibly a week from being homeless, and he just kept smiling and repeating the phrase "You're usually my superstar. I need you to be my superstar, buddy."

My hard work wasn't valued at all, this boss only cared that I'd been making him look good by accomplishing so much. No one at the store actually cared about me as a person.

I've told this story here before, but the truth is I never worked hard again. No matter how hard a job tried to pressure me that something absolutely had to be done, I never worked that hard for anyone ever again.


"When I realized..."

I was probably 16. When I realized we were dirt poor and watched my dad kill himself working 12 hours a day and coming home coughing up black snot, then when he got sick and went to the hospital due to his lungs his company let him go and then fought him on unemployment.


"I've worked..."

I've worked blue-collar jobs my entire life. It's a good way to pay a mortgage and not much more. If by chance I ever find a way to retire, I'll be too broken down physically to enjoy it. There are two Moldovan guys where I work that would be billionaires if hard work made you rich.


"I graduated college..."

I graduated college in my late 30s after spending a little over a decade in the military and several years before that working s**** entry-level factory and manual labor jobs. Within 5 years of working professionally, where I sit on my @ss in front of a computer, I've easily made way more money than I have my entire life.


"Nepotism is king..."

At work. It's not about what you know; it's about who you know. Nepotism is king in a work environment and no matter how much hard work you put into a job, if the higher-ups don't like you, don't expect to move up.


"I redid a school year's worth of work..."

I redid a school year's worth of work in a few months by doing work packages (basically stapled-together stacks of paper) day in and day out at the new "special" school I was sent to for teens with mental health issues.

The teacher lost all of the work in a flood over the summer break, and graded me on my past school's performance, which was terrible as I was escaping an abuser at the time. He basically had to sit me down and tell me that I had to redo everything if I wanted to advance a grade.

I almost snapped. I was enduring a private medical issue at the time, as well as battling a turbulent home life, and I wasn't going to take it. I just quit school after I turned 16, very soon after (as that's when you legally can). I don't regret it, because that school got shut down and all credentials are basically lost. I have no proof that I quit school and no proof that I graduated (I didn't). I'm free of it. Nobody's going to ask for a diploma, anyways. I went on and educated myself at my own pace, and for my own interests. Ten years later, I don't regret it.


"I told him..."

Upper management told me that I was overpaid for my position. I told him that I do work for multiple departments and at the same time outperform everyone in my department. He just told me that it was expected that I do what is asked of me. I just told him to have all the other departments stop coming to me and go to others. Didn't work. Still stuck here.


"When I would try to solve..."

When I would try to solve complex problems at work by experimenting and my boss would criticize my work and make me feel embarrassed for trying, rather than give me constructive feedback, encouragement, and a path to move forward. I started hiding my problem-solving from her and would ask coworkers for advice when she couldn't see. Best job I ever quit. I'm now doing almost the same job at a different company for a good chunk more money and a better boss.


"I saved a ton of time..."

The one that always sticks out is this one university course I took. Everyone taking it was told by older students (small fairly tight-knit program) that this prof always has an 80% class average, always. I think the prof might have told us in the first lecture.

Me being okay with an easy 80% grade decided, f--- it I'll have some fun, chill with the lab reports and try to stick some jokes into my lab procedure submissions. We always had to submit our procedures before performing our experiments. Without fail the submissions came back with a -2, such and such missing. I found it hilarious, especially as once my assignment came back with "missing warning for hotplate" written directly under the hotplate warning. I laughed and showed the TA, he laughed, I think he fixed it.

But while I was phoning it in and playing my profs expectations my friends, most of whom were smarter than me and all of whom were determined to do their best in every class, were killing themselves trying to figure out how to get their reports to be perfect or better and to find every possible way to scrape better grades. This was not advanced lab work, it was basic, and they dumped a ton of time, during a rough semester, into beating that damn average.

End of semester rolls around and dirtbag me rides the top of that 80% bell curve, but so did a bunch of smarter people who wouldn't accept a lower grade, and frankly put the time and effort in to deserve better.

I saved a ton of time to put into my other more challenging classes, but I watched a bunch of brilliant dedicated students get devastated every week because some old tenured prof liked their consistent average.


"Girlfriend worked super hard..."

Girlfriend worked super hard on writing a research paper on how public health agencies could effectively distribute covid vaccines. Her org decided to nix it when they decided that the governor might not like the message.


"When I watched..."

When I watched good employee after good employee get fired for petty crap or quit because they couldn't take it anymore while the bad employees who kissed the right asses continued to get promoted and are still working at my company.


"I've had experience..."

I've had experience working for small businesses and megacorps. Both made me realize the people at the top do the least amount of work, but they get paid the most (because they have the most on the line or whatever) and I'd never be one of them. I couldn't be one of them, because I can't take advantage of people.


"I watched this one video..."

I watched this one video on Youtube on how succesfull people are by chance and luck. Not really because of hard work.


"That should have been enough..."

I worked for Walmart. That should have been enough for me to realize trying and being attentive were things to crush. I went into the bathroom to cry my frustrations, only to find other associates doing the same.


"Even after all that..."

When I completed 88 days of rural work for a second work and holiday visa with another group of people.

We had gotten manipulated by an employer who forged paychecks that showed we made a wage of maybe $600-$700 a week, but actually paid us $0. They made us sign a contract that we would work for nothing for the 88-day contract but the paperwork would show payment so they could slip under the government's radar. This was in the middle of the rainforest, so by the time we got there, there wasn't an easy route or way to get back to a city. I got through 3 weeks of that before I convinced the group this was not going to pan out well. The company then went under and expected us to stay within the contract and maintain the business with no management. The owner turned our names into police when we left and voided the contract.

So, we go to an orchard to complete the work thinking all is over. We're manipulated there, underpaid, the paycheck mostly goes to the working hostel. 10 person dorm is $300+ a week. We all complete the work, and I'm the only one who gets the visa. Everyone else is denied because the first business name is flagged. I was there the least amount of time so I reckon I slipped through.

Even after all that and more intense wildness, some people didn't get a visa they rightfully worked for. It destroyed my soul when I watched this happen. All that hard work and sacrifice I watched and participated in was for nothing for some of my friends, and I was just lucky.