work frustrations

10 Effective Ways to Respond to Work Frustrations


We all have times at work when we are frustrated with a team member, disagree with a new policy, upset our boss, mad at our company, or just feel burned out or unappreciated. How you respond to work frustrations can be a growth opportunity or can hurt you and the work culture.

Ask yourself the following questions: Do you rise to the occasion by finding solutions that build up your team, increase your skills, and better serve your company and customers, or do you react negatively by being the victim? Sometimes the only thing we have control over is our attitude and the choices we make. Think about a time when you were upset, or something didn’t go as expected. How did you react? Were you a victim or the victor? 

Playing the Victim & Negativity

When we feel like a victim, there may be the tendency to respond in one of these negative ways:

• Complaining or venting to other team members.

• Backbiting behind-the-back discussions and attacks.

• Disengaging with your work or justifying doing personal things on company time.

• Getting angry and letting it impact the way we interact with others.

• Fuming inside and just letting it simmer without addressing the issue.

• Avoiding interacting with specific individuals – conflict avoidance.

• Fight – Attacking the individual, policy or company.

• Flight – Fleeing from the situation or problem and avoiding the issue or your feelings.

• Getting defensive and locking into your position or needs.

• Getting mad and raising your voice, using attacking words or body language.

• Turnover – Running away from the problem to another organization.

A Better Approach to Dealing with Work Frustrations

The above negative responses always come with unwanted consequences that risk hurting relationships, creating a negative work environment, delivering poor service, losing productivity, corrective action, and so on. Work frustrations can be difficult when you don’t know how to respond. Here are ten effective ways to respond to your work frustrations.

Top 10 Work Frustrations

1. Seek Understanding – There are always two sides to a story. Ask questions, listen and find the facts to the whole story before reacting. Understand the why behind a given situation or challenge.

2. Stay Positive with Above-the-Line-Thinking – No matter the situation in life, you can choose a positive attitude and sometimes realize hard things happen and focus on a positive resolution. Stay above the line instead of selecting a victim’s negative route.

3. Go Directly to the Source – Be open and honest, going directly to the source of your frustration. If you are upset with an individual, a policy, or a challenge, go to the place or person where the issue can be resolved. If that does not work, go to your supervisor or the person in charge of human resources. Never vent with other team members. That can poison the work culture and others’ attitudes. When approaching the individual, be specific in explaining your concern using a level voice tone, non-attacking words and sincere body language to avoid making the person feel attacked. Avoid escalating conflict by using “I statements” when discussing your feelings. For example, “I wanted to talk with you about the new XYZ program. I feel like this will result in extra work, and I have some ideas to address this better”. Avoid using “you statements” that place blame or speaking in general terms like “you always give me extra work.”

4. Seek Win/Win Resolutions – Sometimes, it is easy for our focus to only be on ourselves and how we are impacted. A better approach is to consider all individuals involved and seek out solutions where everyone’s needs are addressed. Clarify the problem, seek input from others, and come together on the best solution.

5. See Things from Other’s Frame of Reference – We all have our lens of how we see the world formed from past experiences, teachers, and life lessons. When facing challenges, strive to see things through the eyes of the other person and their frame of reference. Could you perceive things wrong? Is there more to the story? How can you help?

6. Be Kind – No matter the challenge at work and in life, we can always find a way to be kind and supportive of our team and company.

7. Cooperate – Find a way to embrace changes, face challenges and resolve differences of opinion in a cooperative, non-resistant fashion. Change is always constant, so embrace it.

8. Manage yourself during Conflicts – Show up to any conflict using the following positive conflict resolution techniques:

• Manage your reaction to control anger and be as positive as possible.

• Focus on solving problems, not placing blame.

• Be mentally and emotionally ready when discussing problems. You may need to calm down before having a direct conversation when emotions are running high. Keep your emotions in check. If things start to escalate, suggest taking a break to let everyone calm down.

• Be sensitive to other points of view and compromise when needed.

• Use more of a collaborative approach, seeking to solve things in a way that addresses the needs of all individuals.

• Provide any needed facts in a non-defensive way.

• Avoid others’ pet peeves or making personal attacks.

• Maintain a controlled voice tone.

• Focus on common ground and avoid locking into only your side or needs.

9. Give Yourself a Moment – If you’re feeling frustrated, take a moment to pause before reacting. Giving yourself time to think through a reaction allows you better control over what happens. If needed, temporarily remove yourself. Notice the negative emotions early enough to remind yourself not to react negatively.

10. Look for positives – There are always silver linings in every situation if you look deep enough. We tend to see what we are looking for, so look for the positive. Write out your concerns and the possible positive outcomes. Then, focus on finding positive results. It may help to focus on what is working well, whether than dwelling on the negative. 

How you respond to work frustrations, conflict with others, and work stress makes all the difference in your overall happiness, success on the job, and the impact you make at work. People who learn to be the victor over challenges, not the victim, significantly impact their team, work culture, and themselves.

HR Service offers supervisor and employee training as part of our HR eSolutions Package or in-person with an HR Consultant

Author: Ken Spencer, President & CEO, HR Service, Inc.

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