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Last Updated on January 18, 2021

5 Ways to Turn Around a Bad Day at Work

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5 Ways to Turn Around a Bad Day at Work

It’s estimated that the average person spends 90,000 hours of their life working.[1] A huge portion of our life is spent on the job. No matter how you slice it, that means we’re all bound to have a bad day at work every once in a while.

Between tight deadlines, challenging customers, and conflicting personalities at work, there’s no shortage of potential problems to dampen our day. But how we choose to navigate those inevitable bad days can define our productivity, success, and fulfillment at work.

In fact, according to Shawn Achor, author of The Happiness Advantage, “studies show that when you’re positive, you’re 31% more productive, you’re 40% more likely to receive a promotion, you have 23% fewer health-related effects from stress, and your creativity rates triple.”[2]

So, how do you turn a bad workday around and reap all of these amazing benefits? Try these five tips.

1. Stop What You’re Doing and Take a Walk

No matter how stressed or pressed for time you are, you won’t solve the bad day problem in your current mindset. So, take even five minutes to shake things up by changing your location and moving your body. This will help you overcome a bad day at work.

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When you remove yourself from the pressure of the moment and give yourself a new setting, it often creates just enough psychological space to gain a new perspective on the situation. Plus, exercise increases our brain’s production of the neurotransmitter dopamine, which helps us to feel motivated and happy and can shift your mood entirely.[3]

2. Figure Out What’s Really Bothering You

The trouble with bad days is it can feel like everything is going wrong and, therefore, be impossible to take specific action to improve it. So, rather than get caught up in your emotional spiral, get right to the root of the problem: What’s really bothering you?

Are you upset about something at home that’s transferring over to your work life? Are you annoyed with a colleague or client? Are you frustrated with your work? Are you anxious about a deadline?

Answering these questions allows you to turn around a bad day at work. When you can disentangle the emotional web and pinpoint exactly what the most pressing underlying problem is, you’re empowered to take clear, specific action on that problem.

It’s worth taking just a few minutes to pause and think critically or journal about what’s getting to you so that you can solve it once and for all.

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3. Put Things Into Perspective

Bad days come and go, but if you’re staying at a job, there must be a reason. To connect back in with the deeper why.

Do you love helping your clients and customers? Do you love your income to support your family? Can you identify any place where you’ve made someone’s life better through your work?

The truth is, no matter how much we love our jobs, there are just going to be some less glamorous aspects and—quite frankly—bad days. But it’s a lot easier to navigate those periodic hiccups when we can put them back into perspective and remember our bigger why for doing this work.

4. Talk It Out and Get Support

The only thing worse than a bad day is feeling like you’re all alone in the misery. To shift out of it, you’ve got to get some support.

If it’s appropriate, chat about your situation with colleagues. If not, step outside for a quick text or phone call with a friend or loved one to vent about your day. It’s helpful to speak your feelings out loud and get some outside perspective. The trick, though, is to make sure that you don’t fall down the rabbit hole of commiseration and making yourself more upset.[4]

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So, to keep it a healthy venting session, make sure to keep things focused on your feelings (as opposed to what others did to you) and what actionable steps you can take in the future. And that support doesn’t need to be limited to the bad day. If it’s a long-standing issue, it can be invaluable to get support from a mental health professional or, if appropriate, human resources at work to prevent further bad days.

5. Listen to Some Background Music

Music has a profound impact on our emotional state.[5] Upbeat music can make us happier, sad music can make us sadder—and everything in between. In fact, research finds that upbeat music can call back happy memories, which can take you out of this bad day and back to those moments.[6]

So, if you’re feeling a little down at work, put on some of your favorite music to quickly shift your mood and snap out of it.

There is a caveat, though. If you’re wanting to think critically, it’s best to stick to music you’re already familiar with or music without lyrics, so you aren’t getting too caught up in it. But if you’re doing repetitive work like data entry, any music can make you more efficient.[7]

So, the next time you’re feeling a bit down on work, take a moment to pump the jams.

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The Bottom Line

With all of the time we spend working, bad days are inevitable. Even the most prepared of us can’t prevent every challenge we’ll face. So, we need tools to pull us out of the misery and back into happiness, fulfillment, and productivity.

With a few bad day “first-aid tips” up our sleeves, we can take on anything the workday throws at us.

More Tips to Overcome a Bad Day at Work

Featured photo credit: Avel Chuklanov via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Mike Iamele

Mike Iamele is a Purpose + Brand Strategist who figures out what makes you naturally successful. Then helps you do it on purpose.

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Published on September 27, 2021

What Is Incentive Motivation And Does It Work?

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What Is Incentive Motivation And Does It Work?

We’ve all needed a bit of inspiration at some time in our lives. In the past year or two, that need most likely has grown. Who hasn’t been trying to shed those extra pounds we put on during the pandemic? Who hasn’t felt the need to fake a little enthusiasm at joining yet another Zoom call? Who hasn’t been trying to get excited about trekking back into the office for a 9 to 5 (longer if you add in the commute)? Feeling “meh” is a sign of our times. So, too, is incentive motivation, a way to get back our spark, our drive, and our pursuit of the things we say we want most.

In this article, I’ll talk about what incentive motivation is and how it works.

What Is Incentive Motivation?

Incentive motivation is an area of study in psychology focused on human motivation. What is it that gets us to go from couch potato to running a marathon? What spurs us to get the Covid vaccine—or to forgo it? What is it that influences us to think or act in a certain way? Incentive motivation is concerned with the way goals influence behavior.[1] By all accounts, it works if the incentive being used holds significance for the person.

The Roots of Incentive Motivation

Incentive motivation’s roots can be traced back to when we were children. I’m sure many of us have similar memories of being told to “eat all our veggies” so that we would “grow up to be big and strong,” and if we did eat those veggies, we would be rewarded with a weekend trip to a carnival or amusement park or playground of choice. The incentive of that outing was something we wanted enough to have it influence our behavior.

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Growing up, incentive motivation continues to play a major role in what we choose to do. For example, while we may not have relished the idea of spending years studying, getting good grades, pursuing advanced degrees, and graduating with sizeable debt from student loans, a great many of us decided to do just that. Why? Because the end goal of a career, a coveted title, and the associated incentives of financial reward and joy in doing something we love were powerful motivators.

One researcher who believes in the power of incentive motivation is weight management expert, co-author of the book State of Slim, and co-founder of the transformational weight loss program of the same name, Dr. Holly Wyatt. Her work with her clients has proven time and again that when motivation fizzles, incentives can reignite those motivational fires.

“Eat more veggies, exercise, keep track of my weight: These things and more DO work, but bottom line, you gotta keep doing them. Setting up rituals and routines to put your efforts on auto-pilot is one way. And along the way, the use of both external and internal motivators helps keep people on track. External motivation sources are those things outside of ourselves that help to motivate us. They’re powerful, like pouring gasoline on a fire. But they may not last very long. Internal motivators are more tied into the reasons WHY we want to reach our goals. In my State of Slim weight loss program, we spend a lot of time on what I call ‘peeling back the onion’ to find the WHY. I think the internal motivators are more powerful, especially for the long-term, but they may take longer to build. They’re the hot coals that keep our motivational fires burning.”

Examples of Incentive Motivation

In the way of incentive motivation, specific to the external motivators, Dr. Wyatt challenges her clients to commit to changing just one behavior that will help them reach their weight loss goals. Clients must then agree to a “carrot” or a “stick” as either their reward for accomplishing what they say they will do or as their punishment for falling short. Those incentives might be something like enjoying a spa day if they do the thing they said they would do or sweating it out while running up and down the stairwell of their apartment building a certain number of times as punishment for not following through.

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Whatever they choose, the goal must be something they really want, and the incentive must be something that matters to them enough to influence their behaviors in reaching those goals. Some people are more motivated by some sort of meaningful reward (a carrot) whereas, other people are more motivated by some sort of negative consequence or the taking away of a privilege (the stick).

Another example of incentive motivation is playing out currently with companies and government entities offering perks to people who get the Covid vaccine. Nationwide, offers are being made in the way of lottery tickets, cash prizes, concert seats, free admission to events and discounts for food, and even free drink at local restaurants and bars. The list of incentives being offered to the public to increase vaccination rates is pretty extensive and quite creative.[2]  These incentives are financial, social, and even hit on moral sensibilities. But is this particular incentive motivation working?

Remember that a key to incentive motivation working is if the individual puts importance on the reward being received on the ultimate goal. So, not all incentives will motivate people in the same way. According to Stephen L. Franzoi, “The value of an incentive can change over time and in different situations.”[3]

How Does Incentive Motivation Differ from Other Types of Motivators?

Incentive motivation is just one type of motivating force that relies on external factors. While rewards are powerful tools in influencing behaviors, a few other options may be more aligned with who you are and what gets you moving toward your goals.

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Fear Motivation

In many ways, being motivated by fear is the very opposite of being motivated by incentives. Rather than pursuing some reward, it’s the avoidance of some consequence or painful punishment that sparks someone into action. For example, married couples may “forsake all others” not out of love or commitment but out of a fear that they may be “taken to the cleaners” by their spouses if their infidelities are revealed.

Another example wherein fear becomes the great motivator is one we’re hearing about more and more as we’re coming out of this pandemic—the fear of being poor. The fear of being poor has kept many people in jobs they hate. It’s only now that we see a reversal as headlines are shining a light on just how many workers are quitting and refusing to go back to the way things were.

Social Motivation

Human beings are social creatures. The desire to belong is a powerful motivator. This type of social motivation sparks one’s behavior in ways that, hopefully, result in an individual being accepted by a certain group or other individuals.

The rise of the Internet and the explosion of social media engagement has been both positive and negative in its power to motivate us to be included among what during our school days would be called “the cool kids” or “cliques” (jocks, nerds, artsy, gamers, etc.). We probably all have experienced at one time or another the feelings associated with “not being chosen”—whether to be on a team to play some game or as the winning candidate for some job or competition. Social rejection can make or break us.

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Before You Get Up and Go…

Know that, especially during these challenging times, it’s “normal” and very much “okay” to feel a lack of motivation. Know, too, that external motivators, such as those we’ve talked about in this article, can be great tools to get your spark back. We’ve only touched on a few here. There are many more—both external and internal.

Remember that these external motivators, such as incentive motivations, are only as powerful as the importance placed on the reward by the individual. It’s also important to note that if there isn’t an aligned internal motivation, the results will more than likely be short-lived.

For example, losing a certain amount of weight because you want to fit into some outfit you intend to wear at some public event may get you to where you want to be. But will it hold up after your party? Or will those pounds find their way back to you? If you want to be rewarded at work with that trip to the islands because you’ve topped the charts in sales and hustle to make your numbers, will you be motivated again and again for that same incentive? Or will you need more and more to stay motivated?

Viktor Frankl, the 20th-century psychiatrist, Holocaust survivor, and author of the best-selling book, Man’s Search for Meaning, is quoted as having said, “Those who have a ‘why’ to live, can bear with almost any ‘how’.” As important as external motivators like incentives may be in influencing behaviors, the key is always to align them with one’s internal “why”—only then will the results be long-lived.

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So, how might incentive motivation influence you and your behavior toward goals? Knowing your answer might keep you energized no matter what your journey and help to further your successes.

Featured photo credit: Atharva Tulsi via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Britannica: Incentive motivation
[2] National Governors Association: COVID-19 Vaccine Incentives
[3] verywellmind: The Incentive Theory of Motivation

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