Workplace conflict Ellis Fox blog

How to make the best of a bad work situation

While you may be able to choose which company you work for, the unfortunate reality is that team members come and go and as a result you can’t always choose your work colleagues.  Some people can be difficult to work with, just because of the way that they interact with others or their personalities. And while this may be less than ideal, it doesn’t change the fact that you still need to work with them.  What’s the best approach to ensure you can remain productive and happy at work?

Change what you can

The one thing you can control in a bad work situation is your response. Taking a moment to pause and reflect before answering a question that would normally annoy you is a way of diffusing a difficult situation. If you respond on reflex and say the first thing that comes to mind, you may end up regretting it later on. While the default may be to think that the other person needs to change their behaviour that may not be within your control, especially if they’re in a more senior position. Rather work to change what you can, your response.

Focus on finding positives

While this may be very challenging at times, being able to focus on the positives has multiple benefits. Firstly, it reminds you of what you can learn from the situation. Secondly, it turns your focus away from the characteristics of the person that you dislike and instead looks at them in a more empathetic way. Are they acting that way because they’re insecure, or perhaps going through personal difficulties that’re making them edgy? Are there aspects of their job that they’re really good at? Realising this may actually result in you respecting them more and may create an opportunity to build a better working relationship. The third reason is possibly the most important. Reacting positively has a ripple effect with co-workers. It sets an example for how they can respond to difficult situations and can earn you more respect too.

While nobody wants to work in a toxic environment for long, learning to adapt in the short term is good way to make the best of a bad situation. Plus learning the soft skills required to adapt and make the workplace a little better will only serve you well as you progress further in your career.