On the Job Behavior: Dealing with Irritating Things

In every job there are irritants, sometimes things that you just can't like. That's normal, but it can make a good job a lousy one if you allow yourself to be distracted by these things. The fact is that irritating people, situations, and conditions have to be dealt with. Complaints and stress usually don't do much but make things worse.

Unless the working conditions are so unbearable that they're a real health issue, you need to adapt your mindset and working style to reduce these problems to their true sizes. Irritations amplify themselves into looking like bigger problems than they are. Their real effects are slight, but they grate on the nerves, and it's your reaction, like an allergy, that's causing the response.

Irritants and cures

There are a few classic normal causes of irritations on the job that are a lot more manageable than they might seem.

Irritating people: There's a large range of possible pests in any job. The Office Gossip, the Office Idiot, the Office Ignoramus, the Office Bigot and the Office Problem Factory are pretty usual cases. These are all excellent sources for irritation, and they can create havoc in any job. But - they have their limits:

  • Unless you're the supervisor, they're not your problem. Many supervisors are happy to get rid of them, or offload them on other sections, and in chronic cases it's just a matter of when that happens.
  • Each of these people can step over a line on the job quite easily, and most of them do. Any work-related issues can remove them. Do your job properly, and any problems are all theirs.
  • You can simply adapt your social approach. You can make sure you put some social distance between you and them. With people who are also getting on management's nerves, make it clear you don't associate with them.

Irritating working conditions: The bigger problems can be OHS issues, and the nuisances are things like badly maintained amenities. Hygiene on premises is sometimes a real irritant. You're within your rights to find these things offensive, but there are some things you should consider.

Unless management is totally apathetic, the usual situation is that the building owner or agent isn't doing their job. Management will be well aware of the OHS issues, because they are legally sensitive. They also don't want to be reminded, in the form of a complaint, about something that makes them look inept. You can shoot yourself in the foot, and achieve nothing about the situation, by creating a federal case out of something they can't fix.

That doesn't mean you should have to put up with it, but it does mean be constructive in your approach. Suggest an alternative solution. Experienced people often know a fix for situations that management might not know. Just ask if anyone's noticed the problem, raising the topic neutrally, not acting as an advocate. See if this gets the ball rolling on taking care of the issue.