Help Me Change My Outlook on Outlook
September 18, 2013 10:31 AM   Subscribe

If my work email inbox changes, even slightly, my anger meter goes immediately to 10, and I spend entirely too much time being grumpy and fussing about it. How can I reframe these annoyances as opportunities for zen and personal growth, instead of a blood rage that leads to ultimately futile quests to have everything exactly the way I want it?

This is my work email, so I’m kinda stuck with it. Usually after a big change, I spend an hour or so googling the things I hate most to discover what can and can't be changed, but eventually I just learn to deal with it.

For example: This time around, Outlook Web Access is having a teensy problem with the “Send” button disappearing. I’m sure it will be resolved eventually. But c’mon! Augh! Rage!

A couple weeks ago, it was their redesign of the entire inbox that had me livid. I felt the huge text in the conversation pane was a space waster, and the fact that I couldn’t change the type size irritated me to no end. I probably spent an hour googling different capabilities of the new format and discovering what I could and couldn’t change. After a week or so getting used to the new format, I feel better about it, especially since discovering that they improved the file attachment features, and seeing some tiny changes appear that really help.

I want to deal with this like a grownup right out of the gate, instead of throwing an entitled user fit. Is there an useability mantra I can recite to assure me that everything will be okay and they wouldn't have done these things without a good reason? How do I appropriately regulate the amount of time I spend dealing with change like this?
posted by redsparkler to Computers & Internet (13 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
"Looks like the universe doesn't want me to work right now!" and push away from the desk and take a walk or get a snack or watch some three-minute video on your smartphone. When you get back to it, you'll have had time to realize it's no big deal.
posted by Etrigan at 10:38 AM on September 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

Hmm. Is it only Outlook itself that is causing you to get this angry, or are there other things that cause you to get this angry?

If it really is just Outlook, maybe cursing out Bill Gates will help (I am pretty sure he had little to nothing to do with it, but he does make for a convenient scapegoat as he DID found Microsoft, which has at least a tangential relationship to Outlook, and he has more money than God so he won't care). Or imagine him with a horn in the middle of his forehead or something else that's slightly silly.

If a lot of other things get you this angry, I'm not sure a mantra is gonna cut it....
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:47 AM on September 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

first i'd start by looking up improvements to the new version - read what the team who released it likes about it (completely absent of troubleshooting reading - stick to the positives). then, make a list of all the things that set your teeth on edge, but don't go looking for fixes. if there's anything on the list that you immediately know how to fix (due to fixing it before), fix it - otherwise, leave the list alone. for the next week every time something pops up that wasn't the way it was before, add it to the list. after the first week, order the list from most to least annoying, set a timer for how long you want to spend troubleshooting, and get started. at the end of the timer, save any pages you have open, save the list, and move on. keep fixing things once a week until the list is empty, you don't care, or they change things again and you start over.

sooner or later i think you'll find that less things go on the list.
posted by nadawi at 10:54 AM on September 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

I think it's something that you are "entitled" to get irritated about, because the changes affect your workflow and your productivity.

I never pay too much attention to software updates and changes, but the changes to Gmail (which I have used since 2004 and have totally tweaked and fine-tuned) prompted me to... complain in a Facebook status update.

On the other hand, I figured out a way to work around it, because, hey, it's just the way things are.

Word 2013 was the same thing - while the functionality of the application has not changed in 10 years, the look of it certainly has, and they have moved buttons around. I quickly figured out how to configure it to my liking.

You can't do that with Outlook Web Access, and presumably you can't set up IMAP on another client, so you're kind of stuck.

Instead of getting mad, look for solutions, perhaps? The web client is pretty nice, and of course Gmail still is awesome.
posted by KokuRyu at 11:01 AM on September 18, 2013

Every single time something on gmail or facebook changes, I hate it and then am used to it in a week or less and forget how it used to be. This is not something worth getting worked up over. You'll adjust, and more importantly it's not something you can do anything about, so anger is useless and only hurting yourself.

The level of anger you're describing does not seem normal, and if it's really affecting your life this much it is probably worth talking to a therapist about.
posted by something something at 11:04 AM on September 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Who moved your cheese? A totally inconsiderate prick with no clue at all about the cost of the wasted time that moving everybody's cheese causes.

There is absolutely no reason why you should need to deal with this kind of petty, spiteful, dedicated-follower-of-fashion BULLSHIT as if it truly were an "opportunity for personal growth". Personal growth my arse - gratuitous change for the sake of some UX consultant's failed attempt at job justification is a straight-up embuggerance. You ought to be entitled to get your work done with the tools you're comfortable with and not have to run a gauntlet of smartarse designers rearranging your furniture while your back is turned and then patronizing you with smug platitudes about "fearing change". Fuck that noise. It's not OK because if they take your stapler you're going to set the building on fire.

So. Deep breath. What to do about it?

Is there an useability mantra I can recite to assure me that everything will be okay and they wouldn't have done these things without a good reason?

No, and in your heart of hearts you already know that. They do these things because they can. And they screw you with them, every single time, because they do not care enough about your working conditions not to.

So you've got a basic choice: you can lose productivity by trying to fix or work around what they broke, or you can lose productivity by taking the time to learn how to deal effectively with what they now provide. It doesn't actually matter much which way you jump there. What is absolutely vital is reminding yourself that although you have just been screwed over again and your productivity is going to suffer for a while as a result, that this temporary loss is not your fault and not anything you need to make a special effort to compensate for.

If the powers that be cannot be bothered maintaining a comfortable working environment for their employees, then the demonstrable fact that gratuitous UX change causes them to pay more for less work is their problem, not yours.
posted by flabdablet at 11:04 AM on September 18, 2013 [5 favorites]

The idea that developers make these changes because they just want to screw you is ridiculous and doesn't seem helpful either. (There may be a few psychopath devs out there who just like to make people suffer, it's a big world after all, but it's not common enough to be a general case).

To understand why it happens, realize that these products tend to be used by such a wide variety of people that what is an improvement to a few / some / many is a downgrade to others. Even changes that 98% of people applaud have some detractors. So no matter how well-intentioned the change is, some people are going to have their workflow disrupted.

But like many things you can't really control, what _good_ is the anger? Do you have any decision-making power over what email provider your company chooses? Probably not. Frustration is understandable, but anger seems like an overreaction and is counterproductive.

To me, the "right" reaction is: acknowledging that you don't like the change and that it is creating extra work for you, then instead of letting that develop into anger, focus on the problem-solving: what can you do, if anything, to either adjust the software or adjust your workflow to adapt to the changes? If you're working for a big company, you're probably stuck with the software, so you don't have the individual user option of finding a new product (which honestly would probably be more disruptive anyway).
posted by wildcrdj at 11:38 AM on September 18, 2013 [3 favorites]

Is there an useability mantra I can recite to assure me that everything will be okay and they wouldn't have done these things without a good reason?

It used to piss me off, and I used to fight it, but now I embrace it with a shrug and it doesn't bother me. I'm not sure how to succinctly explain the insight that changed it all, but it was realizing that I live in a world of accelerating change for real, and one of the most powerful advantages I can have in this world is to choose to embrace change rapidly and happily. I've seen what happens to people who don't; much like the proverbial boiling frog, life slowly gets tougher and tougher for them, until they can't function.

For example, I'll assume that UI changes like the ones you face, didn't happen by accident - even when they're stupid changes and dysfunctional, they will be invisibly laying the groundwork for improvements, perhaps for making the world slightly better, either under the hood or in allowing future features - things I can't see, but which will still be of benefit to me. And besides, what choice do I have? Accept it happily, or accept it unhappily? I choose happy :)
posted by anonymisc at 11:53 AM on September 18, 2013

Response by poster: Good questions, guys.

Generally, I am not an angry person. In other work-related technology changes, I feel that I might even do better than my coworkers: When we got a new printer, I was the one who took the time to learn how to adjust print settings in our programs accordingly, and even though they're slightly more complicated, I can tell that there's some real capability harnessed in those settings. When we upgraded to a newer Adobe Creative Suite (NOT Creative Cloud; I still loathe that idea), I excitedly watched videos introducing new features, and told my coworkers about them. New computer? I read list after list of ways to maximize the capabilities of the new operating system.

Flabdablet's line about getting work done with the tools I'm comfortable with and "rearranging your furniture while your back is turned" hit close to home. Maybe this is part of it: It's my job to be a good designer, and to know about Photoshop and InDesign and all that. It's my job to know how to optimize the print quality of the work I produce. I feel that it is NOT my job to problem-solve the changes to my e-mail inbox, and a lot of additional frustration probably comes from the SURPRISE! element of the changes just appearing one day, and the difficulty of learning about the new updates.

I like nadawi's recommendation of reading about improvements to the new version, but it's always seemed really difficult to find information about OWA; I can't find an official blog for the Outlook Web App like I can find for Gmail, or Adobe, or even Minecraft! Any tips?
posted by redsparkler at 11:54 AM on September 18, 2013

I've worked with computers since 1996. In that time I've worked with a lot of different machines in a lot of different circumstances. I used to go to great lengths to customize my setup wherever I was, only to be frustrated that I was on my laptop instead of my desktop; or in a shell on a server somewhere; or on someone else's machine temporarily. And then a hard drive would crash, or I'd get a new computer, and I'd have to spend a lot more time getting everything just so.

Over time, I started to view customizing my environments as a burden rather than a blessing. I was maintaining elaborate setups with custom color schemes and key bindings and font selections and it was always missing something. So I stopped porting the least important customizations to the next environment, and over several years, basically trained myself to work happily with whatever came out of the box. Mostly this involved thinking to myself two things: it's a really worthwhile skill to be productive without needing things to be "just so"; results matter more than a perfect fit. On a new machine, I give myself five minutes to change the desktop wallpaper and download my vim config from a github repo, and I'm good to go.

Your anger is unproductive and hurts you and no one else. If you want things to not change, you can set yourself up so that you have more control over your environment--stop using Outlook Web App, use Outlook in office or another Exchange client. Or train yourself to focus on the end result of reading and sending emails without giving a shit what font it's displayed in and how the panes are arranged.
posted by fatbird at 12:16 PM on September 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I feel you, but maybe try to mentally include Outlook (of whatever flavor) into the toolset that you consider part of your job. Become the local expert. Because honestly, it IS a part of your toolset. It's how you communicate at your job, right?

Also, is there anyone in your IT department who can direct you to good information about it? Is your environment part of Office 365, or are you using the web app as a standalone? Can you download your email to Outlook itself, instead of using the web app? There might be a solution there. You don't have to solve everything yourself.
posted by clone boulevard at 1:26 PM on September 18, 2013

Response by poster: Thanks for the advice, everybody.

I think I'll put in a request to IT for a heads-up on some better information on future updates to the Outlook web mail. I'm in a slightly weird position as one of the few Macs in the company, and one of the only web Outlook users in my department, so I don't have a lot of opportunities to reach out to immediate coworkers about stuff, but maybe IT has some resources and will (maybe?) give a little advance warning for big changes.
posted by redsparkler at 10:11 PM on October 29, 2013

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