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How To Cope With A Difficult Work Environment

How To Cope With A Difficult Work Environment

The world of work is changing, thanks primarily to technological innovation and the impact of the Great Recession. While instability within the global job market has limited the number of employment opportunities that are available, so too the development of mobile technology and remote communication has empowered people to work on an independent basis.

This is set to come to a head in 2020, by which time technology giant Intuit estimates that up to 40% of the American workforce will be self-employed. If this trend were to come to fruition, the subsequent rise in the number of employers would actively help the job market to evolve by creating additional opportunities.

While we may all have dreamed of working for ourselves at one time or another, it is not something that suits everyone. It is certainly not an idea that should be considered as a way of escaping a difficult or challenging work environment. Entrepreneurship demands a unique set of characteristics that not all individuals possess. If you are faced with a problem in the workplace or find yourself struggling to adapt to your professional environment, it is far better for you to confront the issues and develop viable coping mechanisms. Here are 10 ways to cope with a difficult work environment:

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1. Avoid becoming emotional when dealing with professional criticism

One of the key issues in the workplace is a perceived lack of appreciation, especially when you consider that today’s employees are increasingly motivated by job satisfaction and the respect of their managers. With this in mind, attempting to deal with criticism can be a difficult and emotionally fraught process, which can easily turn into a conflict of egos that is detrimental to your career. Instead, it is important to consider the criticism in a professional context, and use its message as a way of highlighting potential problems and improving your performance in the workplace.

2. Empower your colleagues through praise

On a similar note, it is important to treat your colleagues with respect and in a manner that you would find acceptable. The employees of a company are all pulling together to achieve a common set of goals, which means that there is a pressing need for unity, mutual respect and a keen sense of collaboration. With this in mind, do not be afraid to praise and congratulate your colleagues on a job well done, as this may ultimately diffuse tension in the workplace and cultivate a more harmonious environment.

3. Be a proactive communicator

While criticism and negativity can be detrimental in the workplace, it is a lack of communication that will ultimately sour your experience in any given job. If you are having issues with your boss and struggling to meet their requirements, for example, this situation cannot improve unless you become a proactive communicator who can address the underlying problems. So take a positive step and approach your manager, making it clear that you are open to amending your methodology and outlook so long as they are able to confirm their exact needs. This enables you to assume control of the situation and resolve it effectively.

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4. Think carefully before escalating your issues with higher management

If you are experiencing a direct conflict with a supervisor or colleague, it is always tempting to escalate your complaint with higher management. However, this is not an effective way of dealing with workplace angst, primarily because it can reflect badly on your reputation and inhibit your chances of career progression in the long term. While you must always retain the right to escalate your complaint up the chain of command in extreme circumstances that involve workplace bullying, for example, you should avoid this course of action until you’ve first exhausted every form of direct mediation with the individual in question.

5. Go beyond the call of duty by doing more than is required

Although you may not realise it, there may be occasions where your approach to work or the attitude that you display are central to the challenges that you face. If you are struggling in the workplace, it is wise to honestly appraise your performance and whether or not you are applying yourself in a committed and professional manner. If you are not but remain serious about developing your career, it is time to commit to your role and prove that you are willing to go above and beyond your designated duties. This not only demonstrates your value to an employer, but it will also help your colleagues to see you in an entirely different and more positive light.

6. Do not partake in workplace gossip

Many of the issues caused within the workplace are triggered by gossip or personal complaints, which have little or nothing with the job in hand. This is partly down to a modern trend for sharing too much personal information in the workplace, which in turn creates over-familiarity between colleagues and brings non-work related topics into the office. As much as possible, you should refrain from engaging in personal workplace gossip, as otherwise you may find yourself dragged into a conflict that has absolutely nothing to do with you. Remain reserved in your conduct at all times, and keep a clear distinction between your personal and professional lives.

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7. Develop coping mechanisms for dealing with difficult co-workers

While idle gossip and the carefree actions of others can have a detrimental effect on your enjoyment of the workplace, it is important to remember that your co-workers are unique individuals with different temperaments, outlooks and personal characteristics. Occasional conflicts and disagreements are therefore unavoidable, but you can avoid the majority of these by recognising difficult or volatile colleagues and developing viable coping mechanisms. If your supervisor is prone to sudden bursts of anger or frustration, then learn to identify the signs and excuse yourself before you become a target.

8. Focus on developing a positive work-life balance

For anyone who lives and breathes their job, experiencing difficulties within the workplace can have a huge impact on their quality of life. This has been supported by recent research conducted by the Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development, who claimed that employees on zero-hours contracts and who had minimal interaction with their workplace were far more likely to have a more positive work-life balance. It is therefore crucial that you have hobbies and passions to pursue outside of work, as this will help you to cope during times of professional conflict or dissatisfaction.

9. Develop a ‘Plan B’

When workplace conflicts take a turn for the worse, it is easy to become disheartened and discouraged. It is therefore crucial that you keep your options open and consider the benefits of following an alternative career path. By updating and distributing your resume, networking with potential clients and honing your industry skills with professional qualifications, it is possible to both advance your career and take control of your existing workplace problems. This is the ultimate coping mechanism, as it increases your chances of finding a permanent resolution and moving forward in your career.

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10. Be prepared to leave for pastures new

Of course, no matter how hard you try, you may ultimately have to accept that your workplace issues cannot be resolved. This may be due to unmanageable levels of stress or a conflict of personalities. However, the only way to progress in this instance is to be proactive and seek out alternative employment. This means that you must be fully prepared to follow and implement your back-up plan, as hesitation or a failure to commit may leave you stranded in an untenable position. While leaving a secure job may require considerable courage in the current climate, it may also be your only option if you cannot adapt to your environment or the attitude of your co-workers.

The Bottom Line

In order to adapt to a difficult work environment and develop coping mechanisms for specific conflicts and individuals, your ability to be proactive is pivotal. This not only enables you to confront issues head-on and communicate directly with those at the heart of the problem, but it also allows you to develop alternative plans in the event that your complaints cannot be resolved. Without this characteristic, it can be extremely difficult to move forward in your career or achieve a positive work-life balance.

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Last Updated on March 29, 2021

5 Types of Horrible Bosses and How to Beat Them All

5 Types of Horrible Bosses and How to Beat Them All

When I left university I took a job immediately, I had been lucky as I had spent a year earning almost nothing as an intern so I was offered a role. On my first day I found that I had not been allocated a desk, there was no one to greet me so I was left for some hours ignored. I happened to snipe about this to another employee at the coffee machine two things happened. The first was that the person I had complained to was my new manager’s wife, and the second was, in his own words, ‘that he would come down on me like a ton of bricks if I crossed him…’

What a great start to a job! I had moved to a new city, and had been at work for less than a morning when I had my first run in with the first style of bad manager. I didn’t stay long enough to find out what Mr Agressive would do next. Bad managers are a major issue. Research from Approved Index shows that more than four in ten employees (42%) state that they have previously quit a job because of a bad manager.

The Dream Type Of Manager

My best manager was a total opposite. A man who had been the head of the UK tax system and was working his retirement running a company I was a very junior and green employee for. I made a stupid mistake, one which cost a lot of time and money and I felt I was going to be sacked without doubt.

I was nervous, beating myself up about what I had done, what would happen. At the end of the day I was called to his office, he had made me wait and I had spent that day talking to other employees, trying to understand where I had gone wrong. It had been a simple mistyped line of code which sent a massive print job out totally wrong. I learn how I should have done it and I fretted.

My boss asked me to step into his office, he asked me to sit down. “Do you know what you did?” I babbled, yes, I had been stupid, I had not double-checked or asked for advice when I was doing something I had not really understood. It was totally my fault. He paused. “Will you do that again?” Of course I told him I would not, I would always double check, ask for help and not try to be so clever when I was not!

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“Okay…”

That was it. I paused and asked, should I clear my desk. He smiled. “You have learnt a valuable lesson, I can be sure that you will never make a mistake like that again. Why would I want to get rid of an employee who knows that?”

I stayed with that company for many years, the way I was treated was a real object lesson in good management. Sadly, far too many poor managers exist out there.

The Complete Catalogue of Bad Managers

The Bully

My first boss fitted into the classic bully class. This is so often the ‘old school’ management by power style. I encountered this style again in the retail sector where one manager felt the only way to get the best from staff was to bawl and yell.

However, like so many bullies you will often find that this can be someone who either knows no better or is under stress and they are themselves running scared of the situation they have found themselves in.

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The Invisible Boss

This can either present itself as management from afar (usually the golf course or ‘important meetings) or just a boss who is too busy being important to deal with their staff.

It can feel refreshing as you will often have almost total freedom with your manager taking little or no interest in your activities, however you will soon find that you also lack the support that a good manager will provide. Without direction you may feel you are doing well just to find that you are not delivering against expectations you were not told about and suddenly it is all your fault.

The Micro Manager

The frustration of having a manager who feels the need to be involved in everything you do. The polar opposite to the Invisible Boss you will feel that there is no trust in your work as they will want to meddle in everything you do.

Dealing with the micro-manager can be difficult. Often their management style comes from their own insecurity. You can try confronting them, tell them that you can do your job however in many cases this will not succeed and can in fact make things worse.

The Over Promoted Boss

The Over promoted boss categorises someone who has no idea. They have found themselves in a management position through service, family or some corporate mystery. They are people who are not only highly unqualified to be managers they will generally be unable to do even your job.

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You can find yourself persistently frustrated by the situation you are in, however it can seem impossible to get out without handing over your resignation.

The Credit Stealer

The credit stealer is the boss who will never publically acknowledge the work you do. You will put in the extra hours working on a project and you know that, in the ‘big meeting’ it will be your credit stealing boss who will take all of the credit!

Again it is demoralising, you see all of the credit for your labour being stolen and this can often lead to good employees looking for new careers.

3 Essential Ways to Work (Cope) with Bad Managers

Whatever type of bad boss you have there are certain things that you can do to ensure that you get the recognition and protection you require to not only remain sane but to also build your career.

1. Keep evidence

Whether it is incidents with the bully or examples of projects you have completed with the credit stealer you will always be well served to keep notes and supporting evidence for projects you are working on.

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Buy your own notebook and ensure that you are always making notes, it becomes a habit and a very useful one as you have a constant reminder as well as somewhere to explore ideas.

Importantly, if you do have to go to HR or stand-up for yourself you will have clear records! Also, don’t always trust that corporate servers or emails will always be available or not tampered with. Keep your own content.

2. Hold regular meetings

Ensure that you make time for regular meetings with your boss. This is especially useful for the over-promoted or the invisible boss to allow you to ‘manage upwards’. Take charge where you can to set your objectives and use these meetings to set clear objectives and document the status of your work.

3. Stand your ground, but be ready to jump…

Remember that you don’t have to put up with poor management. If you have issues you should face them with your boss, maybe they do not know that they are coming across in a bad way.

However, be ready to recognise if the situation is not going to change. If that is the case, keep your head down and get working on polishing your CV! If it isn’t working, there will be something better out there for you!

Good luck!

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