Receiving negative feedback about your work, being told off for a mistake, or having a disappointing meeting – all of these (among other, similar negative events) are all stressful occurrences that each of us experience at some point or the other. Sometimes, we are unprepared for when these incidents occur and it can alter the course of our day for the worse when they happen.
For most of us, experiencing stress at different points in the day is part of our daily lives. Continuous exposure to situations where we feel anxious, tense and on high alert (the different emotional reactions that our body shows when under emotional stress) can be quite draining.
Over time, we tend to develop certain changes or alterations to our normal thought processes that make it difficult for us to process negative events in a healthy manner.
When these incidents occur in the context of constant stress, it can leave us feeling unsure of ourselves both personally and professionally.
This article discusses the three most common alterations and ways in which you can cope with a bad day at work. Below are a few examples of how we typically react in such situations, and a few steps that you can take on your own to process and use these events to move forward in a positive way.
One of our initial stress reactions is to attribute ourselves as the main reason for something bad that has happened to us. In other words, to assume something bad has happened because of a failing or shortcoming of ours. When you receive negative feedback or criticism at work, it can be especially hard not to take such information personally.
For instance – Arun has just heard that his manager is unhappy with the way he is running his team. It has been about 6 months since he was assigned this role. Since he joined, he has had to deal with resentment and opposition within his team, while working to motivate each individual and improve productivity overall. Following a meeting to update his manager on the team’s progress, he feels extremely demotivated after his manager questions his progress and leadership skills since there have been no visible changes in the team’s progress. While Arun knows the kind of change he is working towards will take time, he still feels upset over the feedback he has received in the meeting.
It is natural for some self-evaluation to happen following criticism or negative feedback. However, this can move into a harmful space when this line of thinking begins to question ourselves and our potential.
Were Arun to begin thinking that his efforts over the last six months were in vain and that he isn’t capable as a leader, this would lead him to feel very low on confidence.
How Arun and those of us in similar situations can mitigate this feeling can be by objectively evaluating the feedback we have received as a comment on our actions or on our behavior. By not seeing it as a feedback about ourselves as individuals or about our potential.
Arun could try looking at what he could change in his approach with his team to deliver the kind of results that are expected from him, while still retaining his belief in himself as a leader and his broader vision for how he would like to lead his team.
Another common reaction that we tend to have when under stress is to assume that a situation is much worse than it actually is. This causes us to develop a way of seeing the situation or ourselves in a way that is overly negative.
From the above example, a few ‘magnified’ thoughts that Arun may have in response to his manager’s feedback are – thinking that his managers think that he doesn’t have what it takes to lead his team, that hiring him for this position was a mistake, that he will never be capable of leading a team, that he may not be given similar opportunities again.
A percentage of negative realities of certain situations can’t be brushed past. But focusing on what can be done to help make the situation better matters a lot more. Arun can look back at previous instances of challenging situations that he was able to overcome the problems at hand. Where, he was able to successfully lead a team or a project or execute a plan that he has developed for a group of people.
Very often, magnified thoughts don’t have a basis in reality. Learning to be kind to oneself when having several negative thoughts, earning to question or ‘look for evidence’ of the validity and truth behind these thoughts is an important way of handling a tricky situation such as this.
Be prepared to be honest about the situation. Arun could look for evidence to support his fear that he will actually not be given leadership roles in the future – for example, comments or statements made by his manager indicating as much. In case such comments are not to be found, Arun can recognise what thoughts are inaccurate and not based in reality at the time.
To take this a step further, Arun could also look for evidence that supports the contrary - material that helps establish that he will continue to have the opportunity to stay in his current role and work within roles that involve leadership qualities.
The alterations in thought that we have described can lead to people developing negative beliefs about themselves. In a situation like this, Arun could have begun to see himself as a failure following the meeting with his manager.
Coping with such situations involves active effort from us to continue to view ourselves realistically and positively, and using the techniques mentioned above to retain a wholesome view of ourselves and the situation we are in.
As opposed to thinking of himself as a failure, Arun could view himself as a capable manager in a trying situation. He could use his manager’s feedback as guidance for where he can improve his own leadership skills.
Over and above these suggestions, developing a network of supportive friends and colleagues around us goes a long way, too. Such individuals help with reminding us of the positive, less magnified and objective aspects of a situation when we are too blinkered with our own negative thoughts and feelings. This is often the much needed boost our confidence needs at times like this.
Ensuring that we also build this supportive environment for our colleagues, friends or family as well is a valuable way to build a healthy and nurturing work environment that everyone benefits from.
This article contained a few examples of how we can respond to bad day at work, or stress at work in general. To know more about how to manage difficult days, you could connect with a counselor. To do this, call 1800-270-1790.