75

I work as an administrator in a company with about 30 employees. In my position I have insight into many processes and I see many things my colleagues are doing wrong. This annoys me a lot and I always try to show my colleagues the right way. That's not my job, but if things aren't done right from the start, they have to be corrected later. Sometimes by me. But so far almost all my efforts to change something have been unsuccessful.

Here are a few things that I have noticed so far:

  • eMail with customer inquiries will not be answered for weeks.
  • Customer data is entered incorrectly or incompletely into our CRM database.
  • Ongoing processes are not completely documented.
  • Appointments are not communicated to colleagues in time.
  • Tasks are simply given to someone instead of the right person.
  • Colleagues sleep at work or are lazy.
  • Invoices return to us because wrong addresses were stored.
  • And many more. Believe me!

As I said, changing all this is not my job, but apparently I am the only person who is bothered by it. I have also spoken to the management, but nothing has changed. A colleague told me I shouldn't take it too seriously and ignore things. He is probably right, but I am not succeeding. Every day I have to get upset about things that I think would be self-evident and would be part of the normal work of colleagues. They just don't. It seems that I am the only one in companies who sees these problems and is disturbed by them. That is my problem. How can I learn to worry less about these things and care less about problems that I have nothing to do with?

Note: I have had tinnitus in my left ear for a few weeks now. The doctor asks me if I have stress and I say "No". I have nothing that I would call stress. My work is manageable and I have no deadlines. But maybe my attempt to solve the problems of the whole company is my stress.

  • 1
    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Jane S Feb 20 at 21:04

12 Answers 12

73

You are jumbling up at least 3 categories of problems: those you can help with, those that you should advocate for someone to do better at, and those you need to just accept and stop worrying about, because it's making you sick. Exactly which is which depends on your company, but I can take a stab at some of them.

My suggestion to you is that next time you meet one of these irritants, you ask yourself "can I fix this myself?". For example, you're in the CRM system and you see an incorrect address. I don't know how you know the correct one, but I'll believe that you do. Do you have permission to fix it? If not, you can ask for it, explaining that you can fix these little things when you see them. You can perhaps point it out while holding a returned invoice in your hand: that's likely to motivate the boss to get you the required authorization.

For emails going unanswered or appointments not getting to the person who is supposed to keep them, I doubt you can fix it. However, when you find out about it because the person calls to ask why their email hasn't been answered or the rep missed the appointment, you can report on the call to someone who is likely to care, cc-ing others along the way. Perhaps someone will change things. Perhaps someone will tell you that these appointments or emails aren't important. For example, I get emails every day from people who want to bring me new customers, or show me exciting technology that will save me money. I don't answer these and wouldn't appreciate someone in my own firm reminding me to do so. If you think you can fix it (for example, if you can set up some "form letter" answers and do a first pass on a busy person's email for them) that might be appreciated by whoever you offer it to.

When it comes to people flat out sleeping on the job or otherwise neglecting their work, if this is not new, apparently the company is managing to stay afloat despite that. As long as your paycheque clears, let it be. This is one you should let go of for your health. Some people don't care about the places they work. You do. That's great. Give them as much of your skills as you can. Your organizational skill, your observation skill, your commitment to doing things right. Be terrific at your job and as much of other people's jobs as they will let you. But don't feel that you need to save the company the salary they pay the sleeper: nobody will thank you for that and there may be a part of the story you don't know. Let go of that: it's not your burden, you have enough to do.

  • 37
    +1: If it's not your job to supervise people, then don't. You will earn enemies, not credit. – pytago Feb 18 at 8:24
  • 5
    Also, if you find you still struggle to accept the way things are done at your company, it may be time to look for a new job with a more compatible working environment. – Eric Feb 18 at 16:35
  • 4
    Or, in the words of Reinhold Niebuhr: God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. – mcalex Feb 19 at 2:50
  • Pertaining to the sleeper, you write "there may be a part of the story you don't know." That tipped me over the edge to +1. I used to sleep at work, and I just did not count it as time worked. Company did not pay me for the time spent sleeping, but they did get better work than if I had not napped. I stopped because it became inconvenient, not because there is anything wrong with it. – Aaron Feb 19 at 17:10
36

Repeat five times a day or get a coffee mug or poster with this mantra:

https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/not_my_circus,_not_my_monkeys

  • 3
    Applicable until the OP receives some employee stock. :) – miroxlav Feb 18 at 14:28
  • 5
    Dr. Codelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Software Development – ShinEmperor Feb 18 at 18:03
17

It seems that I am the only one in companies who sees these problems and is disturbed by them.

Everybody who has been active professionally for a few years has come across this type of person who knows how to fix everything. Normally, it's a problem of university graduates in their first jobs, but it's not limited to them. These are employees who believe to see what is wrong in their companies and have solutions to all its problems.

Now, don't get me wrong. There's nothing wrong with trying to improve things. The opposite is true: it should you have initiative, high standards, etc. etc. The problem is, these employees normally don't understand the existing processes well enough to understand the rationale behind them. They don't know that for example, managers receive plenty of contact requests from random people trying to sell them everything possible to them and that if they wanted to reply to them, priority tasks would need to remain undone. They don't know that the optimization of some processes would cost the company so much that a decision has been taken in the past to stay with an imperfect, but 90% cheaper process.

The things you listed - with exception of sleeping in the office maybe - sound simply incredibly common. They existed to different extents in all the offices I've ever worked in. (And honestly, I currently work more than 60h a week. If someone told me not to sleep in the office, I would tell them "Great!" and then leave after what I'm paid for - 8 h Monday to Friday).

As an admin you normally can't understand the rationale behind them. Nor is it your job to try to change them.

If you think your current employer is exceptional in terms of chaos, search for a new job.

If you want to be proactive and propose solutions, try to be understanding towards others and ask your bosses why processes look like that first. Otherwise, you risk coming across as very naive.

  • 18
    Not answering customer inquiries for "weeks" is "incredibly common"? I really don't think the OP is being naive here. Their organisation sounds like a total trainwreck quite frankly! – Lightness Races in Orbit Feb 18 at 3:23
  • 15
    Sending invoices to the wrong address is common? That would be a very large incident in many industries and likely cost someone their job... – Mars Feb 18 at 4:46
  • 4
    I had to -1 this. Your suggestion that OP "doesn't understand" the systems they're an administrator for seems completely at odds with how articulate the original question is. ...I think the most valuable part of this answer is the suggestion that in SOME of OP's examples, there might be something else going on, and they can start by asking around about why things are or aren't done the way they are. – ThunderGuppy Feb 18 at 17:04
  • @Mars, in both my last jobs I received random invoices from my employers, which I shouldn't have received and have never requested. Even more so, in both my work contracts there was a passage that I'm obliged to check invoices from the employer and point to mistakes immediately, so they assumed the possibility of mistakes themsel. The same happened to some of our cust. I live in a Western country famous for its accurateness and worked at companies famous for high-quality products. Of course what you see depends on your role. If you don't deal with fin. processes you don't see much of it. – BigMadAndy Feb 18 at 18:25
  • Mistakes happen in all work environments. We are all just humans. Humans make mistakes. Yes, we should try to reduce the number of mistakes as far as it's possible. But realistically speaking, if you don't see mistakes, it just means you don't look closely enough - not that there are none (hardly anyone speaks openly about their own mistakes). My experience is from some of the most famous global companies and I can hardly believe that it's better in small offices. – BigMadAndy Feb 18 at 18:33
9

You are apparently a perfectionist person and there's nothing wrong about it, in fact it's very likely that your colleagues (among others) appreciate you for it. But it's important for you to realize that not everyone is like this. Currently you are hoping that everybody would be as careful as you (consciously or not): that's not going to happen and that's where your stress comes from, this feeling of being powerless.

You are not powerless if you target your efforts towards things which depend on you. You already started doing it: talking to your colleagues, talking to management are in the realm of your power (if not your responsibility).

If you want, an additional step would be to focus on the processes rather than the persons: what measures can be taken to work around human mistakes? You could suggest some ideas to the management: for example, having a ticket system with automatic reminders about emails left unanswered, or introducing some form of evaluation of customer service. There's a chance that people will listen to you more carefully if you come not only with a problem but with a solution as well.

But even if this doesn't work, keep in mind that you are already doing your job "perfectly": you do your own job and additionally you help others do theirs and suggest improvements. There's simply nothing more that you could do yourself. If this is not satisfying, then direct your focus elsewhere: what would you like to improve in your personal life? Maybe you have a hobby? These are things in which you have full control, as opposed to your professional environment.

  • If the list of issues in the question is not exaggerated, then it doesn't take a perfectionist to be anguished over how things are going there. The place sounds bonkers. – hyde Feb 19 at 7:44
  • Expecting people to at least do the job they're hired to do is nothing at all perfectionist. -1 – rkeet Feb 19 at 14:44
  • 1
    @rkeet Fyi I'm answering the question which is "how to care less", OP is not asking about the quality of their work environment. Imho feeling stress due to other people mistakes, especially people who are not even under your responsibility, is a form of perfectionism. – Erwan Feb 19 at 15:03
5

It seems your company is run quite badly - the result is that nobody (except you and maybe a few others) gives a damn about what happens. In the long term, your company will hurt, but THAT IS NOT YOUR PROBLEM. It's common sense in a badly run company that you should have your CV ready, and have an eye on the job market and jump ship if you have a better opportunity, but what should you do in your job?

I would advice you to do your job so that nobody else can blame you if something goes wrong. If someone else does something wrong, count to three (or initially to ten), and while counting you say to yourself "this is a problem, but this is NOT MY problem", and then you happily let them make whatever mistake they are making.

To you, the most important person that you need to look after is YOURSELF. The stress of taking on all that is going wrong is already causing you severe health problems. Tinnitus is no joke. Go back to your doctor and tell him that you have severe stress, because you do. Stress isn't only what other people cause us, but you can produce stress yourself and you seem to do a very good job at it. You know yourself that you need to stop this.

Summary: If you see anything that you think needs your intervention, you count to ten and say to yourself "THIS IS NOT MY PROBLEM". And then you walk away. If you think this is hard, then maybe you should start a diary. Every time you see anything that you think needs your intervention, you first write it down in your diary. And then you write down what you did. And that second column should contain the word "NOTHING" and nothing else. Like "John sent invoice to the wrong address". What did you do? "NOTHING". The diary will help you to verify your progress.

(To anyone who disagrees: You are at a shitty company. They don't deserve anything from you other than you doing YOUR job, and taking their money. If you were the new CEO, you would change things, and you would have the power to change things. You are not the CEO. Trying to change things only makes you sick, so don't try).

  • On the other hand, the OP could just exaggerate the things that go wrong in any company of any size, and ignore the things that do go right. Maybe during the course of their work they more see the result of the things that go wrong and less the things that go right. – Mark Rotteveel Feb 18 at 9:26
3

I'm very similar to you in that respect. I also have a very distinct eye for seeing things and processes that are not perfect or which could be optimized.
I catch myself again and again how I get incredibly angry and complain about the not perfect things.
But with time I have learned, especially in my job, to simply accept things. My salary is by far not enough to take care of all these problems. And it's not my job, nor yours as an administrator.

There are professions whose job is to optimize but we don't have this job.
And yes, I agree with you that most people just don't see or perceive as much as we do or simply don't care.

I would like to give you this quote on your way:

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.

source: Reinhold Niebuhr - Serenity Prayer

3

Being perfectionist is a thing, the business being run badly is another. I would try to read books or seek professional help. It's normal everything is not perfect. People makes mistakes and management probably expect that you spend time to correct some of them. What if there are still too much of them, you can't even work properly? I would try speaking with management again. Before, try to measure how these mistakes impact the money in their pocket. They will listen to it.

In the end, if all of it does not work and you think your life would be simpler else where. I suppose it's be worth looking to work somewhere else where people cares about efficiency.

3

Now you described a problem and you asked a very particular question, "how do I care less about this?", and I think you have not received an in-depth how-to on how to actually care less about these things. So let me assume that you are not trying to fix these problems but to find a happy place where you are not fixing them.

So you appear to have a very "type one" personality: if something is not done "the right way" it viscerally bugs you. (Keep in mind that this personality system is deeply flawed and I'm trying to pin you down on it after reading you asking one question on the Internet, I don't really know if you map to any personality on this system and definitely not this one.) Any explanation that you come by as to why you are not fixing these things in the organization therefore needs to tie into those deeper notions about the "right way" to do things and the "wrong ways".

If that's correct then I have a perspective to suggest to you: you are trying to optimize a whole system by optimizing the parts of the system, but that is a wrong way to optimize most complex systems.

Why local efficiency is a bad goal

Let me give you an example: suppose you have a "widget" that needs to be assembled by Alice, tuned by Bob, quality-controlled by Caroline, then packaged for delivery by Doug. Let's say each of those takes 100 minutes. You make each of these people 10% better at widget delivery. It depends a little on the topology of the rest of the work, but you might be surprised that this might only cause widgets to be shipped about 2.5% faster -- one of those four fixes actually improved profits and the other three were wasted. So like imagine the QA department is just understaffed for their work, Caroline is just swamped. You made Alice and Bob faster and maybe they worked together and got the widget out in only 180 minutes, optimal given your changes, but since Caroline was swamped with work she just could not start the new work at a moment's notice, she was working on something else, and she could only start it when her other tasks were finished. Even worse: by making Alice and Bob faster, you probably get very frustrated if they are playing minesweeper with their new 10% time so you yell at them and they start producing even more work, and now Caroline is even more overloaded! Meanwhile Doug spends most of his time waiting on QA so he has developed an elaborate ritual to make it look like he's being productive when really he cannot deliver things that haven't passed QA, so he intentionally packs inefficiently so that he doesn't appear to be doing nothing. He does not improve by a further 10% beyond Caroline's 10%-faster-rate because that would just lead to the same problem as Alice and Bob, someone would yell at him for loafing around even though he cannot do his job because he is waiting on Caroline and he doesn't want someone yelling at Caroline to get him more work to do because dammit she's doing the best she can.

In fact if you spend your time trying to optimize every part of this system you are wasting your time because most parts of the system should be inefficient. I did not mistype that, I did not mean to say "shouldn't."

I work in information apps. At most of my jobs I have built software which lives on web sites and crunches numbers and helps people understand things and build things. I get to talk with systems administrators a lot. And there's something very interesting: our servers are generally very far from 100% load. They are very far from 100% memory load, very far from 100% CPU load, very far from 100% disk load, very far from 100% network load -- any sort of load, we try to stay away from. The servers shout at us when they get to "high" levels of load, where "high" might be 10% load or 25% load or some low number like that. Why? Why wouldn't we just buy cheaper crappier servers? It's not just fatigue, but that's an obvious cost -- and also true in the human dimension, if you run people at 100% load they get stressed and burnt out. But for us with servers, the main reason is latency. If my server is not loafing around doing nothing, I cannot get its attention at a moment's notice, "hey drop everything and give me this answer." And that's also true of humans. You try to keep them occupied and optimized, and then you have an urgent request and they have to delay your existing deadlines to work on those urgent requests. Optimizing them so that they are all occupied by 100% load is a really bad thing. You want (in this topology) Alice and Bob's release cadence to be determined by what Caroline will bear, and if there's more than a week's work for Caroline then you want them to slow down and stay healthy and be idle and available for the drop-anything requests. You want to shuttle the non-urgent emails to them to do when they have this free time.

So the way is not to give up your perfectionism -- that is potentially a great strength for you! Do not live any identity that is not your true identity. But you want to reconcile inefficiency with perfectionism so that you, in your perfectionism, can be comfortable with inefficiency: this is how I recommend doing it. Accept as a point of wisdom that actually an efficient system is not locally efficient and a locally efficient system collapses under random spikes of high load due to nasty latency propagation throughout. You will know one of these organizations by a criterion that a physicist-turned-management-consultant identified, "these plants seem to operate on a three-level priority system: Hot, Red Hot, and DO IT NOW!".

What do you look for instead?

Instead, you want to be trying to identify, "what is the one thing that, if we improved it, we could fulfill more orders and bring in more revenue right now?" You want to find the Caroline of your organization -- it might not be QC after all. And you want to make sure that she is living her best life. She should not be collapsing under stress. The queue of things that she needs to do should be organized and every task in there should be effortless for her to pick up. And that queue should be determining the pace for everything else happening at the organization. You should be pestering Alice and Bob, "hey, while you have this idle-time, is there anything that we can do to make life easier for Caroline over there?" and listening to their feedback. You will learn to love when Bob is sleeping at work because it lets you ask, "oh, I am happy that he feels comfortable enough here to do that, does he have something he's supposed to be doing? no? hm, I wonder why that is..." and maybe you can understand that something has changed in your organization and some new bottleneck exists.

Asking as persuasion

You need to ask questions. Ask them obsessively. And that is difficult because you have this personality of "I know what is correct." If some customer inquiries are getting "lost", you need to ask questions about "how can I make it easier for these things to not get lost? What if I set up an email address that you can forward these to, so that they get stored in an issue tracker and other people with idle time can pick up these issues?" If customer data is being entered incompletely, "what can I do to make this an easier process, so that the customers are basically entering their own data into our CRM so that you don't have to do this thing that we're obviously making mistakes on?" If appointments are not communicated to colleagues in time, "how do we make there be fewer appointments?" People set up meetings for all sorts of bad reasons, the main good reason to set up a meeting is to effectively make a decision when there are multiple stakeholders who have different ideas how it should go. How can we centralize each appointment around a decision to be made, and cancel the ones that do not revolve around a decision? How do we get the "hey I have a public statement and then I want to answer any questions anyone has" type of meetings to happen over Slack where everything discussed can be a matter of public record? And if there really are decisions that need to be made but which are known well in advance but we're not communicating that to the stakeholders who need to make that decision so they can't do their due diligence before that meeting, how can we increase the "personal factor" so that someone who needs this decision has come by their desk significantly earlier, "hey there is no meeting set for this but please let me bring to your attention that we're going to have to get these folks in a room sometime soon to hammer out this decision, we're going to want your input, I would like you to prepare some notes for whenever that meeting happens"...? Or do we need to schedule a weekly "decisionmaker meeting" which 50% of the time will amount to "ok we don't have any big decisions, great meeting everyone!" and the other 50% we will stick in all of these sorts of things?

If you think you know how things should be, the right thing for you to do is not to tell someone how they should be. It is always to ask. You are going to be a great asker of questions. "Please help me understand, why is it this way?" will be your best friend. Because if you're correct and you do have a strategy which addresses everyone's needs, then asking the right questions will cause someone else to come up with that strategy on their own. Everyone always adopts the strategy that they themselves came up with. But often you're not 100% wise -- you have the right strategy for context X, but you are actually operating in context Y, which looks superficially like context X but there is some crucial difference. Asking these questions reveals those hidden needs. "We can't do it that way because that would increase load on Caroline but Caroline is swamped with other tasks all the time."

You are uniquely poised to discover the truth and then to ask people the questions that will help them come to that truth. That is a powerful skill and it needs to be carefully deployed. It needs to especially be deployed with a lot of care about the judgments you are making about your situation.

Just to give another example, you say that people "are lazy." If the question you ask someone is "hey Phil, why are you so lazy?!" you are going to have a bad day. You just slammed a door shut that you needed to remain open. But the correct approach is to recognize that people are something like plants. If you notice a plant wilting you want to ask it, "hey, what do you need that you are not getting out of this situation, do you need more sunlight or more shade, more water or less, how do I change this environment into one where you come in every day to work and say 'yeah I love work, I come in and I know exactly how to kick ass today.'" Because people are intrinsically motivated and you just have to steer that motivation at the right thing.

Someone spends too much time answering questions on Stack Exchange (spoiler alert: it's me, right now) -- why? Probably because they have social needs that are not being met in their normal course of working here. How do we get those people to socialize with each other so that their attentions are focused back on work rather than outside of it? How do we build Eden? That is the question of good leadership.

  • really good and well thought answer. Pretty nice – undefined Feb 20 at 13:34
2

There are some useful things from body psychotherapy, they are quite basic but they can help a lot in these moments: pay attention to your breath: deep inhale and looong exhale; keep both soles on the ground; keep you hands relaxed. There are many others, and a lot of good books about it.

1

As I said, changing all this is not my job

Then pick something that is your job or impacts your job and work with your manager to create natural consequences for those who do not follow rules or good practice.

For example, if someone doesn't submit an Expense Report on time, they don't get reimbursed that pay period, even if they used a company card and you have all the charges. They'll learn pretty quickly to get it done.

0

Additional answer: Learn about your personality type

This can reveal you common patterns of your thinking and put some light from where your impulses to "care too much" come from. This can help you evaluate:

  • how to handle the cases you described
    • maybe just ignore many of them?
    • maybe agree with your supervisor on monitoring e-mail sending failures to prevent possible business disruptions
  • how should your preferred jobs look like if you find this one discomfortable
  • (bonus) how you can understand yourself and others in daily relationships

Your mindset can be a great benefit for the entire company. Compose some meaningful proposals how a few catched issue types can help the company (just avoid those which are tracking people) and approach your boss.

(For me, this test worked well, but I have no affiliation with any tests, I just went the similar path when searching a solution of my issues.)

0

Pick your battles.

Right now you see a dozen problems and you get stressed out of your skull.

Pick ONE of these problems. Fix this problem.

For the rest, the mantra is "Not MY problem". (As pointed out by several other answers)

To choose your first battle, you need to look at

  • How important is this problem, in terms of money.
  • How hard is it to fix, in terms of money.
  • How hard is it to fix, in terms of office politics.

Right, so you have chosen your battle ground. Every other problem is now an illevant distraction to be ignored.

You have decided that these problems are not part of your job. Find out whose job it actually is. Ask that person politely why this problem hasn't been solved. This is to make sure you actually understand the problem.

Help that person solve the problem. Make that person look good in the process. Do not try to claim any glory. You are not doing this for glory, you are doing this for tinnitus.

Hopefully, you will end up with one less problem.

Take a few days to bask in the glow of a job well done before picking a new problem to fix.

At some point you will end up with problems where the fix costs more than it gains. At that point, let it be. The world is an imperfect place, and we just have to live with that.

protected by Jane S Feb 20 at 21:03

Thank you for your interest in this question. Because it has attracted low-quality or spam answers that had to be removed, posting an answer now requires 10 reputation on this site (the association bonus does not count).

Would you like to answer one of these unanswered questions instead?

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.