Sometimes you have to ignore problems

Ignoring problems is a tradition as old as time and generally not the advice people give you. You’re supposed to face your problems head-on! Don’t ignore them! Solve them!

However, that’s not always something you can do. I got an email yesterday from someone who asked me not to share the details of her email, so I won’t. But, the general gist was a coworker who was doing something terrible, and (this is the important part) HR and Management were both aware, and no one seemed to care.

As long as that something horrible isn’t illegal (sexual harassment, fraud, etc.), there isn’t anything my reader can do about it.

Sometimes, managers are terrible managers. Sometimes HR stinks. And your job as an employee is to bring major problems to their attention. But, once they are aware, you can back away.

Now, if this affects your daily work, you can speak up about that. So, if the problem with your coworker is she comes in two hours later, leaving you to do the entire opening procedure on your own (an impossible task!), then you can speak up about your workload. If the problem is your coworker is sleeping with a client, well, once the boss knows, you need to ignore it. Yes, it’s unethical behavior. Yes, it should stop. But if this isn’t a licensed profession where that’s prohibited, you have to let it go and ignore it.

As someone who loves fairness, this drives me absolutely batty. Fix the problem, you stupid manager! But you can’t force your manager to do so.

Your options are either to ignore the coworker’s bad behavior and work around it as much as possible or find a new job and quit.

There are plenty of reasons to stay in a less than ideal job. Perhaps the pay is great, the hours are good, and there is free root beer in the break room. Perhaps it works best with your childcare. Perhaps you are planning to relocate in six months and don’t want to find two jobs in less than a year. Whatever your reasons are, they are fine. Just choose it and accept it. Say to yourself, “This coworker will always be a horrible human being, but I am choosing to stay in this job because…”

If the “because” is “because I can’t find another job,” then start looking. No hurry because you have a job. But don’t stop looking because you think there is nothing out there.

If you don’t want to stay, look for a new job, find one, and leave.

You can’t fix this problem. The people who can fix the problem choose not to. So, you can either ignore or leave. Trying to fix it or force managers to fix it will only increase your stress and anxiety. Don’t do it. Decide to leave or to ignore.

Image by Ben Kerckx from Pixabay

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5 thoughts on “Sometimes you have to ignore problems

  1. Whenever I’m in this situation I ask myself: What is in my control and what is not? Can I carve out a place where I can be happy? Are there trade-offs that I can make that allow me to be true to myself? Once I answer those questions, then I’m in a place of decisioning – to not stay anything or to speak up. I’ve always found that assessing the situation and then grounding myself in my values leads me in the right direction. Love this article as this scenario comes up over & over in many organizations.

  2. I used to have a colleague in my department that drove me to distraction. She was one of these people who knew how to talk a good game, but pretty much never got anything done. And what did get done was…generally done by other people that she had conned, wheedled or annoyed into doing things for her. Lots of problematic, disfunctional stuff. It got to a point where I’d hear her walking down the a hall and my blood pressure would start climbing.

    And then I had this eureka! moment where I realized that as much as the work-specific issues were a problem, what I was really upset about wasn’t so much what she was doing than how it made me feel about being at work. And that while I didn’t like her, what I really didn’t like was who I was becoming around her. So I made a conscious decision to let it go. It worked. I stopped dreading Monday morning, and stopped seeing red when I heard her shoes on the carpet.

    I don’t want to over-simplify – letting go is easier to sing than to do, but it is definitely worth trying.

  3. About 20 years ago I started a job at a large corporation. For the first four months I was quite busy. Then my workload dropped off to almost nothing. The nature of my job was that I often had almost nothing to do. I spoke to my manager (“that’s what we pay you for”), the head of HR (don’t remember what she said), and one of the Vice-Presidents, who suggested that I get involved with the Audit Committee (to volunteer). I was already doing that.
    Having almost nothing to do for months on end affected my mental health, and I believe I suffered from minor depression. I had to work 9 hours per day and had every other Friday off; the days were LONG. I read a lot of books and occasionally helped the other workers in my Department where I could. I sort of looked for another job but could not quit until I found one, because my self-employed spouse had suffered a minor stroke about 2 months after I had started this job, and he could not work for a while.
    Finally, after 2 years and 8 months, the company laid me off and gave me a few (2 or 3?) months of severance pay. It took me about 1-1/2 years to find another job.
    I think I spent more time there NOT WORKING than I spent WORKING.
    I liked the actual work, but there was not enough of it.
    Those I spoke to did not see my lack of work as a problem, until finally they did (and laid me off). When I was laid off, they split my duties among the other department members.
    A few years later, the company’s CEO (not at our location) was convicted of “cooking of the books” (money shenanigans) and was sent to prison.

  4. You’re not the only one who’s feeling this way, and you have options. You can either ignore or leave. As for your manager, make sure that it is documented in a report when you speak to them about it. We at are providing solutions for HR management, and we stand by the victim.

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