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A Bad Day at Work - The Workplace is a Playground

  • Date: 2009/08/17 (Rev: 2016/09/24) Stephanie Goddard
  • Synopsis : A number of tips to make the best of a bad situation and turn around a bad day at work to your advantage.

Main Document

A number of tips to make the best of a situation and turn around a bad day at work to your advantage. Keep in mind that the workplace is just a playground for adults, and the little things will be put into perspective.

How to Turn Around a Bad Day at Work

Admit your mistakes.

This doesn't mean you walk out into the corridor, stop the first person you see, and start confessing everything you've done wrong since starting with your organization. It means that many times our stress is just a bad conscience. One of the most effective ways to alleviate the burden of guilt and worry that a mistake can bring, is to just own-up to it.

Your underlying concern is the fall-out from being caught, right? Why not just meet it head-on and on your own terms? Have a game plan for fixing what you broke, and you will not only feel better, but you will be amazed at the impact this courageous act will have on your reputation and trustworthiness.

Count your blessings.

Trite and true. The reason this advice has been around so long, is that it works. Human nature is to problem-solve; consequently, we tend to focus on what isn't going well, so that we can go about fixing it. Sometimes we have to force ourselves out of problem-solver mode to see the things that are going right.

When you are absolutely sure that things couldn't get any worse, take out a pen and paper (or just try this silently in your head) and find ten things that are going just fine. Don't stop until you get to ten! Around number five you will feel a shift in your thinking that will get you back on track for the day... or at least until the meeting is over!

Stop gossiping.

Ouch! This one is going to hurt a little, but the pay-off is big. When you gossip, you are telling the person you are gossiping to that you will do the same thing to her when she is not present. It really adds up to appearing (and being) untrustworthy. Not the best trait to cultivate as a co-worker!

Gossip is mostly laziness in making small talk. Instead of relying on this old standby to spark-up the lunch table chat, have a few topics prepared before you get there. What if someone else starts gossiping? Don't respond judgmentally. Just acknowledge the person's concerns (He really bugs you, huh) and switch topics gracefully.

Dress for success.

This is a different take on another reliable piece of classic business information. If you are wearing things to work that make you feel fat, old, frumpy or just uncomfortable, you are unwittingly causing yourself a bad day at work. We are directly influenced by how we feel about ourselves... including our physical appearance.

Get rid of "that outfit" today. You really only need five day's worth of clothes for the work week. I know this advice flies in the face of every high school's popularity criteria, but it's true. Instead of trying to look like you have on a new outfit every week, just jazz up the one that fits perfectly - and looks great on you - with a scarf, earrings, different tie... you know the drill.

The workplace is just a playground.

Keep in mind that the workplace is just a playground for adults, and the little things will be put into perspective. There will always be the Bully, the Nerd and the Show-Off. Maybe more importantly, there will also be the New Kid, the Scaredy Cat, and the Valedictorian. To turn around your bad day, get to know these three "kids' in your workplace.

The first two (New Kid, Scaredy Cat) will make you feel really great for helping out a frightened kid in a big person's body; the Valedictorian is your second chance to get some great tutoring (mentoring) from the co-worker who really seems to be climbing the ladder (especially if your ladder seems to be propped up against the wrong wall!). So take the new kid or the corporate whiz to lunch or ask her to join your table at the next meeting.

The payoff to these small acts of courage and kindness will be a better day at work.

Reference: Stephanie Goddard (Davidson) is considered a subject matter expert in workplace communications and specializes in leadership and interpersonal skills training.

Frequently appearing as a guest on radio programs and published in numerous articles on work place communications, Stephanie is also a nationally certified trainer for Covey's Seven Habits of Highly Effective People; DDI programs; Ridge's People Skills for Managers and Individual Contributors; Myers-Briggs Type Indicator; FranklinCovey's Project Management and master certified in Achieve Global's Management Programs; as well as an instructor with the American Management Association.

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