Shirley's Articles / Communication Skills and Building Relationships|Teamwork and Collaboration

How To Turn Around Difficult Situations At Work

In your career, you will encounter many difficult situations that will test your resolve. Situations can include: conflict with colleagues, a less than supportive boss, customer complaints, increased workloads, promotion rejection, or through making a simple error of judgment. In business, things will not always go smoothly, and there are a multitude of obstacles and challenges to overcome. However, no matter what the situation, handling any difficulties head on is a far better solution than to let a situation escalate out of control.

Here are 5 important steps to changing the outcome of a difficult situation.

1. Embrace Acceptance

Whatever happens at work, moaning about it will not make it better. Learning to accept a situation, however difficult, is the first step to moving on and overcoming your own emotional response to it. Acceptance can bring you to a calm point where you can consider future options, and avoid focusing negatively on the situation.

2. Improve Communication

Approach every situation with a degree of control, and be prepared to clear the air, even when there is tension and disharmony. Communicate the right way though, consider your viewpoint carefully, do not get flustered or emotional. Speak clearly, clarify your point, and watch your body language as this can speak volumes.

3. Let Go of Unfairness

There will be times when you feel as if a situation is just not fair. Perhaps you missed out on your bonus, an award or a pay rise. It’s difficult, but it’s life. Let go of the ‘it’s not fair’ frame of mind and consider whether you could have improved the situation in any way, if not, let it go. If you made a mistake, learn from it. Next time, you will approach the situation with a clearer perspective.

4. View Monumental Problems with Clarity

It’s easy to make a problem become disproportionate. You may feel responsible for a particular situation; you may be struggling to resolve an issue. Perhaps you said the wrong thing and upset a colleague. Whether it is a problem that you have inadvertently caused, or, a problem that you are expected to resolve, it’s important to approach the situation with renewed focus and clarity. Forget right or wrong, blame, or feeling under pressure. Focus all of your energy on resolving the issue, and it may not be as insurmountable a problem as it first appeared to be.

5. Improve Listening Skills

Whatever your role within an organisation, you are likely to have to deal with internal and external gripes. The best way to cope and to control a difficult situation is to really listen. Say very little and let the other person have their say. Make notes throughout if the situation is complex, stay focussed, and be professional. Most often people feel that they are unimportant. By listening to them and understanding, it may be possible to resolve a problem before it even starts.

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Shirley is an international bestselling author. She has established herself as a leading authority in email and business writing skills. Her international bestseller Model Business Letters, Emails & Other Business Documents 7th edition sold over half a million copies worldwide and has been translated into 17 languages. Her book Email Essentials reached #2 in the USA for publishers Marshall Cavendish International. Find out more about Shirley at

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