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Dealing with Difficult Work Situations


By Kari Oakley

The workplace comes with a variety of people and situations, which can sometimes be difficult to manage. However, maintaining a level-headed attitude will help you to overcome problems before they escalate. Regardless of your position, you can make the workplace a more wholesome environment for everyone.

Inappropriate Physical Advances

Sexual harassment in the workplace is, unfortunately, a problem that many women and men face. If you find yourself in a situation that makes you feel uncomfortable, don’t be afraid to speak up. Clearly explain to the other person that their behavior is making you uncomfortable and ask them to stop. Many situations can be diffused by simply stating your discomfort in a firm and clear way.

If a verbal warning doesn’t resolve the situation, reach out to others for help. Document and report the behavior as specifically as you can, using dates, times, and locations in which the event(s) took place. Review the sexual harassment guidelines for your workplace, and report the situation to your supervisor. If your supervisor is the perpetrator, report the situation to a person at the next level up. To secure a document, you may need a fireproof document bag.

Trouble Getting Along with Coworkers

You will likely come across coworkers you dislike throughout your career, but learning to get along with other personalities is all part of being a working adult. If your coworker is simply annoying or agreeable, be as polite as you can, and try to offer solutions instead of complaints.

Some situations go a step further, moving from simple disagreement to aggression. Bullying occurs when someone consistently targets you with the intent to inflict harm, whether physical or emotional. Be able to recognize bullying so you can take action when it happens. As with sexual harassment, document any incident of bullying you encounter and report it to your supervisor or HR department.

Dealing with Personal Loss

The death of a loved one can be difficult, and dealing with this loss will often take its toll on other areas of your life, like work. If you experience a loss, let your direct superior know and discuss the policy for things like bereavement leave. What is bereavement leave exactly? Following the death of a family member or close friend, a person may be allowed a certain amount of paid or unpaid leave to grieve and prepare for the funeral. Ask about the company’s bereavement policy, and be honest in communicating your work capacity and emotional needs.

Another Person Taking Credit for Your Work

There are few things more frustrating than watching your boss or another employee take credit for your hard work. However, there are several ways you can handle this situation. First, create a paper trail, outlining all of your work and contributions. Communicate often through email, and document all of your verbal communication, outlining what was discussed and agreed upon. Keeping written documentation of your work will make it more difficult for someone to take credit for your idea, seeing as you have a detailed record of past events.

If a situation does arise where another person tries to claim your idea, you can politely take ownership, while still recognizing the other person. Thank them for supporting your idea, and offer to give further details or explanation. By taking charge while still including the other individual, you can be proactive without getting defensive.

Being Asked to Take on Additional Work

Advancing to new positions within a company is usually good news, but sometimes, a boss or employee might ask you to take on a few extra tasks that aren’t part of your job description. On the one hand, you want to please your boss, but taking on extra work means that you will have less time to handle your own responsibilities. Consider the size of the task you are being asked to do and how much it will interfere with your work. Agreeing to smaller tasks that require less time will show your boss that you are committed, while still allowing you to get your job done.

If you are beginning to feel overwhelmed, or the tasks you are being asked to do are out of your job range, politely explain that the task you are being asked to do will prevent you from doing your job. Offer to help with something smaller, or provide an alternate solution. If you are ready and willing to help with smaller tasks, your boss will be more understanding when you choose to decline helping with larger tasks.


Whether a coworker is making you uncomfortable, or you are simply taking on more work than you can handle, learning how to resolve conflict in the workplace will make you a better problem-solver and help you to have a more positive work experience.

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