Jeffrey Saltzman's Blog

Enhancing Organizational Performance

Pssst…Can I Annoy You for a Second?

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You might be surprised to find out that there has been very little research done on what causes people to be annoyed. Fearful, happy, sad, trusting, and surprised you can find, annoyed, not so much. There would seem to be an unending treasure trove of behaviors these days that could be construed as annoying or perhaps worse, as I think as a society we are rapidly experiencing a dramatic rise in annoying behaviors. So there really is no shortage of possibilities for study. Being annoyed at something at work doesn’t rise to the level of “I’ll quit over this”, but does make you feel like shouting “give me a break!”

While it was not scientific at all, I asked some of my colleagues to list off some of the things that organizations and bosses do that annoy them. I began to compile a list and categorize them. Here are just a few of the one’s that popped out for me, some of which I would quit over.

About the Boss:

  • Being asked to write up your own performance appraisal.
  • Not being able to leave work before the boss does.
  • The boss having to be the last one to always get to a meeting.

About your Computer:

  • Having to get your 5 year old wheezing computer repaired for the third time.
  • Being 3 versions of Office behind the rest of the world.
  • Having to lug around a monster old fashioned laptop that weighs a ton so the company can save some money, but the boss gets the latest lightweight technical marvel.

About Losing your Job:

  • Having to train your replacement in India before you get laid off.
  • Being given tips on how to save money by your firm just before your are:
    • Laid off
    • Told that salaries have been frozen
    • Find out that there will be no 401k match
    • Find out that the health care plan is now 100% employee funded.
    • Being told you been laid off in a horrendous fashion (email notification, mass meetings), or when very vulnerable people are laid off (e.g. someone who is 7 months pregnant, or an older worker).
    • Finding out that management receives large bonuses or raises after the layoff for “making their numbers”.

About Finding Another Job:

  • Selection procedures that take into account characteristics that have nothing to do with the job.
    • Such as nepotism
    • Or political affiliation, age, gender, or ethnicity.
    • Hearing talking heads on TV who make pronouncements regarding how to find another job.

About Service:

  • Having a tiered approach to a help desk where the first person you talk to can’t actually help you.
  • Having automated inquiry/information systems that require you to work through endless levels of menus to either:
    • Talk to a person who can’t actually help you or
    • Find out that the office is now closed.
    • Finding out that the mechanic noticed what just broke on your car during your last visit but you did not mention it or fix it since it was not on the repair order.

Joe Palca has recently written a book called “Annoying: The Science of What Bugs Us”. He states that annoying things have some common characteristics. Among them are the activity has to be unpleasant, but not deadly (like nails on a chalkboard). Second is has to be unpredictable (like someone answering their cell phone and taking loudly at the next table in the restaurant) and third it is of uncertain duration (the cell phone conversation seems to go on and on). In other words an unpredictable, unpleasant event that you are not sure how long it will last.  While that seems to make sense, it does seem to leave out quite a few of what people say annoyed them above.

My personal pet peeve is when I am traveling and am jammed into a seat on a plane and the person in front of me thinks it is perfectly ok to recline their seat. Not only do they crush my PC, but the seat can get so tight that I can’t even get out of it. Given how concerned the airlines are about keeping the aisle cleared for safety reasons how can they possibly allow people to recline a seat that prevents those behind them to get out of their own seat?   …Really Annoying….

Anyway, I don’t want to bug you, but if want to add to the list I would be happy to know what annoys you, at work or otherwise.

Written by Jeffrey M. Saltzman

December 6, 2011 at 6:18 pm

Posted in Human Behavior, Humor

One Response

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  1. Hi!
    I like how you mention as a society, annoying behaviors are rapidly increasing…. I find that statement to be true…. I could write a long long list of the behaviors that I find annoying… To name a couple – people who do not return shopping carts to the cart return, yet get upset when someone else does it and that cart turns into a runaway cart, which hits their car…. I, for one, always return my cart, even with a toddler in tow.
    The other thing is people texting while they driving…Talking on the phone while driving is dangerous, yet not as dangerous as texting. I have seen people do this and it seems as if to them, driving has become the secondary action to texting… ???

    Carolyn R

    December 10, 2011 at 4:26 pm


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