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Small solace from office irritation

HWhere are the people? Those who love their jobs have a bit of a grip. Even people who excel at their job have their share of anxiety. The office environment makes it difficult to focus; their colleagues are incredibly annoying; Their career path within the organization is unclear. There are aspects of the workplace, such as “reply-to-all” email threads and any kind of role-playing, that can’t be fully redeemed. This column is here to administer a balm of solace to some of the frequent work irritations.

Start with a common problem: interruption. You’ve muted notifications on Slack and cleared your calendar; Overture by Bach’s Cello Suite No. 1 plays; Your fingers stand above the keyboard and the idea of ​​the depth that changes the world is gradually formed in your mind. Then there’s a knock at the door, and a colleague asks if you have a minute to discuss air conditioning. By the time they were gone, that important thought and any sense of well-being were gone.

Context switching of this kind is more than annoying. A 2021 survey found that it takes people nine and a half minutes to resume a focused state of mind after switching between apps. But there is a bright side to the province. A paper by Harshad Puranik of the University of Illinois at Chicago and co-authors asked a sample of employees in America to record how often they were distracted by colleagues and to report a sense of belonging to their organizations. They found that interruption involves social interaction with colleagues that can strengthen a worker’s feelings of connection. The next time the blow comes along, remind yourself that at least you’re not alone.

And what about some of the characters that make office life so difficult? Every company has its share of management nurses: tempting bosses and demanding more credit than they deserve. Indifference is undoubtedly annoying. But sometimes it can have broader benefits.

Recent research by Wei Kai of Columbia Business School and her co-authors found that teams performed better when they had some crawlers between them. People who received better ratings from their bosses than their peers in performance reviews were rated as “upward influencers” in the study. Too many characters of this type is bad: at some point, team members will work harder vying for recognition than actually getting the work done. But since these types of personalities are willing to invest more time communicating with their managers, having a handful of them ensures that the team doesn’t become invisible to bosses. Some flattery can be beneficial for everyone.

What about the traits that workers find most annoying, and the things that might hold them back? Impostor syndrome, the belief some people have that they don’t deserve to be in positions of influence, is commonly seen as bad for individuals and organizations alike. But it can also have a positive side.

Research Basma Tawfiq Massachusetts Institute of Technology The Sloan School of Management found that people who worry about being a fraud are perceived by others as having better interpersonal skills than those who aren’t bothered by self-doubt. It may be that anxiety about a lack of competence prompts people to compensate by developing stronger relationships with others. In a world that increasingly values ​​collaboration and interpersonal skills, that shouldn’t be sniffed at.

Weaknesses can turn into advantages in other ways, too. The ideal business man might ooze confidence and charisma, for example. But not everyone fits this mold. In a recent study, Lauren Howe and Jochen Mings of the University of Zurich asked participants in an investment game who were asked about their shortcomings to allocate money to startups. They found that entrepreneurs who reveal a personal flaw, such as indecision or insecurity, are more likely to attract funding than investors who share these same characteristics. Some weaknesses should not be recognized: stupidity, for example, or narcolepsy. But imperfections can sometimes help people move forward, not hinder them.

The problem with silver linings is that they are associated with clouds. You are still being interrupted all the time. You are still surrounded by annoying colleagues. Impostor syndrome can still cause you unnecessary anxiety. Your weaknesses are still weaknesses. But there are silver linings to most things in office life, and they go beyond payroll.

Read more from Bartleby, our columnist on management and work:
The Uses and Abuses of Hype (March 2)
Inconspicuous efficiency brings disadvantages as well as benefits (February 23)
Why It’s Time to Film Your Coffee Meetings at Work (February 16)

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