When it comes to our careers, sometimes awkward things just come up. We’ve all been there: from walking in on co-workers gossiping to sending an email to the wrong recipient, this stuff is par for the course when people spend multiple hours a day together, five days a week.
So the awkward situation has happened — now what? How you end up dealing with the situation will define what happens afterwards, and it could be the difference between feeling comfortable in your office moving forward, or rushing to and from your desk without so much as glancing in other peoples’ direction. We spoke with Jane Roqueplot, owner and director of JaneCo’s Sensible Solutions, a national career advancement firm, for her advice on what to do when certain situations arise.
Here’s what she suggests for five common work-related dilemmas.
Situation 1: You’ve missed an important deadline
How to react: Preferably in this situation you would have recognized that you missed the deadline yourself, rather than having your boss ask you if you’ve finished that TPS report. Either way, once the mistake has been recognized, Roqueplot recommends asking yourself a few questions, including:
- Why did you miss the deadline?
- Who is affected by missing it?
- What’s the worst thing that can/will happen to you because you missed it?
- What can you do to fix any ill effects?
- Can you think of any other long-term solutions for not missing this deadline again?
Once you’ve answered these questions, take all that information to your direct manager and work through the problem. “You’ve also got to be willing, if able, to do whatever the manager’s solution is,” says Roqueplot.
Situation 2: It’s pretty apparent your boss just doesn’t like you
How to react: To start, Roqueplot recommends asking yourself why you think your boss doesn’t like you. “You need to be able to ask yourself a hard question: is it really that your boss doesn’t like you, or is it about your work performance or deliverables?” she said. Realize that most (reasonable) bosses will be happy with employees who are accountable, reliable, dependable, punctual, trustworthy and productive. Determine if there are any of those areas that your boss can fault you on, and start working to amend them. “Remember, the boss doesn’t have to invite you to her home for dinner with her family to appreciate your positive contributions,” says Roqueplot. “Your boss doesn’t even necessarily need to like you to respect you and value your workplace contributions — there’s a difference.”
Situation 3: There’s one co-worker in particular you just can’t seem to get along with
How to react: People are different, and in fact, some of the best teams are made up of people with conflicting styles, says Roqueplot. Of course that doesn’t help when you feel like you’re warring with someone at every meeting. Instead of immediately getting angry, consider the fact that people react and respond to situations differently, and everyone has their own communication style preferences. “The differences in people do not necessarily make one person right and the other wrong,” says Roqueplot. “By realizing this, you become more people-sensitive, which means you start to appreciate the individual’s styles and what value each person brings to the team. Instead of focusing on the negative, accentuate the positive.” If nothing else, at least that will help make your own experience working with this person more pleasant.
Situation 4: You haven’t been given more responsibilities at work in a while
How to react: You should never expect your boss to come to you with the accolades, praise and work-that’ll-put-you-in-line-for-a-promotion — speak up yourself. “Volunteer to do something productive that requires more responsibilities than you’ve been granted … or put together a proposal of what you want to accomplish, the result you expect (aka what the benefit is to the employer) and what responsibilities you’ll need permission to have to do the job,” says Roqueplot. “Include a timeline for the result, and request an evaluation time at the conclusion of your plan. Hand in your proposal and ask when you can expect a decision.” Being proactive will make you feel better about yourself, and it will show your boss how serious you are about your job.
Situation 5: A bully has you in her target
How to react: You may have thought you left bullying back on the preschool playground, but you could be wrong — workplace bullying is a real thing. “Realize that in any situation, you have three choices of how to deal with it,” says Roqueplot. “You can either change it, adapt to it, or leave it.” Here’s how those three work. For starters — do you have the authority or are you in a position to enforce change? If the answer is no (which it probably is if you’re dealing with a bully in the first place), then you need to ask yourself if you can adapt to it. “Adapting will take its toll, though,” says Roqueplot. “It could cause stress, and stress has many ill-effects …” If the situation warrants it, it’s within your rights to step away from your job for a bit (with personal or vacation days) and consider how you’re going to best work out this situation for yourself. Remember that talking to a boss, someone in HR or a co-worker could escalate the situation, so be cautious about whether or not you’re ready to do so. If you can’t first just approach the bully yourself and attempt to put the matter to bed, consider asking to be relocated to another team or assignment that wouldn’t have you working so closely with your offender. If neither of those two options are feasible, your next steps are to either talk to someone at work about it (which again, could be more pain than it’s worth), or find yourself a new job with a more caring staff. Whatever you decide, dealing with a bully is never fun, but your main goal should always be to make sure you feel comfortable and safe in your work environment.
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