Back to blog
Office Freedom
Office Freedom
  • 4 Minute Read
  • 11th November 2016

5 awkward situations that can help you succeed at work

Check out these 5 awkward situations that, if handled with care, can actually help you shine at work. From conflict management to saying no, we've got them covered!

1. Receiving criticism

[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="274"]Receiving criticism at work Source: Reaction Gifs[/caption]


Picture this: you’ve been working hard all year round to impress your manager. All the signals you’ve received so far have been positive and to your knowledge, everything is going swimmingly. So when the day of your performance management review arrives you stride into the boardroom face a-glow, ready to receive your pat on the back.

Then.. the hammer hits. You’re told your work isn’t quite up to scratch and the idea you pitched in the meeting last week was actually a bit naff.

Whatever the context, when we’re challenged we revert back to our primal selves and our inbuilt ‘fight or flight’ mechanism is triggered. Some of us slope off to the toilets for a surreptitious cry, while others struggle to stifle the overwhelming urge to shout back in defence.

It’s important to take criticism constructively, even if it isn’t delivered that way.

Reflect before you respond

Ever experienced a case of l’esprit de l’escalier? That’s French for: ‘I could’ve said this amazing thing, but it’s too late!!’

Give yourself a few moments to digest criticism instead of retaliating without thought. It helps to have a notepad with you in the meeting to jot down ideas as you go: this way your response is likely to be measured, informed and productive.

Question time

Ask open ended questions to encourage a dialogue:
How can I…?

What can I do to…?

Who can I approach for…?

This way, you’ll know what to do to progress.

Feedback, back

Ruth Winden, Director at Careers Enhanced is a career development expert.She believes that feedback should always work both ways:

“Think about what makes you want to improve, and what type feedback works best for you. What do you need to hear from your line manager, colleagues and peers so that you are motivated to change? Once you are clear on this, ask for it!

Giving feedback to those who give you feedback might sound counter-intuitive, but they might genuinely be unaware of the impact of their criticism, however constructive they think it is. Surely, if they are genuinely interested in helping you learn and grow, they will be interested in playing their part. Better performance leads to better results – for everyone.”


2. Putting yourself in the spotlight

Putting yourself in the spotlight


In her novel Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, Susan Cain reveals that “the secret to life is to put yourself in the right lighting. For some, it’s a Broadway spotlight; for others, a lamplit desk.’

The truth is, being in the spotlight doesn’t sit well with some.

In an essay for the Journal of Management Studies, Premeaux and Bedeian explain that many employees are hesitant to express their opinions for fear of rebuttal, and thus remain silent. However it’s important for your voice to be heard and talent utilised.

Showcase your talent by:

Reaching out: Get a dialogue going with colleagues and collaborate with others on a project.

Presenting an idea: Set aside some time to pitch your idea in a meeting.

‘Fake it til you make it’: Approach everything you do with enthusiasm and confidence; in doing so people will begin to trust in your abilities.


3. Confronting conflict

[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="360"]Confronting conflict Source: Giphy[/caption]

As awkward as it may be, you can’t sidestep confrontation. If you avoid it, the problem will simmer under the surface, eventually explode and wreak devastation.

The only real solution is to embrace it.

Language plays the most crucial part in conflict resolution. Are you using the right vocabulary? Is your tone of voice appropriate?

The following conflict management tips, inspired by PsychCentral, should help take the edge off:

Assertive communication

Be careful not to mistake assertiveness for aggression- the two are actually worlds apart. Being assertive is about voicing your views clearly and firmly, whilst respecting other people’s.

When you stand up for your own opinions and other peoples’, you’re more likely to avoid confrontation down the line. Use active phrases like ‘I need/ I want’ to get your point across.

Show empathy

When faced with confrontation it’s important to be able to empathise with the other side, even if you don’t agree with it. Show that you understand where they’re coming from and listen.

Get some perspective

In the words of Nietzsche, “there are no facts, only interpretations.”

4. Asking for help

[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="400"]Asking for help Source: Giphy[/caption]


Asking for help does not mean you’re weak or can’t do your job properly. In this day and age, we juggle so many things that we’re sometimes left feeling overwhelmed or burnt-out. According to the American Psychological Association’s survey, over 30% of us report to being stressed at work.

Michaela Woodley from The Bridge Strategic Marketing & PR explains that asking for help means that you are in fact taking control.

“Adding meaning and understanding to what you are doing benefits you as a worker. It is likely to reduce any anxiety you may have and that has to be a good thing, not least because it impacts on productivity. Gaining clarity provides an opportunity to prioritise. It demonstrates that you are someone willing to ask questions and are aware that you have more to learn – you’re a step closer to achieving conscious competence.”

For the sake of your sanity if nothing else, ask your colleagues for help.

  • Delegate to junior members of the team - you’ll save yourself time and build their experience

  • Be conscientious: remember you’re asking for help because you want the company to thrive

  • Don’t delay: asking for help a minute before a deadline is not productive

Likewise, ask for help if you don’t know how to do something- there’s only so much Googling one can muster in a day before going googly-eyed. Don’t be a martyr, if someone else knows how to do it, utilise their knowledge.

Of course, it works both ways. Offer your services to colleagues in need, and they’ll be more likely to help you out too.

5. Saying no

[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="350"]Saying no Source: Giphy[/caption]

Saying no in the workplace can feel like awkward balloon personified.

The majority of us are ‘yes’ people,and saying ‘no’ makes us feel like we’re being lazy or incompetent.

Saying yes does open up opportunities, but it’s important to recognise when it’s in your best interests to say no. It’s good to establish your boundaries as a way of earning respect.

‘....just one more thing….’

‘No, sorry I can’t do that right now.’

Take the rough with the smooth and stay SOS positive. (Oh, and if you're looking for a workspace in which to play these awkward situation out, contact us today.)