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“Phubbing”, glory-grabbing and toxic bosses among Top 10 daily bugbears of modern life

BRITONS spend 36 minutes every day1 – up to two years of their lives – letting little things get on their nerves, new research reveals.

From glory-grabbers who take credit for promotion-winning ideas to “phubbing” – being phone snubbed by someone constantly on their mobile – the Grate Britain survey from blister experts Compeed has discovered it’s the small things that cause the biggest irritation to the nation.

Bad manners, anti-social behaviour on public transport, litter louts, sandwich stealers, painful blisters and toxic bosses are among the irritations that grate on us every day, the study revealed.

And these small stressors are having a big impact on people’s days, with a massive 84 per cent1 admitting that something little gets them annoyed at some point each day and a whopping 81 per cent1 spending up to two hours every day letting little things bother them.

Now, psychologists warn that people who let the daily barrage of little niggles grate can see stress build up over time, which can have a big effect on their emotional and mental health.

Honey Langcaster-James, a social and behavioural psychologist, says: “We tend to think of stressful events as being the big things in life such as moving house, divorce or death. However, in our everyday lives it’s the smaller, more constant stressors that build and build, surprising us with the negative impact they have which is often far greater than we might expect.

“Individually, each of these little niggles may not seem like much. But our busy lives mean we are now bombarded with a huge number of them every day which can overwhelm our system.

“People can end up suffering from what I call the ‘Buckeroo’ effect where they gradually get overwhelmed by lots of little stressors so that eventually it only takes one small thing to set them off.”

Clare Newins, Marketing Manager at Compeed, said: “We know that it’s small things like blisters that can ruin our day so we set out to discover what other little things can cause big problems for the people of Britain. As psychologists explain, the cumulative effect of these little things can really make us sore. Stopping these little irritations before they stop us is obviously vital to keep our lives on the right track.”

So what is getting Britain’s goat?

The Grate Britain research, which questioned 1,001 people aged 18-64, revealed just how riled we get by the seemingly smallest of irritations.


  1. Bad manners top the list of Britain’s biggest bugbears with 85 per cent1 saying they get annoyed with people who don’t say thank you after holding a door open for them, being hit with an umbrella, having smoke or vapour blown in their face or having someone stop at the bottom of an escalator.
  2. Anti-social behaviour on public transport such as fellow passengers not moving a bag from a seat, people spreading their legs, elbows or newspapers into your space, eating smelly food and sitting in the aisle seat and not moving across to the window for them to sit down is a major source of irritation for 84 per cent1 of people.
  3. Litter louts who leave dog poo bags hanging on hedges, spit gum on the pavement or flick cigarette butts out the car window wind up 83 per cent1 of those questioned on a daily basis.
  4. Glory grabbers who steal promotion-winning ideas in the office and pass them off as their own irritate 81 per cent1 of people every day and impolite or aggressive drivers who tailgate, beep their horns for no reason, undertake, push in to a queue or don’t indicate annoy four fifths (80 per cent1).
  5. Technology is a major source of little daily niggles, with phone snubbing – or “phubbing” – annoying 78 per cent1 of people who admit they hate it when people are constantly on their phone, when someone looks at their phone when being spoken to while only vaguely listening or when people text while walking.
  6. At work more than three quarters (78 per cent1) of people find their toxic bosses who are oblivious to the stress they are under and make unrealistic demands irritating
  7. History harkers “In my day” – the same number of people (78 per cent1) get niggled by people who have no patience and spend their days proclaiming how much better things were in their day.
  8. Disgusting table manners annoy three quarters (75 per cent1) of people questioned, with people licking food off their knife or fingers, using their fork to clean their nails or taking the last roast potato without asking getting them riled.
  9. In the office, sneaky sandwich stealers who pilfer people’s food from the communal fridge wind up 75 per cent1 of people every working day, the survey found.
  10. Blisters are a major source of irritation too with almost three quarters (74 per cent1) of people admitting they find the foot foes annoying – more than colleagues who are late to meetings (71 per cent1), stuffy dress codes in offices (55 per cent1) and people eating smelly food at their desks (60 per cent1). 

Ms Langcaster-James says: “A blister on the foot is the personal equivalent of getting stuck in traffic when driving to work. Sometimes these small daily niggles can have a surprisingly big impact psychologically and stop people from being at their best.

“The pain from a blister signals to the brain that there is a problem to deal with which then demands that people adjust their gait, their step, their footwear. However, if people want to stop these little irritations escalating and ruining their day, they have to deal with them like any other problem.

“So, if something, or someone, is rubbing people up the wrong way, they need to take positive action sooner rather than later to prevent a big blow up.”


  1. Stop things building up. As soon as you notice something is annoying you, focus on it and take measures to deal with it.
  2. Get a sense of perspective. Think about what is troubling you but imagine you’re sitting on a cloud looking down from above. How big does it seem now?
  3. If you’re getting stressed, stop and slow your breathing down. Breathe in for a count four and blow out through your mouth for a count of six.
  4. Ground yourself. If you find yourself about to blow, use all five of your senses to become fully present. Ask yourself, what can I see? What can I hear? What can I smell?
  5. Laugh. If small things are getting to you, imagine you are starring in a romantic comedy and imagine a theme tune in your head. It will help you see the funny side.
  6. Get outside. Go where you can see some trees and nature and focus on the simple things like a leaf blowing in the wind for a few moments to help you calm.
  7. Write a list. Note down all the things niggling you and cut the list into strips. Take one thing at a time, deal with it and then put the strip in a jar or somewhere you can see them building up. This helps you feel motivated to tick things off.
  8. Think with your brain. The brain responds to stress in a primitive way with the fight or flight response. If you’re getting angry or avoiding things think whether your primitive brain is in charge instead of your thinking brain.
  9. Change tack. If something on your way to work/school/home keeps annoying you, take a different route. Life is too short to keep going down the same path only to end up stressed.
  10. Deal with the pain. Don’t try and cope with ordinary plasters, and instead pop a Compeed blister plaster on. Just one cushioned plaster will stop the pain and start the healing process; it even detaches itself when the blister is healed, letting you forget about it.


  1. Grate Britain survey conducted between 29th January and 1st February 2019. 1001 adults aged between 18 and 64 were surveyed by Deltapoll
  2. HRA Data on File
  3. HRA Brand Tracker
  4. The Compeed Socks Off omnibus survey was conducted by Aurora Market Research between 27th April-2nd May 2018 among 1,087 UK women aged 16+.