Hot buttons are issues, people, or situations that really get you worked up. They’re triggers, and if they’re pushed hard enough, they can make you explode. They’re different for everyone, but we all have them.
So, what really gets under your skin?

If you’re running into conflicts in your business or workplace, chances are someone or something is pushing your buttons. Even the expression, “Pushing your buttons,” implies reactivity. When you push a button, something happens. Maybe the floodgates of emotion are thrown open—or maybe a nuclear missile is launched toward the desk of Mr. X, who is such a pompous ass. The thing is, your hot buttons are a “you thing”—meaning, they’re reactions based on prior experience or emotion. When you understand why certain people and things set you off, you can start to work with your buttons to make them less sensitive.
The first step toward resolving hot button issues is understanding. Maybe your father never gave you credit for hard work, so it really goes up your butt when people fail to acknowledge your efforts, and you find yourself working doubly hard and getting doubly irritated in response. Maybe you’re shy about expressing your opinion, so it feels like a personal attack when someone else does so easily and confidently—especially when you know that what you have to say has more value to the situation. Maybe you really detest suck-ups and lackeys. Maybe you loathe know-it-alls. Maybe ignorance slays you. Maybe you hate talking about money, or sex, or politics. Maybe it really bothers you when people don’t agree with your opinions on subjects close to your heart. The question is, why?
Unless someone is acting immorally or unethically, or violating the law—in which case the situation should be addressed by the proper authorities—consider looking inward when conflict arises, instead of reacting outwardly. Take a deep breath, and ask yourself why this person or situation really bothers you. “Well, he’s a jerk” isn’t an acceptable answer here. Instead, ask, “Why does he come across as a jerk to me? What about his behavior bothers me, and why?”
The answers you find might surprise you. Here’s an example. One acquaintance of mine was really bothered by her coworker. He never stayed late to finish projects, he never came in on weekends, and he never appeared ruffled or stressed. Sure, he made his deadlines, but he cut it close. “He’s such a slacker,” she would fume to herself. “How the hell does he get away with it?” After all, if she was running around like a madwoman, barely keeping up, there was no way he could be doing his job. It was like he didn’t even care. Worse, it was like their boss didn’t even care! Was she the only one with anything invested in this operation?
This internal dialogue went on for months. But when she examined her hot buttons, my acquaintance realized that her coworker bothered her not because he was a really a slacker, but because in comparison to her own overwork and perfectionism, he looked like he was doing less. He wasn’t getting away with the bare minimum: he was fulfilling his job requirements admirably, and their boss knew it. The fact that she felt the need to go above and beyond had nothing to do with him. He simply didn’t share her sense of martyrdom around the job—and at the end of the day, he was probably happier for it.
This breakthrough led my acquaintance to several other very important realizations, including the fact that she actively disliked her job. She’d been trying to work harder and “better” in order to make up for the fact that she felt like a failure for wanting to quit! Once she turned her focus on herself, she was able to resolve the conflict with her coworker without making a scene or stirring up office drama—because in the end, her coworker really hadn’t been part of the conflict at all.
Of course, not all situations are so one-sided. But as Mencius said, “Never has a man who has bent himself been able to make other straight.” If you want to avoid conflict with the people around you, the best place to start is within yourself. Learn to tell when you’re in judgment, and when there’s really a moral or ethical issue. When you resolve your own internal conflicts, you turn off your hot buttons. Then, instead of igniting a raging fire, a push might only generate a puff of smoke.
You can learn more about common hot buttons by taking the online test at There are lots of helpful tips about how to understand and modify your reactions to common workplace issues, and how you can be proactive around the issue in the future.
WANT TO USE THIS ARTICLE IN YOUR E-ZINE, BLOG OR WEBSITE? Please do, as long as you include this complete blurb with it: Dawn Quesnel, CPCC, PCC, known as Coach DQ, is a professional coach, radio show host and workshop leader. Through the use of her B.R.I.D.G.E. programs she helps marketing, advertising, and creative entrepreneurs navigate career or business transition while maintaining a healthy career-life balance. Her core belief that you can accomplish anything you set your mind to, consistently leads clients to uncover hidden resources and strengths. B.R.I.D.G.E. the gap and accelerate your career so you can love your life now! Visit or today or for more information email me.

As a certified professional coach, radio show host and workshop leader, Dawn helps sales, marketing, advertising and creative entrepreneurs to accelerate their career so they’ll love their life!

1 Comment

  1. Nice post, DQ. And a great example of how what we think is so obviously THEIR fault, is often just our own “stuff” fanning the flames without us even realizing it.

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