6 Tips for Overcoming Adversity at Work

Adversity at work can come in many forms. It can be the copier that delivers a thick black line on every page you copy. It can be the customers who demand the world and the team members who don’t show up on time or pull their weight. It can be the endless meetings. It can be the overtime or the low pay. Or the co-worker who likes to gossip or the boss who is a micromanager or the company policy that makes absolutely no sense. The list can go on and on because everyone, at some point in their professional lives, has had to deal with seemingly endless adversity at work.

You might not be able to change the situation that bugs you. But you can change how you react to it. Here are six tips for overcoming impossible work situations.

1. Stay positive. Well, of course it’s easier said than done. However, the way you approach your day, your co-workers and the adversity around you will have a direct impact on how you feel and behave. Smile, say good morning to everyone and avoid falling into negative conversations, gossip sessions or endless email traffic that is full of complaints and crying. Your attitude will direct your day, so if you’re tempted to feel angry, irritated or oppositional, acknowledge those feelings and then take yourself the other way.

2. Create a peaceful space. Whether you have a corner office or a cubicle, do what you can to make it your own. I’m not suggesting you go overboard and set up a virtual living room, but a few framed pictures, artwork from your toddler and little treasures that remind you of happier places and times can help you battle adversity at work. If you leave a meeting feeling tense and helpless, at least you can return to your desk and look at a photo from last year’s vacation. I keep little travel sized lotions in my favorite scents on my desk to treat myself to a bit of aromatherapy when I need it.

3. Communicate well. Sometimes, things don’t sound right in an email. Adversity can spread if things are misunderstood or forwarded on to the wrong people. You have spent many years of your life developing all sorts of communication skills, so use them all. Pick up the phone when a call would be better than an email. Walk to someone’s desk if you want to say something that might sound harsh or unappreciative over an instant message chat. And always say ‘thank you.’

4. Work on your workplace relationships. Even if you can’t stand your boss, you need to get along with her. And if you think your colleagues are problematic you might be right, but you probably won’t be able to get all of them fired. You don’t have to love the people you work with, but you do have to cooperate with them. Invite someone you’ve been avoiding to lunch, or sit next to your arch enemy in a meeting. The alternative is worse.

5. Focus. Multitasking is great, but it can leave you feeling overwhelmed. Focus on one thing at a time. Prioritize the best you can, and remember to ask for help when you need it.

6. Leave work at work. If you spend eight or more hours fighting workplace battles all day long, the last thing you want to do is welcome those battles into your home. Leaving work at the office will help whatever problems you’re facing too. Showing up the next day after a break will give you a fresh take on the situation.

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