Don’t Let A Bad Day at Work Defeat You

Have you had a bad day at work? Maybe it’s a day when everything goes wrong: you mess up a presentation, you are ‘volun-told’ to join a project you don’t have time for, you miss an important email, and you spill coffee on yourself right before an important meeting. What else could possibly go wrong? Don’t ask!!

Or maybe it was like Gayle Wilson’s* worst day at work. Gayle was leading a takeover deal for her employer. If it went well, she expected a big promotion. If it went badly, it could break her career. Early in the morning of the agreed date to sign the contract, Gayle realized that the other company still had not provided her with information needed to finalize the deal. It was a nightmare! Gayle had to call her boss, tell him how she was going to solve the problem, and chase down the missing information. Her day was filled with stressful telephone calls, some frantic emails, and too much coffee.  Gayle wanted to scream, and to crawl into bed and hide, all at the same time.

We all have these days. Sometimes it seems like the Fates are all working against you. Don’t give in  – you can overcome their challenges!

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Five Ways to Defeat a Bad Day at Work

Keep perspective:

Sure, it’s a terrible day. Fortunately, we don’t live in a Groundhog Day movie; each day only has 24 hours. It will end. Then you can go to bed, and start over tomorrow.

Distinguish between yourself and the events:

You’re not a bad presenter, you just drew a blank. You’re not a terrible project manager, you just missed one item on a long list. Forgive yourself for mistakes; don’t let one experience overwhelm your view of yourself or your abilities.

Take the long view:

Most of the time, events that look like massive failures in the moment look much smaller after some time passes. Think back to a failure you had 10 years ago – it’s not so important now, right?

Take a moment for yourself:

Close your office door. Hide in the bathroom for 10 minutes, Go for a short walk. Take some deep breaths to calm yourself. Stretch your arms to the ceiling and bounce on your toes a few times to get your energy moving. Listen to some upbeat music. Then go back to work.

Find the learning:

On bad days, you may find yourself saying ‘if only I had…’ (talked to that person first, not tried to run up the stairs carrying coffee, read my emails before my first meeting…). That ‘if only’ is often an important lesson, about planning, communication, time management, or some other business skill. Focusing on what you can do to prevent the bad thing from happening again can give you a feeling of control.

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“You need to screw up to learn. You need to experience to create greatness.”

Laurie Faria Stolarz, Author ‘Blue Is for Nightmares’

What happened to Gayle? At 10:00 that night, they signed the contract. Gayle was proud. She was also exhausted, and worried that the last-minute scramble would derail her career. But her boss congratulated her for handling the crisis. He told her that this sort of thing happened all the time. He had a longer view thanks to his longer career. Gayle got her promotion and now she is learning to predict the last-minute problems that can happen with takeovers and mergers.

A series of small downturns or some unexpected bad news can feel overwhelming. When it happens to you, remember that your career is bigger than any one day, any one conversation or any one event, no matter how bad they seem.  Remember that everyone makes mistakes, and bad days happen to good people. When you overcome the challenges, you learn and become stronger.

*Not her real name



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Marne Platt

Dr. Marne Platt is the President of Fundamental Capabilities and the author of 3 books (so far): Living Singlish: Your Life, Your Way; Professional Presence; and PREP For Success. Originally a practicing veterinarian, she built a successful career in the pharmaceutical industry. She founded Fundamental Capabilities to ‘pay it forward’ by providing career development workshops and coaching for women. ‘Living Singlish: Your Life, Your Way’ is an ‘older sister in your pocket’ packed full of advice for young women on building their own independent and exciting life. 'Professional Presence' and PREP For Success' help you strengthen your spoken and unspoken communication and leadership presence.

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