Working in a challenging environment can present many obstacles. Everyone encounters challenges in their workplace, whether related to a problematic coworker, an uncooperative customer, or a complex project. How we navigate these obstacles reflects our character and work ethic.
How do you deal with work challenges?
The first step is recognizing the challenge for what it is — an opportunity for growth. As difficult as it can be to face a challenging situation head-on, doing so will only make you stronger in the long run.
Once you have identified the challenge and accepted it as a part of your job, you can start coming up with solutions to overcome it. Here are 12 examples of overcoming challenges at work:
1. Having to decipher mixed messages from your boss
When your boss sends mixed messages, it can be challenging to interpret what they are trying to convey. It can feel like you are too cautious, not knowing which direction to move or how best to respond.
It can be tricky and may feel like you are constantly trying to interpret their words, actions, and body language to understand what they want or expect of you.
Do not be afraid to ask for clarification if something is unclear or there seems to be a discrepancy. Asking simple thought-provoking questions like “What do you mean when you say this or that..?” or “Can you talk a bit more about why it is important?” will highlight potential misunderstandings about their expectations.
The most important takeaway is that communication can often prevent problems before they start. Regular check-ins with your boss can also ensure you align with your boss and that there are no misunderstandings or unspoken expectations.
2. Feeling like you’re constantly walking on eggshells
Life in the workplace can sometimes be difficult, especially when it feels like you are walking on eggshells or when it comes to not offending anyone.
To overcome the feeling of constantly walking on eggshells is setting personal boundaries for yourself. Identify what conversations make you uncomfortable and try your best to avoid them. This can mean avoiding getting involved in discussions on particular issues or politely declining an invitation to a meeting with someone if it makes you uneasy.
Try to understand the cultural norms within your company or work environment. Recognize how people react to certain behaviors and what language and topics are off-limits.
Once you understand these boundaries, avoiding potential pitfalls that could unintentionally offend someone or make you uneasy will become easier. The main goal is, to be honest about what situations drive you uncomfortable.
When communicating with others, approach each exchange tactfully and respectfully by listening intently to ensure that everyone’s perspective is respected regardless of whether their beliefs differ from yours. And try to keep all conversations civil even if someone gets angry.
Read also: 18 Examples of Exceeding Expectations
3. Dealing with ambiguous company policies or guidelines
While ambiguity in company policies and guidelines can be challenging, it is important to remember that you can navigate these issues with an organized and thoughtful approach.
First, ensure that you have a basic understanding of the core principles of the policy so that your adherence remains consistent.
Suppose any areas are unclear or open to different interpretations. In that case, it is your responsibility to seek clarity from a manager, colleagues, or anyone who may have faced similar issues.
By learning from others’ experiences, you can better understand how to navigate ambiguous situations at work.
In addition, it can be helpful to develop an organized thought process for addressing any challenging scenarios — asking probing questions that get to the root of the problem and examining what options are available for possible solutions.
Finally, staying open-minded and having a “growth mindset” allows you to navigate through ambiguity without getting caught up in the frustration of unclear policies or guidelines.
4. Working alongside someone who is chronically unreliable
Working with someone who is chronically disorganized or unreliable can present unique challenges. It is important to remember that these individuals may be dealing with various underlying issues. As such, it is essential to approach them with empathy and understanding rather than criticism.
Take the initiative to communicate your expectations regarding deadlines, organization, and communication. Make sure you do this honestly yet respectfully, recognizing that everyone has different styles and skills.
Ask the person about their needs and demonstrate your willingness to help in any way you can. For example, you might suggest creating a system for keeping track of tasks and deadlines to make it easier for them to stay organized and on top of their responsibilities.
You can be a role model — so, be as organized as possible and provide structure for the other person to follow.
Also, having a regular catch-up with the individual helps keep everyone accountable. Regular feedback can identify any problems before they become unmanageable. And providing gentle reminders when needed is often helpful without being overbearing or intrusive.
Finally, you must remain professional throughout the process — even if your colleague is not behaving as such. This means staying level-headed and speaking calmly when expressing concerns or frustrations over their work ethic or performance levels.
5. Navigating office politics and gossiping about coworkers
Navigating office politics and gossiping about coworkers can be challenging and potentially damaging to a successful career.
However, you can navigate tricky situations gracefully if you approach the problem with poise and tact. Try to understand why people engage in office politics or gossip.
People often want to feel like they are part of something bigger than themselves, so they try to get involved in conversations involving power dynamics or attempt to control their environment by gossiping.
To deal with this environment, you must stay calm and collected when you face gossiping coworkers or tricky office politics. Do not stoop down to their level — instead, find ways of maintaining your composure in difficult situations.
The best way to do this is by staying mindful of what is happening around you. Pay attention when people are talking about things that do not interest you, and remain as neutral as possible in any discussion to not fuel any rumors or drama.
If a colleague starts an inappropriate conversation, politely steer it in another direction or avoid it altogether. Focus on building relationships with colleagues who engage in constructive discussion and collaboration — these relationships will help you progress professionally and personally.
6. Struggling to meet deadlines due to changing priorities
Managing your time and energy is key when tight deadlines and pressure are on. It is important to remain organized and prioritize tasks according to importance and urgency.
Breaking down bigger goals into smaller ones makes it easier to manage different tasks at once without feeling overwhelmed or lost.
The idea here is to divide big tasks into smaller ones and measure progress along the way and use those benchmarks as motivation to complete the goal faster.
Prioritizing tasks according to importance and urgency will help you stay on top. Also, the organization is essential for meeting deadlines amidst changing priorities or demands from management teams.
Ensure you comprehensively understand your job expectations and assess what you need to do. Delegating responsibilities can also free up some of your workloads while allowing others to contribute towards reaching the ultimate goal.
7. Dealing with bullying and hostile colleagues
Working daily with a bully or hostile colleague can be a daunting and intimidating experience. But it is something you do not have to put up with — so take steps to protect yourself.
The first step is to identify specific situations that make you uncomfortable. Are there certain people who seem to target you consistently? Do they attempt to undermine your work or contributions in meetings? Are they belittling when you are trying to explain something? If true, they are likely trying to bully you.
If it feels safe enough, calmly communicate your concerns to the person exhibiting the hostile behavior. Document everything that happens so there is a record for the future if needed.
Please document any instances so that you have facts and evidence if required. This could involve writing down times and dates when the person has been rude or unprofessional and noting any potential witnesses — as this will contain evidence in future formal complaints.
Avoid engaging directly in any verbal abuse or insults from these individuals. Never hesitate to seek help from human resources or your immediate manager whenever you feel unsafe.
If the situation does not improve, consider filing a formal complaint against the person in question. When doing so, it is critical to provide as much documentation and detail about the events that took place as possible to substantiate your complaint.
Never allow anyone in the workplace to bully you, no matter what reason they may have. If it happens, stand up for yourself by refusing to give in to their provocations.
Read more: 15 Examples of Taking Ownership
8. Receiving unclear, vague, and unhelpful feedback
Receiving feedback about your work that is unclear, vague, and unhelpful can be a harrowing and discouraging experience. However, it does not have to be permanent.
When receiving feedback that is not as helpful as you would like, take a step back and try to reframe your thinking. Often what we perceive as vague is just unclear communication or a lack of information on the part of the person giving the feedback.
It can also indicate their biases or opinions on how you should do things. In any case, it’s important to remember that their comments do not necessarily reflect an accurate assessment of your work.
Secondly, seek specific examples and details from the other person so you can better understand what they are trying to communicate.
Ask questions such as “Can you provide me with more information?” or “What did you mean by X?”. By probing deeper into what they mean, you can better understand the critique they are providing and how best to address it.
Thirdly, remember that everyone has different opinions on how to complete tasks or achieve goals. Ask for a second opinion from someone else in the workplace who might have more insight on how best to approach the feedback or even offer more constructive advice than the original person.
And do not feel like you must accept all criticism — if something does not feel right, trust your gut.
9. Building solid relationships with coworkers despite differences
Working in a team environment often means building strong relationships with coworkers with vastly different personalities, values, or backgrounds.
Dealing with challenges in the workplace begins with building strong relationships with coworkers despite personality differences.
You can achieve this through open dialogue and understanding that while we may disagree or view issues differently, we all have a common goal at the end of the day.
One way to bridge these differences is to foster an accepting environment where nobody’s opinion is not judged or ostracized but rather respected and listened to without judgment or criticism.
Everyone has different experiences and perspectives, so remain open-minded and take the initiative to connect with others.
Focus on things you have in common instead of differences — this will help create stronger connections with them. It might feel awkward at first, but showing genuine curiosity about others and trying to learn more about them goes a long way toward forming meaningful relationships.
Do not be afraid to make the first move by asking someone questions about their interests or hobbies. It will show that you care and are genuinely interested in getting to know them better.
10. Pleasing everyone and ending up pleasing no one
Trying to please everyone at work can be a tricky balancing act. On the one hand, building relationships with colleagues and fostering a culture of collaboration is essential. On the other, attempting to please everyone can put undue stress on you, leading to frustrations.
Before you try, ask yourself what a reasonable outcome of your action would be. It is also essential to remember that even if you are making every effort to please others, some of them may not be happy.
Rather than taking a “one-size-fits-all” approach when dealing with different people, think about what each individual wants or needs from you.
Ask questions that help you understand their perspective better, such as “What would be most helpful for you?” or “What kind of outcome would be best for your project?” Differentiate between when you are doing something constructive for improvement versus when you are just trying to make someone else happy.
Be confident and comfortable with your choices, and understand that your decisions will not always be accepted or popular with everyone. It is worthwhile to focus on just yourself and prioritize your own needs instead of those of others.
In addition, it is acceptable for you to say ‘no’ if you do not agree or feel something is not right — remember that choosing yourself is not always a selfish choice. So, do not to get bogged down in wanting people’s approval.
Sometimes we must take risks and go out on a limb without worrying about what other people think or say.
11. Dealing with a problem that you don’t have the authority to solve
The frustration of dealing with a problem that you do not have the authority to solve can be extremely costly and quite disheartening.
On the one hand, you may feel exasperated because you understand the importance and severity of a problem, but on the other hand, you are powerless to resolve it. In such cases, ensure that you remain patient and do not become frustrated.
One way to overcome this challenge is by understanding how best to handle the situation. Instead of feeling helpless or powerless, take the initiative and reach out to those with authority to solve it.
Start by gathering as much information about the problem as possible, such as facts, figures, and opinions.
Use that information to make a strong argument highlighting the severity of the issue and how it will cost your company if it is not solved quickly and effectively. Suggest possible solutions and explain why they are beneficial to the company.
You must establish a dialogue between yourself and those in positions to solve it and provide them with information about why the issue needs urgent attention.
Read also: 16 Examples of Taking Responsibility
12. Cultivating a positive attitude during challenging times
Good examples of overcoming challenges include cultivating a positive attitude during tough times — which is one of the most critical elements to success in the workplace. It is essential to maintain an optimistic outlook even when faced with adversity and difficult work situations.
First of all, attitudes are contagious. You can set the mood of your workplace simply by your attitude and behavior. It can also rub off on those around you, which makes it vital to create a supportive environment with colleagues of similar values.
Having an optimistic outlook in challenging circumstances will build better working relationships that can last for years. Instead of getting caught up in negative thoughts or despair, focus on the present moment and actively move away from negative thought patterns.
Remind yourself of what makes you happy, whether meeting tight deadlines or engaging in activities that make you feel fulfilled. This will help put things into perspective and remind you that even though life may be challenging now, better days are ahead.
As tempting as it might be to give up when facing an intimidating project, instead figure out what motivates you in challenging circumstances and use it as fuel for success.
Whether dealing with a demanding boss or juggling multiple projects at once — having sound judgment based on strong ethical principles will get you through challenging times while showing respect for yourself and those around you.
Always remember that integrity is essential in any workplace setting, so make sure yours shines.