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How to Take an Unexpected Punch at Work

Posted December 28, 2012

Short staffed on a busy day? A forgotten back burner project due by the end of day? Stumped in the spotlight?

We have all at some point or another been at victims of Murphy’s Law: If anything can go wrong, it will. In other words, no matter how unlikely the odds, at some point or another, an unforeseen incident is going to hit you.

But just rolling with the punches is a lot easier said than done. Here are five tips for dealing with an unexpected punch at work.

1. Take 2 Minutes to Regroup

The best thing to do when you’re in a heated situation is to stop. “Walk away,” says Robby Slaughter, productivity and workflow expert and principal at AccelaWork.

Take a minute to breathe before you react unprofessionally. “In almost any situation at work, you can excuse yourself. Get to a private space to compose yourself, and prepare a response that is focused on meaningful results for the company, which uses open questions rather than defensive statements,” Slaughter says.

2. Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff

Murphy’s Law is a huge reason why the ancient proverb “perfect is the enemy of good” rings true.  When you’re hit with an unexpected blow, don’t worry about the little things.

Striving to keep working until everything is absolutely flawless is going to make it really hard for you to get it done. It’s better to do your best to get it done well than it is to be absolutely perfect.

You will be a lot more productive and successful if you prioritize the most important tasks and roll up your sleeves to dive in.

3. Keep Your Eyes on the Prize

Think about the light at the end of the tunnel or the reward you will receive as soon as you get through this turbulence. It might be a “job well done” from the boss, admiration from your coworkers or a reward you give yourself. Whether it’s going out for your favorite meal or booking a vacation, having something to look forward to ramps up the positivity.

4. Ditch the Negative Talk

Staying positive is key to handling an unexpected punch. If, for instance, you feel like you got mistreated by someone else, take a few minutes to compose yourself (re: No. 1).

“Remember that in any conflict the person who ‘smacks you’ isn’t against you…he’s merely for himself,” says Vivian Scott, author of Conflict Resolution at Work for Dummies.

Don’t let the hit knock you down. To keep your head high, Scott suggests you “choose your language carefully so you can craft a message that fully expresses your desire to explore what happened as well as looking at options for resolution.”

And the bigger person you will be!

5. Communication is Key

Whatever happened, be open and up front about it. Unless you want the issue to swell, do not hide critical dilemmas. If the unexpected punch came from another colleague, be open to considering their perspective, Scott suggests.

“You likely have a lot of points you’d like to make.  Perhaps you’ve even jotted down a few notes or created a list of items you’d like to talk about,” Scott says. “Hold that thought.  Start any conversation with a sincere invitation for the other person to tell you, from her perspective, what happened.”

Give them a chance to explain, and try to facilitate a two-way exchange. “When she’s talking, consider what she’s sharing (don’t just listen for an opening so you can jump in) and let her talk as long as she’d like before you ask questions or explore further,” Scott says.

photo of Ritika Trikha

Ritika Trikha

Ritika Trikha is passionate about scoping out top-notch job advice in the career-sphere to help you find a job you love. Ritika has 99 problems but an unhappy career isn’t one! She’s a writer and an optimist (and Jay Z’s No. 1 fan). When Ritika’s not writing stellar advice articles, she’s obsessing over social media. Connect with her via CareerBliss Tumblr, Pinterest and Google+! Contact Ritika at ritika.trikha@careerbliss.com.

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