How do you feel at work when people don’t replace the shared milk? Or don’t clean up after using the staff kitchen? How do you feel when your colleague hums or constantly sniffs all day? Do you secretly rage at those who take loud personal calls near your desk? For many, simply just reading this, is enough to bring resentment, anger and irritation bubbling to the surface…And you’re not alone. These are just some of the common everyday office activities that cause irritation and anger in offices all over the UK.

Last week we spoke about comfort factors in the workplace and how these can impact your ability to have a good day at work. But what about the factors caused by colleagues, the work environment, technology, processes and procedures? All of these too have been shown to have a massive impact on a working day and your happiness. Our latest report explores the nature of people, expectations and misunderstandings that occur when workers evaluate what it means to ‘Have A Good Day At Work’.

But is it really the inconsiderate behaviour, uncomfortable work environment or frustrating systems and tech that cause the bad day, or is it simply a clash of ideals and values?

It is well known that conflict occurs when there is a clash in values. This is the number one principle in people management and conflict resolution. Values are a set of beliefs and systems that people live and make judgements by.  You can probably identify your own set of workplace values very quickly when thinking about the things that annoy you in the office, like the ones given above.

For example, two colleagues may not get along. It may not be that anyone is displaying poor behaviour, but simply that the irritated colleague feels as though their colleague is not meeting a set of expected behaviours, causing feeling of resentment, disrespect and irritation.  

How an organisation minimises or manages these irritants is also likely to impact how people feel about their day. When asked ‘did you have a good day at work today?’, when we say ‘no’, we may often be trying to express a feeling of being unsupported by others or frustrated by an inability to tackle issues. 

Why do we feel this way?

What are the reasons we get bothered by things at work?

Not feeling valued or considered as a co-worker – If someone is noisy or messy, not only is it a distraction, but also a sign that a colleague is not considerate of the impact they are having on those around them. That’s probably one of the reasons people get so irritated by inconsiderate behaviour, at some levels it counters core values. 

Negative information bias – We are more likely to be annoyed by things if we are already in a negative space at work. Things exacerbate as pressure and resentment increase.

Not enough rest and refocus – We are more distractible if we concentrate without a rest or change in gear for too long, or if we are tired.  How we learn to manage our own energy and structure our day to maximise energy levels will reduce the impacts of any office issues.

The power of conversations – While being polite, or quietly seething about issues may seem proper – it exacerbates the issues and focuses more energy on the issue than is required. This creates an environment where people become less tolerant of others. The solution may be as simple as an open conversation between trusted colleagues to help actually resolve the issues and create a shared set of accepted values and behaviours.

Our culture – An interesting idea – does the UK and other developed countries sweat the small stuff too much? Do we take too much comfort for granted so that when our working lives are disrupted or compromised, do we take it too personally due to our privilege and expectations of comfort? After all, us becoming resentful and irritated by someone eating their smelly lunch too loudly does seem like a silly waste of personal energy when the working day offers enough other pressures…One for further exploration perhaps! 

For more about the factors that matter for A Good Day At Work, download our latest report.