How to overcome challenges in the workplace

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Issues and disputes can arise at any time when you’re at work. Instead of getting caught off guard, learn how to deal with workplace challenges with our in-depth how-to guide below.

Being prepared for the unexpected is all part of day-to-day office life. Challenges present themselves in ways you might not have planned for, knocking your workflow off balance in the process. But with the right procedures and plans in place, you can easily overcome challenges at work when faced with unpredictable situations.

Here, we’ll talk through tactics and methods that’ll help you deal with some of the most common challenges in the workplace.

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The most common problems at work

How to overcome challenges at work

Dealing with difficult situations at work: Examples to help you out

Problems that can occur when working in a team

How to solve problems in a team


The most common problems at work

Workplace problems come in many different shapes and sizes. And while some are bound to be highly specific to your own office or sector, there are plenty of universal problems that teams and individuals will be faced with across the globe.

We delved into a range of challenges, issues and roadblocks to see if any patterns emerged. Here are the problems that most frequently appeared:

– A lack of proper training for new and existing employees

– Poor communication between employees and upper management

– Ineffective employee recognition

– Inflexible schedules or a lack of work/life balance

– Staff conflicts, harassment, or bullying

– Staying engaged and motivated

– A lack of organisation

– Excessive or improper company policies

– Dealing with change (such as staff turnover, client changes, managerial switches)

– Inadequate management

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How to overcome challenges at work

Stay level-headed in the moment

In a heated situation where emotions can bubble to the top, it can be easy to fly off the handle. But it’s always best to let a cooler head prevail. If you need to make a decision or take action, keeping your emotions in check and remaining professional is most definitely the most important thing.

Remember, feelings are not facts. Look at the information that’s available to you and give yourself a few hours to calm down before you move on. Once the feelings have subsided, you’ll be glad you showed some restraint.

Likewise, it’s important to be gracious in the face of bad news. If you have to disagree with a recent development – if you were passed over for that big promotion in favour of someone else, for instance – then be respectful. Your issue is likely with the idea and not the person; there’s a difference – you can hold differing opinions without forcing a personal divide between you and your colleagues.

Ask yourself where you went wrong

Were your expectations unrealistic? Perhaps you work hard but you aren’t always the most approachable person? Maybe there was a presentation you had to deliver, but you faltered in one or two places?

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If so, now is the perfect time to take a step back and note where you might’ve gone wrong. Use these missteps as an opportunity to change your thinking and look towards the future. When approaching similar goals, you’ll have the upper hand knowing where you slipped up the first time around.

Say “I can” when you think you can’t

In the face of a challenge, you might find it easier to shy away and say: “I can’t”. Instead, look at this perceived negative as a positive and know you can do it. Tackle the challenge head-on and show you can learn new things on the way. Proving yourself is all part of progress and when you start showing more and more resolve, peers and managers will start to take note.

Don’t dwell on the problem

Rather than dwelling on the issue, focus on planning ahead instead. Be proactive, rather than reactive; every problem has a solution after all. They may not always be readily apparent, which makes us more likely to lament what we’ve seen as a failure. And that’s OK for a while, but after that time’s up, it’s time to plan a solution.

Use what you’ve learned from this situation to turn it into a positive, so you’re better equipped for next time. Trying another tactic and approaching things from a different angle might give you the advantage when similar circumstances arise.

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Divide the challenge into smaller pieces

If the problem is unavoidable and requires action, then trying to deal with it in one fell swoop may cause problems. Divide the problem into smaller, more manageable pieces; identify these smaller issues and find their solutions first. As you cross them off your list, you’ll be in a better position to take on the main problem head-on; instead of being distracted by the problem, you’ll be focused on the solutions that have now been identified.

Create a positive self-perception

If you’re the kind of person who sets high expectations, then challenges and outcomes may end up weighing heavily on you. Remember, challenges don’t always arise because of outside factors, they may be a result of your own thinking. And while there isn’t anything necessarily wrong with these high expectations, the issue becomes a problem when you’re expecting everything to be perfect first time.

It’s far better to work towards continuous improvement rather than the unrealistic perfection you’ve set for yourself. It’s simply not possible to get everything right the first time; when you make an error don’t be hard on yourself. If you’re naturally inclined to perfectionism, then you’re most probably somebody who works hard. Try re-framing the situation into a positive; while you didn’t get there in the end, you still put in the effort, and that’s more than admirable.

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Don’t be afraid to admit mistakes

If a challenge was the result of a mistake you made, then admitting the mistake is usually the best move. There’s nothing wrong with taking ownership of your mistakes, especially when it stands in the way of moving past a challenge. It shows that you’re willing to grow and that you’re a person of character. Too often it’s viewed as a weakness, but your honesty will be appreciated by the others in your office when it comes down to it.


Dealing with difficult situations at work: Examples to help you out

As we said, problems are bound to vary from office to office. However, certain scenarios are more common than you might think. Here’s a selection of heated, and familiar, situations that you could well find yourself in, along with how to defuse them…

Your manager has overloaded you with work

The odd request from your manager can easily be dealt with. In fact, taking on a new task here and there is a nice string to add to the bow. But all of a sudden, you’re being asked to take on a mountain of duties that are above your pay grade and nowhere to be seen on your job description.

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How to deal with it: Everyone wants to please their boss. But if your workload has effectively doubled (without a salary increase to go along with it), then completing your manager’s work for them is a thankless task.

If it’s becoming a problem that has started to affect your actual duties, then you have to learn to say no. Most people won’t want to rock the boat with their boss, but being snowed under can affect you in many other ways. Going over your job description with them is a good start, but if things don’t change, then you should consider talking to HR.

Working on a group project with colleagues you don’t get on with

Nothing stands in the way of a productive project like colleagues who butt heads from the outset. Before the project has even had time to begin, if it’s populated with difficult characters, then your preconceptions are more than likely to kick in.

How to deal with it: There are a whole host of tactics and approaches that can make working with someone you don’t get on with a lot easier.

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Try getting to know them. While this doesn’t have to become a personal relationship, some common ground can make the working relationship far less fraught. And while you can’t change them, you can change your own behaviour to re-frame your contact with them in a more positive light. Try saying “good morning” to them, greet them in a meeting or offer to get them a drink. Small gestures like these could help them change the way they react to you.

If these approaches aren’t working, then try setting solid boundaries. Doing so helps you keep your distance and stops them from ruling over the project. Whether it’s taking breaks from working with them, talking through ways you prefer to work or knowing when to pick your battles, setting boundaries can help control the situation your own way.

Your team is afraid to speak up to you

Being a manager doesn’t preclude you from dealing with challenges, and this next issue is a big one. If those on your team are afraid to speak up, make suggestions or offer solutions, then it may be because they’re afraid of reprisal in some way, shape or form.

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Managing by fear can have disastrous effects on those below you, and is more than likely going to lead to drops in productivity, a more disengaged team and a lack of confidence in their abilities.

How to deal with it: Make yourself an open book. Invite those on your team for their views and opinions whenever you find yourself in meetings. By letting them know you’re open to their insights, they’ll take it as a sign of encouragement, which will allow them to become more engaged in their duties and feel like they’re part of a proper team.

You want to make a complaint to the director

When situations reach boiling point, it might feel like going straight to the top is the best way to take things off the heat. But by skipping a few rungs to make yourself heard, you run the risk of irritating those above you.

How to deal with it: If you need to make a complaint, for whatever reason, then always go to your line manager. If the issue doesn’t directly involve you, then be sure to label the complaint as a “concern”. And should it be your line manager who’s in the wrong, it’s at this point you can go to their direct supervisor.

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You know you’re in the right

Workplace disagreements are unsavoury enough as they are. But things can get even uglier when neither party refuses to budge. It’s especially galling when you know you’re right and they’re wrong. Standing your ground might seem admirable, but you’re only keeping the cycle of workplace stress spinning.

How to deal with it: No one wants to work in an environment where tensions go unresolved. Even though you know you’re in the right, it’s far more beneficial for everyone if you apologise. You spend a lot of time at work and around your colleagues – don’t let pride and ego get in the way of what ought to be a successful working relationship.


Problems that can occur when working in a team

Whenever different personalities and working styles are in the mix, there’s a chance that challenges can crop up. And when they do, it can affect both the project’s progress and the team’s performance as a whole.

Here are some of the most notable issues that stand in the way of teams working together in harmony…

– A lack of trust

– Poor communication

– Personality conflicts

– Not sharing information

– Poor engagement

– Working in silos

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How to solve problems in a team

Clearly, challenges amongst any given team can run rampant. Meet these issues head on by using the following approaches…

How to deal with a lack of trust

Without trust in your team, collaboration is bound to be met with resistance. The good thing about trust is that teams can build it through both professional performance and by getting to know each other on a personal level.

Team-building activities can go a long way towards establishing trust. If trust is running low, then something light-hearted – which still puts the varied abilities to good use – can be a great way to set the tone of the project and strengthen the bonds between team members.

How to deal with poor communication

When the left hand doesn’t know what the right is doing, then it’s sure to affect the overall performance of a team. Duplicate work and delays are common when communication channels aren’t available, and any hope that the team knows what is expected of them is sure to be dashed.

The good news is that there are so many methods of communicating with each other, that poor communication is practically impossible. Whether it’s via email, video calls or group messaging software like Slack, making sure your team can communicate in a way they’re comfortable with ensures everyone’s on the same page.

If you'r working hard, you're a winner

How to deal with personality conflicts

Knowing you have to work on a team where you, or others, disagree with certain personalities can be a real drain on your morale. As well as the tips we offered earlier, you can minimise clashes in a few different ways. Adjusting their duties so that their interaction is kept to a minimum is a no-nonsense approach, but you may also want to bring in HR as a mediator if both parties are willing to discuss their problems.

How to deal with not sharing information

When you’re working on a team, withholding key information doesn’t make an awful lot of sense. When parts of the puzzle are missing, then the project can’t continue as it should, and certain team members may end up missing important details or performing work that didn’t need doing at all.

At the beginning of a project, make it clear to the team that the sharing of information is vital. You can make sure this happens by providing your team with the means to share and view information and files through tools such as Google Docs, file-sharing websites and the Cloud. When information is readily available – and accessible – everyone on your team stays up to date and informed of the project’s progress.

How to deal with poor engagement

Without a meaningful connection to their work, team members are sure to disengage, which can have a disastrous effect on their productivity.

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If you’re managing the project, be sure to emphasise the importance of everyone’s role and work that they’ve done so far. Don’t forget the importance of results and milestones either. By backing up your words with hard facts and numbers, you can re-energise team members who might have lost their focus.

How to deal with working in silos

A team that functions together as a unit stands them in good stead. But when the team breaks off into isolated mini teams that don’t interact, then the lack of cohesion can create disjointed work and undesirable outcomes.

Along with project management software that keeps everyone aware of what team members are working on at any given point, scheduling regular meetings can be beneficial. By doing so, everyone has the chance to re-connect with each other, re-align their efforts should they need to, and work towards greater collaboration in the future.

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