Employment Claims

Obsessions With Workplace Unfairness and Injustice-the Frustrations for Advisor and Employee

One of the saddest, most frustrating situations I encounter on a frequent basis has to do with obsession. I regularly meet employees who have what appears to be an obsession with a perceived injustice in the workplace.

The sense of grievance, the sense of being wronged and the injustice felt as a consequence can be all consuming and prevent the employee from getting over the issue, putting it in context, putting it behind them and moving on.

I must tell them that life is not fair sometimes, that the goalposts move, the rules change, and there are no guarantees.

But I simply cannot get through to them. They simply won’t accept this and cannot get over it.

And I accept that now, I accept that in many cases this obsession is bordering on mental illness and health.

I am certain that there is a medical term for what I am trying to describe.

This medical term might have a fancy name, might sound very serious but the fundamental fact is this: the obsession with a relatively minor matter in the overall context of a life or a career is unhealthy and exceedingly difficult to deal with.

Difficult for the employee and difficult for me as an employment law advisor trying to help with an employment problem.

I have little knowledge of psychiatric conditions or the best treatments for the various illnesses that overbear a person’s mind from time to time.

But I do know that a relentless, all consuming preoccupation with a ‘wrong’ that the employee has suffered is unhealthy and harmful.

So, what type of things am I referring to?

Let me give you a couple of examples.

An employee who is dismissed is understandably shocked taken aback.

Losing your job can have tremendously serious consequences such as loss of income, inability to pay a mortgage, inability to provide for one’s family, loss of status, loss of self esteem, and so forth. This is a significant life event that can leave long term psychological and emotional scarring.

I recognise and understand this.

This is not what I am talking about.

What I am referring to is the employee who has been correctly subjected to a disciplinary procedure and has received some sanction but simply cannot accept it. He becomes obsessive about the verbal or written warning placed on his file, but which almost certainly disappear off after 6 months and will not rest until it is removed and he gets an apology.

Or the girl who goes for a promotion in her workplace but is unsuccessful and a colleague and rival is appointed to the position instead. The colleague may have a perfectly valid claim to the position but my client cannot see this. She can only see the long hard hours she has put into her career and education, the late nights and overtime, the extra courses and qualifications.

And she simply cannot accept that on the day of the interview the colleague may have just done a better interview or clicked with the particular make up of the interview panel on that particular day.

I could give you countless examples of what most of us would see as relatively minor setbacks, and nothing more.

And yet the employee is looking to go to the WRC, to the Labour Court, to the Civil Courts, to Europe if necessary, to right the wrong.

Sometimes you just must accept that life isn’t fair, ‘stuff’ happens, and how you respond to setbacks and inequalities is entirely a choice you can make.


This is not a trivial matter and is one I encounter on a weekly basis. If you have a loved one who appears to suffer from this problem you need to know it is not unique.

Employment Claims

Warning for Employees: Don’t Let an Unhealthy Obsession Cost You Your Job

It’s an easy mistake to make.

It happens the best of us.

Lately, I have come across quite a few instances of this problem when speaking with employees about their issues.

And it saddens and frustrates me.

Let me explain, shall I?

All of us know people who rub us up the wrong way. It may be intentional or completely unintentional but there is one or two people out there who just really wind us up.

When it’s in the workplace, though, this can be a real problem. Especially if the other person is your supervisor or manager.

And the danger you need to guard against is letting this become an obsession for you. Yes, obsession. I have seen it too many times in the last year or so, and it is really frustrating.

I have seen perfectly rational, intelligent, hardworking employees who have come to me for advice. After speaking with them for a little while and unpacking the issues, it often comes down to one individual in the workplace with whom they have an issue.

The problem, though, is they really let it get in on them. To the point of obsession. To the point where the situation is actually having an adverse impact on the employee’s health.

And they are thinking of quitting their job.

What frustrates me most is that they cannot seem to step back from the nitty gritty of the situation and look at their “problem” from a slight distance away.

If they could only do this they would see that they are putting far too much importance on what the manager or supervisor or colleague says or does. They see every interaction as a personal attack on them, their opinion, their integrity, their sense of self.

What’s really happening in a lot of the situations that I have encountered is quite simple: the employee who has come to me has allowed a situation to develop where they have created a massive big mountain of a problem when, in reality, it is only a molehill.

And the hardest part for me? It is incredibly difficult to get them to see this.

And the problem then?

The employee will either overreact or basically talk themselves out of a job and quit a perfectly good job that they like.

Rocky, the boxer

Many years ago we had a lovely boxer dog called “Rocky”. She spent her days spreadeagled on “her” sofa in our kitchen.

But when Tom O’Shea (not his real name) set foot on our property within 80 yards of the house Rocky would jump up off the sofa, growl, bark, and the hair would stand on her back.

We never knew why Rocky reacted like this, but we suspect Tom may have given her a kick some time in her past. And she never forgot.

I am always reminded of Rocky when I speak with these employees because they too react like Rocky when they come into contact with the other colleague.

The difference, however, is the employee is human and can choose how to react; Rocky on the other hand had less sophisticated tools at her disposal. And she just growled.

Viktor E. Frankl

I think, too, of Viktor E. Frankl.

Frankl was a prominent Viennese psychiatrist during the Nazi’s rise to power and was Jewish. Frankl and his family were packed off to concentration camps and he saw his entire family, incluing his pregant wife and children going to the gas chamber

Frankl spent time in 3 concentration camps including Auschwitz and Buchenwald.

But Frankl made an important observation, one which led him to write a bestselling book in later years, “Man’s Search for Meaning”.

His observation was that the people who did best and survived the camps where those people who gave support and their last piece of bread to others. These were people who, despite their circumstances, chose how they reacted to their circumstances.

They did not let their circumstances dictate how they acted or reacted or thought.

They chose.

And Frankl observed that everything can be taken away from you, apart from your ability to choose how you will react in any given situation.

This is something that each individual can choose.

If you are an employee with a bete noire, a nemesis, someone who winds you up so bad that you are making yourself ill and considering walking away from your job, think about Viktor Frankl.

Think about the power to choose how you will react, and don’t give the other person who winds you up the power to compel you to react like Rocky, our much loved boxer dog.

Try to retain perspective on the issue, and look at it from a distance.

I know that’s not easy, but getting the opinion of others might help and prevent you from overreacting in a situation which has simply lost its perspective for you.