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How To Cope With A Difficult Work Environment

How To Cope With A Difficult Work Environment
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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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Published on July 27, 2021

15 Smart Video Conferencing Etiquette Tips to Follow

15 Smart Video Conferencing Etiquette Tips to Follow
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During the pandemic, video conferencing replaced in-person meetings and has now become the standard option for business meetings. Over the past 17 months, most workers have gotten past the video conferencing learning curve with Zoom or Microsoft Teams (or their platform of choice).

But just as with in-person meetings, attention can wax and wane. Some say we’re just not used to staring at ourselves so much on the screen. Instead of fixating on that, try employing smart video conferencing etiquette, or you may risk indiscretions that will flag you as a slacker.

Put the Pro in Professional

After more than a year of fine-tuning, here are the new rules of video conferencing etiquette.

1. Mute Your Mobile and Other Devices

The first video conference etiquette you need to know is muting your other devices. Just as in the pre-COVID days, someone’s obnoxious ring tone blaring Taylor Swift’s newest single in the middle of a meeting is also an annoyance if it happens during a Zoom meeting and so is the inevitable fumbling to turn off the sound. Even the apologies to the group get tiresome.

Also, when notifications are activated on the computer that you’re using for the meeting, the incoming message takes over the audio and you’ll miss out on snippets of the conversation. Be sure to eliminate this possible faux pas.

2. Dress the Part

While working from home, you may have fallen into the habit of slipping on your comfiest T-shirt each day. Hey, no judgments! But before you log on to your video conference, try to make an effort with your appearance.

Depending on your company culture and the importance of your meeting, consider dressing the part of the professional whom you wish to project. It will help you feel more self-assured, and others will likely take you more seriously.

For women, wear light make-up, put on earrings, and make sure your blouse is crisply pressed. For men, show up freshly shaved. Wearing a crisp collared shirt in a solid color will usually suffice.

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Pro Tip: Stay away from wearing white or black, unless those colors look great on you. Consider wearing light blue or brown instead.

3. Stage Your Workspace

Have you noticed the backdrops of experts interviewed on news shows? Bookshelves and photographs are carefully curated, and no busy-patterned furniture or artwork is in sight.

Take note of what appears behind you when you choose the location of your video conferences. Piles of junk mail on the table or stacks of folded laundry on the couch will convey more about your personal life than you care to share. Make sure you remove clutter from the camera’s eye, and present a tidy, orderly workspace to your colleagues, coworkers, and bosses.

4. Put Some Thought Into Lighting and Perspective

Be aware that in a video conference, your computer camera can actually make you look up to ten pounds heavier depending on where you sit. But you can easily drop those added pounds by moving back from the screen to diminish the wide-angle distortion.

Frame your head on the screen by tilting the screen up or down. Also, it’s best to not place yourself in front of a window or bright light, which makes you appear in shadow. Instead, face the light source, moving it (or yourself) until you have a flattering amount of illumination. You can also purchase some small spotlights that allow you to add light as needed.

Pro Tip: If your lights add too much redness to your skin, consider counter-balancing with a green filter.

Remember That Half of Life Is Showing Up

5. Arrive on Time

In the old days of in-person meetings, it was nearly impossible to slip in late into a meeting unnoticed. In today’s video conferences, logging in late still shows poor form. Instead, strive to arrive five minutes early and get yourself settled.

Once the meeting is underway, the host may be less attentive about late arrivals waiting to be let in. Diverting the host’s attention away from the meeting with a tardy entry request is the ultimate giveaway that you didn’t honor the schedule. If you don’t want a black mark against you, log in on time.

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6. Turn on Your Video

Few people like to see their face on the screen, but buck up and turn on your camera in video conferences. In most cases, it’s better to be a face on a screen than a name in a blank square. Your statements will be more memorable when other meeting attendees can see you.

If you need to turn off the video, either because of a poor connection, some commotion in the room, or a need for a quick break, give a short explanation via the chat feature. Then, go back on video as soon as you’re able.

Pro Tip: Keep your explanation for your departure pithy. “Sorry! Doorbell rang. Back in five” says it all. Be sure to honor what you say in chat and really do return in five minutes.

7. Plan Ahead Before Sharing Your Screen

Don’t be one of those people who makes everyone else wait as you click through folders in search of a document. That’s just poor video conferencing etiquette. If you know you’ll need to share a document or video on your screen, prepare by pulling it out of its folder and onto your desktop. Also, clean up the files and folders on your desktop to reduce clutter and facilitate easy access. Close other programs like chat, calendar notifications, and email. Disable pop-up notifications to ensure there’ll be no unforeseen distractions.

Be sure to remind the host before the meeting that you’ll need them to activate the screen-sharing function. Show courtesy once you’re finished by hitting “stop share” to return to the screen with participants.

Attend to the Pesky Details

8. Make Sure That Meetings Remain Right-Sized

With the easy accessibility of video conferencing, it can be tempting to extend the meeting invitation beyond the core group and include everyone peripherally involved in a project. But just as with in-person meetings, the more people involved, the more unwieldy the meeting becomes.

Use good judgment when asking others to sit through a video conference so that you don’t needlessly take up others’ time and so that participants can be fully engaged.

9. Remember to “Unmute” Before You Speak

Most of us are likely able to count on one hand the number of video conferences when someone didn’t have to be reminded, “You’re on mute!” Forgetting to unmute before speaking has become one of the most common missteps in video conferencing.[1]

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Show everyone your impeccable video-conferencing poise by managing your mute feature with flawless control.

10. Stay on Point to Keep the Meeting Length in Check

As with in-person meetings, an agenda with assigned time limits for discussions remains necessary to keep a meeting focused. Data shows, however, that video conferencing can actually reduce meeting time.[2] Reasons include the elimination of commuting time and the ability to screen share and annotate to keep everyone on task.

Additionally, side conversations are virtually impossible with video conferencing now that you can no longer have back-and-forth exchanges with the person beside you.

Pro Tip: If you’re running the meeting, let attendees know in advance the protocol for the chat feature. Is it okay for them to “chat among themselves” or not? (See point 11, as well.)

Talking Has a Time and a Place

11. Chat Appropriately

Just like side conversations or texting in an in-person meeting, the use of the chat feature during a video conference can be disrespectful unless it’s directed to all participants. Hence, it’s good video conferencing etiquette to mind your use of the chat.

At the start of the meeting, you may want to ask the host if it’s alright for participants to use the chat feature. This allows them to disable it if they choose. Used appropriately, it can be a helpful tool to clarify or amplify an earlier point once the conversation has moved on or to let the group know that you need to sign off early (and why).

12. Use the “Raise Hand” Feature to Avoid Interruptions

The slight lag in many video conferences can result in speaking over another person if you attempt to jump into a conversation. To avoid this awkward interruption, indicate when you have something to add to the discussion with the raise-your-hand feature that signals the host you would like to speak. This effective meeting management device makes video conferencing run more smoothly, especially with a large group, but it must be activated and monitored by the host.

Pro Tip: For meetings of six to ten people, sometimes the old-fashioned raising of your physical hand may be the best option. But it’s up to the meeting host. Ask them what they would prefer, and follow that.

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13. Don’t Record the Session or Take Photos Without Prior Permission

In this case, not sharing is caring. The “sharing culture” made popular through social media has little place in video conferencing. Before recording a meeting or capturing a screenshot of the participants, always ask for consent in advance from the full roster of attendees. Knowing that a video conference will be photographed or recorded could have a bearing on what others are willing to discuss.

Manage Yourself

14. Minimize Distractions

While de-activating audio and video features can keep distractions from affecting the other participants, you will need to manage noise and disruptions on your end to give your full attention to the meeting.

Move out of high-traffic zones in your home, keep your door closed, and ask family members to be considerate.

15. Save Snacking for Later

Save snacking for later—or earlier. Eating while on video conference is a no-no. Munching in front of the group while close to the camera—as you are when video conferencing—subjects the participants to an up-close and (too) personal view of your food consumption process.

However, it’s perfectly fine to sip quietly from a glass of water or cup of coffee or tea. If the meeting threatens to last for more than two hours, you may want to ask the host in advance to schedule a five-minute break at the halfway point.

Final Thoughts

Even though bosses are now beginning to ask workers to spend some of their workdays on-site, up to 80 percent will permit employees to work remotely at least part of the time, which means more video conferencing in your future.[3] Mastering these video conferencing etiquette tips will help you dial in—as well as dial back—your participation and demonstrate your unwavering level of engagement to the team.

Featured photo credit: Chris Montgomery via unsplash.com

Reference

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