How to get through a bad day at work

By Rocky Pollington

Keep your head in the right space during hard days on the job, read on...


Don't let a bad day at work crush your spirits.

Ever have a bad day at work where the biggest challenge is keeping your sanity? It might be a broken printer or a co-worker who stole your idea that pushes you to the edge, but it’s important to deal with the annoyances of a bad work environment in a professional way—even when you feel the steam billowing from your ears.

These tips will help you keep your cool when office irritants start heating up.

Don’t fly off the handle

You can try taking 5 deep breaths, if you have the time, space and mindfulness to do that. It may not get you to a calm and mindful state, but it will help break the slide.

Mostly, I say I need a break, and ask if we can discuss it later because I need a little time to calm down.
Slow... things... down. That takes time to master (I've been working on it for ever, and I still find myself not doing it sometimes), but it's worth it. When you feel yourself getting negative and angry and such, just take a literal step back and say, out loud, "I'm getting upset, and that isn't good for either of us. Give me a minute to compose my thoughts, please."

Most people will understand what you mean and probably be (inwardly) thankful that you took that break to let them calm down as well. The other people, the ones who won't let you do that?

Don't let them do that to you, and you'll be able to keep from doing it to yourself. Take a step back. An actual, physical step away from the situation.

Be empathetic

Lean in to your natural empathy and compassion. Concern for others, empathy, and compassion help us to survive and thrive. Like self-reflection, this muscle may not be one you use often at work. But you can get better pretty quickly if you make a point to ask yourself questions that help you understand others’ points of view. Try these:

  • What is he thinking and feeling about the situation?
  • How is she different from me? How are we the same?
  • What can I do to make him feel better about this situation and about me?

Empathy is all about understanding others; it’s a skill that allows us to relate to other people and their problems by being able to imagine what they are going through as if those experiences were our own. When it comes to stress, learning empathetic skills toward co-workers or even those in charge can help to reduce a stressful response.

Block out petty irritations and chatter

If workplace stressors are gnawing at your nerves, you’ve only got one option, and that’s to shut them out. Seek solace by plugging in your headphones (if you're allowed to), mentally plan out what you'll do after work, or remind yourself when your next break is coming up and take that time to relax a bit and regroup.


Aside from physically blocking the irritations, practice tuning out. Make a mental list of the top 10 things you are grateful for. Or you can keep your brain busy by trying to find a solution to a persistent problem in your life. Focusing on something you want to solve helps the mind tune out distractions.

Perfect the art of the blow-off

The blow-off technique is similar to what you would use to gracefully exit a conversation, except here, you engage as little as humanly possible. If your workplace feels dysfunctional, with co-workers or clients attempting to drag you into a gossip-fest, give them the slip. A simple, “Oh, you don’t say? Well, I’ve got to get back to my work,” can be plenty effective. This will help to position you as someone who doesn’t want to be bothered with certain discussions or office gossip.

When gossip gets started and you make your way out of the conversation, eventually co-workers will catch your drift and stop gossiping around you.

Be the change you want to see

Moods are contagious, whether bad or good, so do your part to halt the spread of infectious negativity. Keeping your mood up won't just keep you happy, it'll make those around you cheer up as well.

Just because someone is in a bad mood or is having a bad day at work doesn’t mean you need to feel the same way. Do your best to lift up your colleague, customer, or employee from the doldrums. Say something nice or caring to lift people’s spirits. You never know how a handful of kind words might make a positive difference.

Use humor as a tool

Never underestimate the power of goofy workplace humor. If there’s a chance to lighten the mood, even if it’s privately, grab the moment. Finding the funny in a bad situation can alleviate a lot of tension. Just make sure you don’t lose sight of your professionalism.

It’s OK to use humor as long as it doesn’t involve personal attacks. If you need to follow up your humor with, “I was only kidding!”, your joke was probably not well received.

End the day with a clean slate

Remember: You work to live, not live to work. Leave work at work and resolve outstanding conflicts before the day’s end whenever possible. This provides a better chance to mentally recharge overnight and start fresh the next day.

At the end of the workday, make a list of the things you need to accomplish the following day. That way you spend less time at home thinking about what is waiting for the next day.

When a bad day at work doesn't end

If you have more sanity-testing days at work than non-sanity-testing days, it’s a red flag. Perhaps the job just isn't the right fit for you, or maybe you're reacting to a hostile workplace. Whatever the reason, your job shouldn't feel like a punishment. Need help looking for a new one? Let us know if you need help finding a new job! We’re always looking to to place go-geters in great positions. Reach out today!


Tags: Job Performance

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