Silent Contributors: 20 Thankless Jobs That Make a Difference Without Applause

We live in a world where red carpets are rolled out for celebrities, athletes make headlines with every play, and CEOs get their names in bold letters on the covers of magazines. But what about the rest of the folks who keep the world running, the ones who don’t have spotlights shining on them? They’re the backbone of our society, yet people don’t appreciate them enough.

One Redditor asked, “What’s the most thankless job?” This thread received insights from many users, and we have compiled the top professions for you.

1. Cleaners

young housewife cleaning on white.
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Cleaners are the true masters of multitasking. They juggle a gazillion things at once- vacuuming, dusting, wiping, and emptying trash cans, all while trying to avoid tripping over your kid’s toy truck left in the hallway.

A discerning Reddit user commented, “Basically, anything that involves cleaning stuff up. Janitors, garbage men, dishwashers in restaurants, etc.”

Another person pitched in to say, “That’s why I treat them with the utmost respect at my work. Any extra food, etc., from meetings is always going to the custodians.”

2. Referee

man wearing red tshirt looking upset
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The thing is, being a ref means you’re bound to be the villain in someone’s story. Your job is to enforce the rules, and that means making calls that might break hearts, shatter dreams, or unleash the wrath of die-hard fans.

One said, “Referee. Call the game well, and you just did your job. Make a mistake, and you’re nothing short of a villain.”

Another person agreed to it and said, “You forget the part where you make the right call on a complicated rule, and you’re the villain anyways because 99% of sports fans don’t know the rules.”

3. Caretakers

Nurses assisting elderly people at retirement home
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Have you ever thought about the emotional toll caretakers face? They witness the highs and lows of life, from first steps to final goodbyes. They’re there through it all, providing a shoulder to cry on, a hand to hold, and endless support.

A Reddit user wrote, “My family hired a 24/7 caretaker for my grandpa; he was there for him for four months, up until the day he passed. The number of sleepless nights he had due to my grandpa attempting to pull out his IVs, get out of bed despite not being able to walk, etc. He was an older man himself, so I can’t imagine the amount of strength it took him. He also spent a lot of time bonding with him due to them being alone together most days.

On top of all of that, he had to deal with my family’s drama on all sides (my mom fighting with my grandma and my aunt who is overseas because they didn’t see eye to eye on the finances for everything and how to best take care of him) and basically juggle constant communication from all of them.

When my grandpa passed, I saw him cry for the first time. My parents had sent him food every day throughout those four months to make sure he wasn’t just eating hospital food, but they also gave him a hefty sum of money to thank him for everything he did. He told them that throughout the past few decades of him doing this work, he has never felt more appreciated.”

Another replied, “I was a caregiver for one year, and it was the worst job I’ve ever had. Your clients are not grateful. Sometimes, they physically abuse you. They often verbally abuse you.

(Not all of them, but for the ones that need care, it’s usually more than 50 percent) then the families can be picky and complain about how everything is done, expect more than is within your job description, resent you for being in their home… In general, I found it to be a thankless job, and I would never return to it.”

4. Hospital Housekeeper

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Hospital housekeepers often work late into the night, when the world is asleep, and dreams are the only thing keeping you company. While you’re snug in your bed, they’re making sure everything’s ready for a new day of healing.

A discerning Reddit user commented, “Hospital keepers. Without them, every hospital everywhere would halt. Sterile environment = mandatory.

I spent so much time talking with the staff at the hospital my sister recently died in, and they were surprised to be thanked. Such hard workers doing the behind-the-scenes work that makes sure the hospitals stay clean and sterile.”

Another person agreed to it and said, “Came here for this. Our housekeepers were the ones the patients trusted to complain to about their issues with staff. They didn’t want to tell the nurse for fear of being treated poorly afterward. Our housekeepers would get patient water or snacks when we were busy.

They would tell us if they were in pain or climbing out of bed. They really were behind the scenes, assuring patients and assisting nurses. We had some awesome housekeepers. I always thanked them and helped them strip beds, make beds, and carry linen bags. People forget we’re on the same team.”

5. Funeral Workers

Crying woman at funeral
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Imagine this: You’re at a funeral, paying your respects, and everything seems to run like clockwork. The flowers are arranged beautifully, the programs are printed perfectly, and the atmosphere is solemn yet comforting. But do you think about the funeral director who made it all happen? Probably not.

One said, “I’ve heard this from multiple industries. Had a friend who catered a wake or some other post-death get-together, and the responsible party looked shocked that they had to pay.”

Another replied, “Those high-pressure salespeople laugh all the way to the bank. I have zero pity for a man who pressures a poor, grieving widow into buying a $ 5,000 casket. What a racket. They’ll never get a dime of my money.”

6. Lost Luggage

Man doubting
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A Reddit user wrote, “Person that retrieves lost luggage… it’s possible that they might work for 30 years without even seeing a happy person.”

Another person pitched in to say, “In general, jobs that solely involve fixing up someone else’s mistake must be awful. Way too many people are unable to separate the source of the problem from the fact that they see that has to deal with it.”

Lost luggage retrievers deal with frustrated passengers, some of whom might not be too pleased about their vacation essentials going MIA. They have to handle complaints, soothe tempers, and play therapist all in one shift. It’s a tough job, but they do it without a cape.

7. ER Staff

Clueless Young doctor surgeon woman over isolated white background shrugs shoulders with hesitation.
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Have you ever considered the emotional toll of this gig? ER staff witness life’s extremes – joyous births, life-threatening accidents, and heartbreaking losses. They’re there when the world feels like it’s falling apart for someone. It’s emotionally taxing, but they keep on keeping on because that’s what heroes do.

Someone commented, “Emergency Room Staff. You can push yourself to exhaustion, forgoing meals, breaks, or even a chance to pee. But patients (and their families) will curse you up one side and down the other because they had to wait for the most minor of problems.”

Another person agreed to it and said, “Particularly stuff that’s out of our control. I can’t make the lab run the blood tests any faster, XR and CT can’t run the images any faster, and radiology will read the films when they are done. I’m also sorry you had to wait in the waiting room so long- there are only so many beds and people to staff those beds. We promise we’d like to get you a room to be seen as soon as possible.”

8. Nurses

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Nurses often work long and irregular hours, which can take a toll on their physical and mental well-being. Overtime is common, and sometimes, they are asked to stay beyond their scheduled shifts due to staff shortages.

A discerning Reddit user commented, “I’m a nurse on a tele unit. The abuse I take mostly from grown men acting like spoiled babies because they can’t eat after midnight so they can have an important test or procedure the next morning to save themselves. Screamed at, cussed out, threatened…

I have reached the point where I tell people they can do what they want, but they won’t get their procedure or test the next day. And they can keep playing that game until they get discharged, or we end up coding them.”

Another replied, “Nurses deal with patients who are often in pain, suffering, or experiencing life-threatening conditions. This emotional burden can be overwhelming and lead to compassion fatigue.”

Let’s not forget the hours they put in. Nurses work long shifts, sometimes back-to-back, in a job where there’s no such thing as a “normal” workday.

9. Line Cooks

smiling chef tossing up frying bell peppers with frying pan.
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One said, “As a line cook, I agree. I don’t feel dateable when I’m working as a line cook, lol. It’s pretty sad.” “The line cooks are the people that the waiters put their load on. Your tips go to the waiters and bartenders. If the line cooks are lucky, they get a cut. When a kid acts up on their booster seat, it is sent to the back so someone on the kitchen staff can clean it.”

Another person pitched in to say, “Many line cooks receive low wages, especially those starting their careers. They work in a high-pressure, fast-paced environment.”

And the pay? Well, let’s just say it’s not exactly gourmet. Line cooks often earn about as much as a night out at a fast-food joint, and that’s before you factor in the burns and scars that come with the job.

10. Dishwasher

funny lifestyle portrait of mid adult unhappy and stressed man in kitchen apron feeling frustrated and upset overwhelmed by domestic chores washing dishes tired screaming desperate in stress.
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A Reddit user wrote, “Dishwasher veteran here, I appreciate you appreciate us. We’re underrated as is.”

Another person agreed to it and said, “Been a dishwasher, line cook, and FOH. If one thing has been made abundantly clear: if the dishwasher doesn’t show up, the entire place falls apart. Dirty dishes? Tips are less. Dishwashers keep the place running.”

Let’s not forget the hours they put in. While you’re enjoying your meal and drinks, dishwashers are hard at work, often late into the night. They’re there when the kitchen is a whirlwind of activity, ensuring everything stays clean and ready for the next culinary adventure. But do they get a “good night’s sleep” in return? Not a chance.

11. Veterinarians

Happy puppy dog smiling on isolated yellow background..
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First things first, let’s give a big virtual pat on the back to the vets who dedicate their lives to keeping our furry, feathery, and scaly friends healthy.

Someone commented, “Vet med. The highest suicide rate of any industry. Poverty wages, and people scream at you constantly for not working for free.”

One shared, “Vet techs, who are essential to the industry, are starving. It makes no sense. They all get screamed at. It sounds awful.”

12. Service Workers

Stressed Waiter Coming Out Of The Kitchen
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Service workers deal with all types of customers, from the cheerful and polite to the grumpy and demanding. It’s emotionally taxing, but they do it with grace.

A discerning Reddit user commented, “Anyone who works in service”

This user added, “I’ve traveled across the country for work and have worked at times in the service industry. And it’s amazing how in some of the most HCOL cities in the US, people who own property and make mid to high six figures will post on the city subreddits both “Why do we have to tip 20%?!?!?” And then “service here is so bad” with no sense of irony.”

Another replied, “If I had a nickel for every time I’ve served a customer, said “Have a nice day” and had them just walk off like I didn’t exist, I wouldn’t have to work retail anymore. People in America really seem to think that service workers are their servants.”

13. Teachers

Portrait of black teacher giving math lesson on chalkboard.
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Teachers often work long hours, including evenings and weekends, preparing lessons, grading assignments, and attending meetings. While you’re kicking back after school or enjoying a weekend barbecue, they’re still working to ensure you have a great learning experience.

One said, “High school teacher. As a high school teacher, it definitely is the hardest job I’ve ever done.
I was a mechanic, worked in finance, underwriting, sold cars, insurance… until finally deciding the youth was more interesting to deal with day-to-day than adults. Plus vacation time. BUT.. I think middle school teachers have it worse!”

Another person agreed to it and said, “Second this, middle school is the worst. In high school things are handled differently, discipline and grades and classroom structure. Middle schoolers don’t understand empathy or the consequences of their actions. Plus, they all stink; most high schoolers have okayish hygiene.”

14. School Bus Driver

happy teen african american schoolboy looking at camera with blurred school bus on background.
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Bus drivers often earn about as much as a tank of gas for the long hours they put in, not to mention the responsibility of driving a bus full of precious cargo.

A Reddit user wrote, “School bus driver. They don’t get paid a lot, work really limited and weird hours (which inhibits their ability to get a full-time job elsewhere), and have to deal with bad kids, their parents, and school administration all at the same time.

Where’s bus driver appreciation day? Note: I’m not a bus driver, have never been a bus driver, and don’t personally know any bus driver. I just think it’s a very underappreciated job that’s critical to the education system here in the US.”

Another person agreed to it and said, “I’ve thought of driving a bus for some retirement income, but what you said hits the nail on the head. If it were JUST driving a bus from point A to B to C, it’s doable. But there’s all the OTHER stuff that makes it seriously unattractive to an active senior citizen.”

15. Warehouse Workers

Portrait of a young angry man gesticulating with his hands, looking at the camera.
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Someone commented, “Warehouse. Bust yourself all day to reach ridiculous body-destroying numbers. Talked down to by management all day. Get taken advantage of if you’re a hard worker. Never receive tips or extra pay… Then go pick up some food on the way home after a 12-hour shift and get dirty looks because you don’t tip for takeout (US).”

Another replied, “Plus, the pay isn’t always great, and job security can be iffy in this industry. Many e-warehouse workers are part-time or temporary, which means they don’t always have access to benefits or job stability.”

Warehouse workers are multitasking maestros. They’re operating forklifts, stacking pallets, using high-tech scanners, and doing it all at breakneck speed.

16. Cashiers

Cashier working in grocery store
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A discerning Reddit user commented, “Cashiers. Your average person sucks at self-checkout. There is some skill involved in fast scanning.”

Another person pitched in to say, “Come to think of it, I’ve never appreciated a cashier’s speed. But I’m more interested in the interaction I will have with them.”

Have you ever considered the emotional toll of this gig? Cashiers deal with all kinds of customers, from the friendly and patient to the impatient and grumpy.

17. Animal Control Officer

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Image Credit: Roman Samborskyi/Shutterstock.

One said, “That’s me! 👋🏻 I’m an Animal Control Officer. My role is primarily conducting animal-related investigations and tending to sick domestic/wild animals but also removing animal cadavers.”

Another person agreed to it and said, “Amen!!! I always get sad every time I pass a dead carcass of any animal on the road (even raccoons). Seemed like a rarity before the 2000s. Aside from that, I worry about other living animals that see that carcass as food and also get killed trying to eat or take the carcass away.”

Now, let’s talk about the animals they deal with. These officers aren’t just dog catchers; they handle all sorts of situations. From rescuing a kitten stuck in a tree (cue the firefighter jokes) to wrangling a hissing possum under your porch, they do it all.

18. Mental Facilities

Young beautiful frustrated angry woman.
Image Credit: B-D-S Piotr Marcinski/Shutterstock.

A Reddit user wrote, “Anyone working in psychiatric or behavioral health care facilities. We get injured, spit on, cursed at & deal with unstable and often violent people on a daily basis. We are grossly underpaid & expected to magically (and quickly) fix everything while trying to provide care for people who are unable to care for themselves.”

Another added, “Hats off to you. Social work here, so I get them when they’re released and before they go back to the hospital.”

But here’s the kicker-  they don’t get much appreciation for it. Most people don’t even think about what goes on in psychiatric and behavioral health care facilities until they or someone they know needs help.

19. Customer Service

Stressed Fast Food Employee Feeling Desperate
Image Credit: nicoletaionescu

A discerning Reddit user commented, “Any customer service job. The customer is not always right; in fact, my experience is that most of the time, they are totally wrong or just being mean because they know they won’t be called out on it.

Used to work customer service at a fast food place. Got screamed at regularly if something was out of stock, if the ice cream machine was broken, if we didn’t accept your expired bus ticket coupon, if I asked you to leave because you were drunk, and shouted random abuse at people if we had to close because of a power outage in the area….

Because I, the minimum wage employee, am responsible for all of these things, apparently.”

Another replied, “The customer is always right is a macro term. It means if your customers come in daily asking for chocolate and you only offer vanilla, you should probably start offering chocolate. It doesn’t mean someone can come in and boss you around because they’re an a-word.”

And do they get a gold star for their trouble? Nope! Most of us see them as the voice on the other end of the phone or the chat window on our screens. We don’t think about the late-night shifts, the endless calls, and the patience of saints they must have to keep their cool.

20. Motherhood

picture of happy mother with baby over white.
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First things first, being a mom is like being a superhero without the cape. You’re on call 24/7, with no sick days and no vacation time. You’re there for the 2 AM diaper changes and the “I had a nightmare” cuddle sessions.

One said, “As a mother, my kiddo is a brat sometimes, but every day, I see his growth and development. He’s 12 now. I see the fruits of my and my husband’s labor daily in my son’s achievements and even in his failures.”

Another person agreed to it and said, “I was searching for this comment because it’s the first thing that popped into my head! I’m not a mother myself, but all 4 of my closest female friends are! Seeing the things they have to do every single day, whether they’re healthy, incredibly sick, feeling down, etc., they never get a day off from motherhood. Moms really are incredible, and I admire all of you so much.”

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This article was produced and syndicated by A Dime Saved.