I've worked in Software Development teams my entire career and I've come to realize the spectrum of skill-sets is utterly staggering. Over the years I've learn to manage situations caused by incompetent and lazy coworkers.

The way I handle it is to do my best and simply keep my frustrations to myself, but I find myself going home and venting my anger in the form of complaining to my family and friends, but this is not healthy to me nor my family/friends.

How have other folks found ways to handle personal stress caused by incompetent and lazy co-workers?

Optional info below:

In my younger years, I naively believed incompetent/lazy people didn't cut it in the software industry for long. I disappointingly found that preferential treatment, nepotism, and just plain self-interest on the part of managers seem to undermine this natural filtering of inept people from the software engineering industry. Thus, it seems I must learn to deal with them.

I have endless patience for people who are junior and ask numerous questions, but I don't seem to know how to handle stress caused by the incompetent and lazy people that don't apply themselves.

Personal definition of terms:

Incompetent: The inability to learn no matter how many times or how clear you make the topic discussed.

Lazy: The willful decision to not apply one's-self to the task at hand.

  • 7
    You have just described great programmers threevirtues.com Mar 29, 2017 at 19:03
  • 2
    I was endlessly clicking the up-vote button as I was reading your post. Sadly, you only get the one vote.
    – AndreiROM
    Mar 29, 2017 at 19:07
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    I don't really know how this is a workplace issue. You make it sound like it's a problem related to stress management rather than actual interactions with colleagues - can you clarify what you are trying to ask here? It really reads like a rant against coworkers more than anything else.
    – enderland
    Mar 29, 2017 at 19:13
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    "I must learn to deal with them." Yes. This also applies to life in general (and your family/friends most likely employ that to deal with your kvetching). Also, the actual definition of "incompetent": not having or showing the necessary skills to do something successfully. I often find that people with a very inflated sense of selfimportance/worth actually contribute very little to their environment. Complaining to family and having workplace behavior that requires adaptation are indicting features, IMO.
    – sleddog
    Mar 30, 2017 at 16:00
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    @ConfusedDeer The grandiose language you use to describe the unworthiness of other people while never referencing any of your own shortcomings definitely paints a picture. Everyone else is lazy, incompetent, or idiotic, but you (apparently) are endlessly patient. A healthy dose of introspection would go a long way to see if you really hold yourself to the same standards you hold all these "idiots" who rely on nepotism to remain in the industry.
    – sleddog
    Mar 31, 2017 at 14:00

6 Answers 6


There is one universal solution to 90% of the problems you encounter in the work place.


I'm serious. People are not going to change. IT is like any other industry, you get the good, the bad, the ugly and the strange.

You can control none of this. The only thing you can control is your reactions to what is going on around you. You don't know why these people were hired, you won't control whether they grow and expand or remain where they are or drift off or get fired.

This is beyond your control. Don't waste your time with it. If you don't waste your time, it won't stress you. Do your work. Do what it takes to document things so that you are not blamed for another's incompetence, and then move on. That is the only way to deal with the stress. You don't get caught up in the things you do not control. That, and affirming your own existence and being satisfied with your own work.

"If we affirm one moment, we thus affirm not only ourselves but all existence. For nothing is self-sufficient, neither in us ourselves nor in things; and if our soul has trembled with happiness and sounded like a harp string just once, all eternity was needed to produce this one event—and in this single moment of affirmation all eternity was called good, redeemed, justified, and affirmed." — Friedrich Nietzsche

  • 8
    foreach (Reader r in AllReading) { upVote++; }
    – AndreiROM
    Mar 29, 2017 at 19:11
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    @RichardU I really enjoyed your profile. Specially, "The facts do not care about your feelings." Wish I could up-vote profiles. I'm going to have to read some of Friedrich Nietzsche's work. Any you would recommend?
    – user32685
    Mar 29, 2017 at 19:33
  • @ConfusedDeer "Thus spoke Zarathustra" and "Beyond good and Evil" are two great works. The saddest irony of the man was that his works were taken and twisted by the Nazis. He despised them. Specifically the concept of the "Ubermensch" which was meant to mean a superior state of being, not a master race. Very insightful reading if you remember that one point. Mar 29, 2017 at 20:26
  • Yeah, I was just gonna post a "check your ego at the door" answer, this one is so much better. Apr 1, 2017 at 3:28
  • @NZKshatriya So many people manufacture their own stress. Apr 3, 2017 at 13:41

The way I'm managing this at my current job is by turning my anger into satisfaction.

Every time I place my hands on bad code, I try to leave it into a better shape, or at least leave a few TODOs and comments with tips and tricks for those that will come after me.

Will they keep writing bad code and ask dumb things? Probably.
Will I keep fixing things as much as I can? Sure.

After a couple of years you will look at your codebase and feel great at how much it improved with your efforts.

Don't wait for change, be the change.

  • They call this the Boy Scout Rule and I agree it's good practice. Sometimes your workplace may see this as a waste of time so there's a balance to strike. But probably try and avoid working for places like that.
    – Michael
    Mar 30, 2017 at 15:02
  • There are times for this, but also bear in mind that touching things unrelated to the problem you are solving means that then you need to chose between either creating messy omnibus commits, or in order to create proper single-purpose commits, you need to create extra commits for these unrelated changes. Sometimes it is indeed worth preceding your intended changes with an omnibus commit making trivial cleanups you found. But please don't intermix cleanup with purposeful change; especially don't refactor unrelated mechanisms in the same commit where you introduce an important change. Mar 29, 2019 at 16:05

Gotta get some perspective on what matters. If incompetent, lazy and/or stupid people stress you out that much, you're going to be dead at a very early age, because people who fit that description comprise the vast majority of all societies.

Also, realize that "not doing things exactly as I would or want them to be done, catering to my own timeframes and desire" is not necessarily being lazy or stupid. Do you cater to their wants the same way you want them to cater to yours?

It could very well be that you are simply surrounded by complete losers and idiots. Make sure, if you're going to stress yourself to an early grave, that it's really over them being lazy and/or incompetent, and not a case of you having a very self-centered life view.


While I agree with some of the other answers that, yes this is beyond your control, and yes you are best off just focusing on your own work, that doesn't take your stress away.

My advice is this - limit yourself to specific time when you vent that stress to your friends and family. My husband and I complain to each other about work for one hour only. Rather than bottling up my anger and taking it out on him, I explain my problems. He does the same and we sympathize with each other. It's bad to bring your work problems home, but if you can't help it because it's that bad, put boundaries on it. You may even get a fresh perspective on things.

  • This is probably the most realistic answer I've gotten.
    – user32685
    Mar 31, 2017 at 16:43

The only "handling" that you're going to be able to do is with yourself. I've been in the same situation as you for a while with a peer. Let's call him Ted.

Ted and I have the same title. In the time I've been around, I've had few shortages of work, but Ted has had a major shortage of work. Management is aware (and there's nothing I can do). When Ted gets an assignment, Ted trips up on basic, basic tasks, and his solution is to annoy everyone else until someone helps him solve his issue. At times, when others ask about the status of his work, he's thrown my name in the middle of things. That's a BIG issue for me, because I don't report to him!! Then when the work's done, Ted goes back to his pattern of web surfing most of the day.

He really hasn't taken advantage of all that free time to actually learn how to do the job when duty calls. So when the time comes to put his nose to the grindstone, he panics. I say, "not my circus, not my monkeys!"

My approach is that if Ted's asking me info that only is available in our environment, I'm glad to help. But MOST of the time Ted is asking me for anything, my response is "GOOGLE!" I've even had to spell this out in writing via e-mail, and even CC'd this to the boss.

You have to be firm with your boundaries, or people like Ted will wear you out with their neediness.


Perhaps you are incorrect about the people's habits and personalities around you. I find most people aren't lazy, and many have not been trained correctly. If you can take that person and perhaps mentor to them, would it help your situation and relationship? You can never really draw conclusions about people until you know their background and find out why they are the way they are.

Also, many times when people complain, it's true they have the same faults they complain about.....look deeply within yourself and review your own flaws. Maybe there is work to be done there also.

At any rate, do the best you can with what you have and cancel out the negative. That's the only way to live without stress from the world around you.

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