11 Tips On How To Deal With Difficult Situations At Work

10 BEST Strategies For Dealing With Suppliers And Customers were explained in our previous tutorial.

This Tutorial Discusses Some Difficult Situations You May Have To Face at Work And Teaches You Some Handy Practical Tips Which You Can Use to Manage Them:

Everyone can get into unexpected tough situations at work which may be upsetting.

Here are some situations that may happen in work life along with the practical tips to manage them successfully.
Deal With Difficult Situations At Work

Tips To Deal With Difficult Situations at Work

Scenario 1:

You’ve made a bad decision and you’re asked to explain it.

If you try to explain this decision then you’ll simply make things worse. Remember, when you’re in a hole, stop digging. If it’s not too late then you may be able to change the decision. Or make some other change that improves the problem which the bad decision has caused.

For Example, if your decision means you can’t meet the deadline for a project, then perhaps you can find a way to move the deadline.

Unless you can provide remedies to the problems before anyone notices, it is far better to admit the bad conclusion than to insist that it was a good conclusion and trying to justify it. You can disarm people with an honest admission stating that you’ve made a mistake, followed by an apology.

Just remember:

  • Be honest
  • Don’t try to blame others for the bad conclusion – even if others were involved in it.
  • If you’re talking to your manager then show that you recognize where you have made a misjudgment and what you learned from it.

Admitting the poor conclusion will show that you can be positive about putting things right. So, you need to have a plan of action to follow from the results of your verdict.

Instead of justifying the bad conclusion, you are thereby in effect saying: ‘I made a bad conclusion, and I’m sorry. But here’s what we can do to limit the damage…’ and then justify this follow up conclusion. You can offer a choice of action to put things right. Either way, show how you can stop the mistake from happening again.

Scenario 2:

Someone reneges on a promise but you didn’t get it in the inscription.

The first thing to do here is to double-check that you really don’t have a record of the promise. Is there an email still in the system regarding it? Have you kept any notes that refer to it? If not, are you quite sure that it is the other party, and not you, who has misremembered the agreement?

If you’re certain about the promise and you really don’t have any record of it then your next option is to appeal the other person’s better nature. Many people will respond, or at least work out a compromise. Don’t accuse them of cheating you. They will hardly co-operate. Tell them that there has been a misunderstanding and ask them to put it right.

If the other person is obstinate that they won’t budge then you may be able to go over their superior. Whether they are a colleague, a supplier or a customer, an appeal to their manager can put things right. However, don’t put their back up by telling tales of them trying to con you. Find a diplomatic way to suggest that they may have misunderstood you.

At the end, if you simply can’t get the response you want then you’ll have to live with the consequences. Consider ‘whether you want to do business with this person again or not?’ If you do, you certainly need to make sure that you get everything in writing the next time.

Scenario 3:

It’s exposed that you haven’t told the truth.

Now here’s a difficult situation in which no one ever wants to be. But it can happen to the best of us. We tell, what we feel, is a little white lie. And usually, we get away with it. When we get caught, the very fact that we lied often looks, far worse than whatever it was that we were trying to hide.

Honesty is always the approach to take. Don’t ever compound the lie or you could end up in big distress, simply for your dishonesty, regardless of how insignificant the lie itself might be.

You will undermine your own trustworthiness and make it very difficult for others to work with you.

So why did you lie?

  • By accident: It may be that you weren’t dishonest, so guessing wrong. When this happens, admit that you believed that you were telling the truth but you hadn’t checked it. Apologize.
  • To protect someone: Admit what you were doing, you feel you can reveal who you were trying to protect.
  • You hoped it was true: Suppose your manager asks you how far you’ve got with the report, that’s due to be delivered on Friday. And you haven’t started it but because you know that you’ll have it done in time, you said you’re about halfway through. Your manager says, ‘Good because I need whatever you’ve done for this morning’s meeting. Can you please hand it over?’ You’ll have to ‘fess up, apologize and explain why you lied. In this case, you might explain that you knew it would be finished on time and you didn’t want him to worry unnecessarily.
  • Intentionally: This kind of planned lie is often more serious. Perhaps you gave false qualifications when you applied for this job, and it’s just come to light. Apologize as always, and explain why you did it. For Example, ‘I knew I could do this job and I really wanted it. But I was worried that you wouldn’t appoint me if you knew I hadn’t been to university.’ Show that you’re sorry and understand that it was wrong.

Scenario 4:

You must make a close choice.

Some choices are obvious. Some aren’t so clear but then it’s not that important. And then there are some decisions that are really tough. It’s a close call, and it matters that you get it right.

It’s easy to defer this kind of choice but that really doesn’t help. You need to go through the decision-making process properly and then take the decision firmly:

  • Collect all the relevant facts and information that you can.
  • Consult the person whose input may be helpful. Remember that you don’t have to follow the advice you’re given – this is your decision – you just need to listen to it.
  • Think through the options and be as open-minded and creative as you can. Suppose you should make someone redundant. It doesn’t have to be straight either/or choice. Maybe you could offer two people a job share.
  • Maybe you could shift responsibilities and make someone who wasn’t on your original list redundant instead. There are usually more options than that are initially noticeable.
  • Evaluate each of the options. There are various ways of doing this which will help you to reach a decision. Try some or all of them:
    • Think about the worst-case and best-case scenarios.
    • Consider the likelihood of each of these scenarios happening.
    • Think through the costs of each decision for the organization, the department, the people involved, the budget, the production schedule and yourself.
    • List the pros and cons.
    • Ask yourself ‘what you would regret most if you do or don’t take each option?’
  • Rule out as many options as you can, based on your assessment.

You have now been through every process necessary, to make this choice so you’d better take it. Usually, it’s obvious by this stage that even if it’s simply the bad option of several unsatisfactory ones.

If there’s nothing to choose between two options, then you might toss a coin. At least you’ll have a decision. And if there’s nothing to choose between then how will you ever have a better method of deciding?

Finally, whatever decision you will take, then once it’s made you must commit yourself to it totally. Even if you made it reluctantly, you must communicate it and follow it with conviction and confidence.

Scenario 5:

You have massively more work than time

Everything’s important and people depend on you. You do have to find some time to deal with this problem. It may seem impossible but you can always find time if it’s important enough.

Suppose the MD’s secretary phoned, to say that the MD wanted to see you for three hours tomorrow morning before they make their final decision on whom to promote. You’d find time for that, wouldn’t you?

Once you make the decision that you should tackle this problem, you’ll find a few hours. Come early morning, or cancel a meeting or appointment that you don’t really need to go to and use the time you’ve freed up.

So what are you going to do with this time? You need to be very attentive and go through all your work and sort it out. Don’t lose focus while dealing with anything during this session, you can do that later. For now, you need to organize your work and essentially, complete as much of it as you can. Be very ruthless or this process won’t work:

  • Bin everything that you can. Anything non-essential will have to go, papers to read and letters to write. If your business or your department can survive without getting them done, then don’t do them.
  • Say no to everything you possibly can. Make a list of meetings, appointments, and requests that you can probably get out of. Email your polite refusals if you can. It saves getting embroiled in long conversations or pressure, to get you to change your mind.
  • Delegate work which you can. Just remember that it’s irrational to offload three weeks’ work on someone, who is already snowed under. Ask them to complete it in the next three days. The more people you can delegate the work to, the more you can offload.
  • You should now have, a lot less work in front of you. On the other hand, you also have cleared a lot more time to do it. What’s left, however, really needs to be done. It’s all-important and you’ll be letting people down if you don’t do it.
  • The key is to organize. Organize the remaining tasks in order of importance. If a task is both important and urgent then do it first. If it is important but not urgent then you still need to get it done.
  • Schedule these tasks into your diary. You may need to come to work an hour or two early for the next few days, to work through everything. Be extremely strict with yourself about keeping time. Ban interruptions. If you have an hour for a certain task, then make sure you do it on time.
  • Make a rule that you won’t go home until all the tasks of the day are done. Schedule yourself to leave at a certain time each evening (it won’t help if you become exhausted and overstressed) but don’t leave until you’re up-to-date. That way, you will stay on track.

Scenario 6:

You are promoted over past colleagues.

This can be tricky, to begin with. But if you could handle it right then you will soon relax into your new role. The important thing is not to put their backs up by lording it over them and playing with the big boss. This can be tempting for striking your authority when you fear that they won’t respect it but backfire on it.

If you are self-assured in yourself then you shouldn’t have a problem. Your manager wouldn’t have promoted you if he/she didn’t believe that your colleagues will respect you. So adopt a supportive management style and trust your own ability to command respect.

The only other difficulty you may encounter is that your ex-colleagues might try to take benefit of the fact that you were recently one of their peers. They may think that they can get away with lax behavior or performance because you’re all mates together. As soon as there is any sign of this, nip it in the bud. Deal with this kind of issues promptly and firmly.

Scenario 7:

You are promoted over colleagues older than you

This is only a problem if your new team sees it as a problem. You’re dealing with preconception here. It’s understandable that elder people might feel resentful for having put a young upstart in charge of them. But if you will handle it in the right way they’ll soon forget your age.

  • Distinguish that you’ll never change this kind of preconception, so there’s no point in trying. Your aim is to ensure that if your team thinks, young managers are not good then you’re an exception to this.
  • Work very hard to show them that you deserve this job on your own merits and your lack of age doesn’t inhibit your ability in any way.
  • Never give any clue that you consider it as an issue. Don’t brag about landing such a good job so young or tell them that if they’d have worked harder they could be where you are now.

If you’re a good manager and if you will follow these guidelines then you should soon find that your team stops noticing your relative ages. If anyone’s preconception is a real problem then you need to talk to them privately about it, following the guidelines for feedback.

Scenario 8:

You are promoted over someone who really resents you

The most common reason for this is that the concerned person resents the fact that it was you who won it. When this happens, it’s a good idea to call the person in a private meeting as soon as you start your new job. If it’s too late for that now, still it’s worth doing it as soon as possible.

Here are some guidelines on how to tackle such a meeting:

  • Tell them that you know they wanted that job too. Don’t justify your raise – ‘It was a fair fight’ or ‘I’m more experienced than you’ – but acknowledge how they must feel. Tell them something like, ‘It’s a difficult situation. I know how I’d feel if you’d have got the job.’
  • Let them know that you’re sure that they won’t let it get in the way of your connection. As one of the most experienced and able members of the team (presumably they are if they were up for the job too), you’re hoping that they’ll be there to give you plenty of support while you find your stride.
  • If it’s already getting in the way of your connection (if you didn’t have this conversation at the start) use the feedback to resolve the problem.
  • Give them an area of responsibility or a challenge that they will really enjoy. This will show that you won’t be biased against them or feel threatened by them. And also this will help to offset any feelings of lost pride for not getting the job themselves.
  • You need to establish your authority over your new team, but be very careful, not to be heavy-handed about discipline or dealing with errors and especially with this person. (And since you need to treat everyone equally, this will go for the whole team.)

Scenario 9:

You should choose between the office and the family.

In many jobs, office and family don’t clash persistently, but every so often a serious conflict may arise. For Example, you’re supposed to be away for an exhibition and it’s your 5th wedding anniversary. Or you’re all working for the forthcoming launch when your father fell ill and is admitted to the hospital.

You can’t meet both commitments, so what do you do?

The first thing to do is talk to your manager and see if they are ready to help you accommodate your personal promises. Many managers, all the considerate ones, will do their best. If your manager either can’t or won’t help, then you’ll have to decide who to let down, office work or home.

Sometimes if you feel the family promise is so strong, then you have no choice. If personal commitment is more important for you, then do it. This often arises when death or serious illness is involved.

But what if the family pull is strong but not essential, being there for an important birthday or anniversary, for example? Think through the worst possible scenario of, letting down either work or home.

Will you get a ticking off from your manager? Will you miss out on a project you really wanted to work on? Will you get sacked? If you decide the other way, will you feel guilty? Will your child be deeply hurt? Will your partner divorce you? By thinking through the consequences of your options, you should be able to arrive at a decision.

Scenario 10:

Your work intrudes on your private time.

This can be caused by a manager who expects you to work for longer hours than required. However, sometimes the work hours are supposed to intrude in your way. This happens mostly when your personal circumstances change.

Frequent traveling was fine before you have kids, but not after that. Long hours used to be fine, but now your elderly mother is living with you, it’s a problem being home so late.

You need to talk to your manager and you need to be realistic, too. Come up with suggestions for changing your work hours without compromising the organization. You took this job and you made a commitment to work those hours.

Here are some options that might work for you, or which might spark you off on some alternative ideas:

  • Start work early in the mornings and leave early in the evenings.
  • Work through lunch and leave an hour early
  • Combine both the above ideas. Arrive early and work through lunch to buy an even earlier finish time.
  • Take work from home for some days.
  • Work from home for a couple of days to compensate after a business trip.
  • Make sure business trips are always midweek and never involve flying out or back at weekends.
  • Increase your holiday entitlement instead of taking a salary raise.
  • Go part-time or at least cut your hours and your pay accordingly.

Now go to your manager with all the ideas that you have and the ones you feel would work for you. If you’re good at your job and your manager has any sense, they’ll want to co-operate rather than lose you.

If you get no help from your manager then you’ll have to decide whether the job is worth the personal sacrifice or whether you’d be happier in changing jobs and working for more convenient hours. And only you can make this decision.

Scenario 11:

You feel you can’t handle the burden.

If you’re getting seriously strained at work, then you need to do something about it. And the sooner you act, the easier it will be, to ease the pressure. Not only you need to be less pressure for your own benefit, but also the department and the organization need you to be happy and relaxed. That way, you will work better and most likely stay longer with the company.

If things are really getting bad, talk to your manager. Explain clearly what the problems are and the indications. They are far more likely to recognize the need, to act, if you point out that you’ve missed a couple of deadlines lately or you made a mistake last week that could have had serious effects. Then let them know that it is the pressure of work that is causing you to lose concentration and enthusiasm.

If things get too bad then your doctor can sign you off for a while. However, that’s not the ideal solution for you and your manager, so here are a few alternatives that may help. Pick and choose the ones which you feel will help to ease the pressure. Talk to your manager about those that need their approval:

  • Take a few days off.
  • Work from home for a few days.
  • Change your work patterns so you always spend a day or two from a week at home.
  • Go to work later or leave earlier – on either a permanent or a temporary basis, whichever you need
  • Move to a quieter/less isolated/more isolated/less cramped desk or office – whichever will help.
  • Take a proper lunch break every day and spend some time walking in the park, reading or even having a nap.
  • Go on a time management course to help you organize your work and time better
  • Clear your backlog of work. Take a day or two out, by arrangement with your manager, to do this.
  • Take five-minute breaks, especially breaks from the computer screen.
  • There are also some steps that you can take for yourself, and those, in turn, will have a long-term impact on your stress levels. If you can relax properly away from work then you’ll get less stressed when you’re at work. Again, everyone’s different, so choose the ones that will help you.
  • Spend more time socializing if you’re isolated at work or less time in socializing if you’re getting too tired.
  • Switch to decaffeinated coffee.
  • Take up a relaxing or stress-busting activity such as yoga, meditation or a martial art.
  • Resolve if any sleeping problems. The most useful thing is to have a routine time to go to bed and to get up every day, regardless of how you sleep. Don’t lie in, on weekends because you’ve had a bad night and don’t go to bed very early because you’re tired. This way, you will train your body into a sleep routine. Within a week or two you should find yourself sleeping better.
  • Learn to relax on the hoof by breathing more efficiently. Close your eyes and take a few deep breaths using your diaphragm to breathe in and out.

We hope you enjoyed reading the entire series of these informative articles on handling difficult situations at work and learned some practical tips to manage them successfully.

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