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What's Bugging You?

Five Tips for Overcoming Annoyance



Especially as we get into the heart of the holiday season, when year-end workloads are plenty full, the weariness of the wintry dark has set in, and the frenzy and extra stress of what is supposed to be a joyous season but it so often full of noisy nonsense has set in, it’s possible that little things are getting under our skin. And even outside of the holiday season sometimes the things that other people do or don’t do, or the things that happen inside or outside of work, just really start to bug us.

You’ve heard me say time and time again, we spend too much time at work to be miserable there. If you find that something is bugging you, it’s important that you do something about it before that little bug becomes something bigger, darker, and more joy robbing. But how? Here are five tips for overcoming annoyance.


1. Think.

contemplating-businesswoman-sitting-front-laptop-office-1Now really and truly, when something is bugging me, I know it’s because it’s getting to my emotions or my heart. There’s something that is irritating or annoying or frustrating or even hurtful. But, those emotions are often felt first with our heart.

When you start to become aware that something is bugging you, I think the best thing to do is to stop and think about it. Maybe it’s bugging you in a way that makes it hard to be nice to that person. Maybe this thing has made it so it’s hard to find positivity at work. Maybe it has made it hard to want to work on that project or task.

Sometimes our heart leads us astray when we are led by our emotions. If we aren’t careful, we might lose our ability to rationally think through things and ditch our viewpoints to consider other angles, which can make a situation feel less ‘bugging’. So, I invite you, at the moment you discover that something is bugging you, to stop and approach it with a really analytical sense. Don’t abandon your emotions of course; our feelings are our feelings. They are real, and they are valid. But, when something is bugging us, we are better suited to finding the source of the frustration rather than being carried away by the emotion of the frustration.


2. Own Your Piece.

Frequently what annoys us about others are the flaws we see in ourselves. If that’s not the case, it may be that we are bothered by something that we have the ability to control or do something about. For example, maybe I’m annoyed because one of my colleagues leaves their dirty dishes in the sink. Maybe I’m annoyed because I was working on a group project and I felt like my contributions were more than necessary and my credit is not aligned with the work I put in. I may be annoyed by the distracting noises or chatter of someone else. I may be irritated with someone else’s relationship with time as it pertains with meetings or deadlines.

young-man-looking-through-spyglass-1But in all of these types of situations, I need to own my piece. While I may not have the ability to stop someone from doing the thing that annoys me, I do have the ability to choose my response to it. It’s possible that I’m looking at the situation through my lens, but I haven’t taken the time to view the situation through someone else’s lens. It’s possible that in my annoyance, I am tuned in to the ever-present WII FM (What’s In It For Me). It’s possible that I’m irritated because I haven’t given a little grace. It’s possible that I am applying my own standards to others without telling them what the standards are.

The only way to move forward with less annoyance is to own your piece. If I am allowing myself to be irritated or bugged, then I own some piece of it.


3. Make an Adjustment.

someone-s-hand-holding-spannerI would actually pose that we shouldn’t just make an adjustment to ourselves or our thoughts. We should make an adjustment out loud. We should intentionally, deliberately, and audibly state the change or adjustment that we are making, as well as the expectations we now have. For example:

  • I am moving my workspace closer to the inside wall so that I don’t feel the drafts from the window.
  • I am choosing to add headphones to my worktime from 10-12 everyday so that I don’t hear the tapping of my neighbor’s pen.
  • I am choosing to learn more information so that I can be better informed about the big picture.


4. Ask for Help.

close-up-green-button-with-word-help-black-keyboard-creative-background-copy-space-concept-quick-help-magic-button-mutual-assistance-1Many times, we cannot solve the source of what’s bugging us on our own. Sometimes, admittedly, we can, but sometimes we need help. We need permission to move our workspace. We need someone else to engage in conversation about deadlines. We need someone else to lower their voice during working windows. We need someone else to explain their actions. When you find yourself in a situation where something is bugging you and you don’t have full ownership of it, I argue that we need to ask for help.

Perhaps you go straight to the source of whoever it is that has the closest tie to the ‘bug’. You also could go to the individual with the most ability to help- a leader or an advisor. I believe that when something is bugging us and we don’t have the ability to completely remedy the situation, then we need to speak up and ask for help. Once we have identified that something is bugging us, we’ve thought about it and found the source of it, we’ve owned our own piece and adjusted for what we could, any moment that we don’t ask for help but instead let the frustration fester, is just another example of us choosing to co-create an environment that’s annoying or bugging to ourselves. That seems counter-productive for a positive work environment.


5. “Catch” the Changes.

When something has bugged us for some amount of time, it may take us a fairly long time to forget our discomfort. Some of us have memories like elephants, and we will retain our hurt feelings for a really, really long time, if allowed to. Some of us are so consumed by the source of irritation that we cannot see or hear anything else.

close-up-baseball-gloveWhen we’ve committed to solving the problem, and we’ve asked for help and done our own piece, the step we have to take next is to catch the next new. We must catch the changes. We must be aware of when something happens that is in line with better; that we see it, we celebrate it, and we use it chip away at our irritation.

So, for that irritating colleague that has a habit of showing up five minutes late, when you see them making an effort to be on time because of what you said, acknowledge their punctuality and celebrate it. When we are looking for examples of the bugging factor that is being addressed, we will find them. But, when we seek out examples of the other person letting us down or searching for evidence of failure, we will certainly find them. Look for examples of better. Celebrate what you find and keep moving forward.

We used to feel like our bosses were looking to just catch us doing something wrong and scold us for that. But what we need to be doing is collectively catching each other doing good things. We need to catch each other doing the improved things, or the less annoying things that we’re after. When you’re willing to look for it, and you start actively looking for it, you will see it.

So, there you have it, 5 tips to deal with things that are bugging you. Try them (in order) and let us know how it goes!

Sinikka headshot 2017

About the Author

Sinikka Waugh

Sinikka Waugh is a recognized leader in understanding people and in adapting tools, techniques, and processes to meet the demands of the situation at hand. Since 2006, Sinikka has provided compassionate leadership in transformation initiatives. When she isn’t in front of a class, she enjoys putting her background in English and French Literature to work, by writing blogs about the subjects she teaches every day.

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