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How to handle personal stress caused by utterly incompetent and lazy co-workers?

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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 managed to adapt my in-office behavior to handle utterly incompetent and lazy people.

The way I handle it is to simply cap my anger and frustration, 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 do I handle personal stress caused by utterly incompetent and lazy co-workers?

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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 idiots 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 utterly incompetent and lazy people that don’t apply themselves.

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  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.