Career Success

Ways On How To Deal With Surprises At Work

The difference between a good worker and a great worker can often come down to how you cope with unexpected circumstances. They are inevitable, and that is where your internal locus of control comes in handy. Although this blueprint is not meant for everyone, but it can serve as a starting point to effectively handle the unexpected at work.

“Life is full of surprises.”

John Major

Everyone likes to believe that they have anticipated everything that could happen at work. Do not deny; I am sure you have that mentality once in a while. However, unexpected events can spring out of nowhere in life, even at work. Typically, when such surprises appear in the workplace, they can throw you off. 

I see myself as a person who favours a structure and an established workflow. So, when something disruptive rears its ugly head at work, it can be frustrating and anxiety-inducing at the same time. Although I have gotten better at handling these situations, I still do not view myself as perfect but rather a work in progress. Here are some of the things that have gathered from dealing with curveballs at work.

Four ways to overcome curveballs in the workplace:

1. Embrace the fact that certain things are within and beyond your control.

I have never heard of anyone who has a clean record of anticipating what will happen in his or her job. Realistically, there will be things that are within and beyond your control. I view myself as someone who likes to be in a position of readiness and generally dislikes curveballs. So, after a period of fighting against the truth, I surrendered to reality. 

“You cannot control what happens to you, but you can control your attitude toward what happens to you, and in that, you will be mastering change rather than allowing it to master you.”

Brian Tracy

You can decide certain outcomes such as individual performance, punctuality at work, work attire and work ethics. However, workplace aspects such as the firm’s culture, existing norms and emotional responses from your colleagues are beyond your control.

Pay attention to the things you have absolute control over. Even the smallest of task can contribute to a favourable impression. Being punctual at work, such as showing up early to work or a meeting, putting on your professional work attire, completing your tasks well… the list is lengthy, but you get the idea here (right?).

2. Approach someone if you are overwhelmed by it.

If the situation grants you to do so, do not be reluctant to approach someone trustworthy who can assist you and determine if they can provide you with any useful insights or solutions to a problem. Occasionally, obtaining an unbiased view enables you to explore a potential solution to the issue or, at the very least, makes your life in the workplace slightly less miserable.

Every workplace has its own set of curveballs to deal with. When I cannot find my way out of a curveball, I will reach out to my colleagues that I know closely. Some of my colleagues are good listeners, while others are good mentors. Either way, they help me to vent my frustration when curveballs knock on the door.

Obviously, if the situation requires it, I would highly suggest speaking to your supervisor or reporting manager, who can assist you. It is worth noting that being assertive should not be confused with being furious. The culture of your workplace will vary from firm to firm. However, if your reporting manager is willing to spare the time to hear about your frustration and speak to you about it, please do not hesitate to do so.

“We are all here on earth to help others; what on earth the others are here for I don’t know.”

W. H. Auden

Being assertive will inform the listener precisely how you feel about the issue. Whenever I have had a problem in my workplace, I have reached out to my manager directly. Speaking to my boss directly typically overcomes the obstacle within a couple of days or, at most, the week. 

Yet, I would also be mindful that there is a time and place for voicing out your true set of emotions. This is not to say that you should be emotionally reserved. However, I would suggest determining a suitable time by putting forward questions and being mindful of the other individual’s time. 

3. Go with the flow.

Regardless of how much you may dislike the disruptive events, keeping your professional behaviour in the workplace is vital. You may dread the timetable, your colleagues, or your supervisor. However, remember that there is no such thing as an ideal job. Keeping a professional stance will print a favourable impression on your superiors and eventually make your life less miserable in the long term.

Again, this is not to say that you should be a reserved person because you believe that your emotions are not worth expressing or you do not have the privilege to feel uneasy. Those feelings are definitely real and valid. Once more, there is a time and place for making those emotions known, and if you do so at the wrong time and place, there could be long-term consequences.

4. Pamper yourself if you really have to.

Keeping up with self-care in periods of distress, particularly if you dislike curveballs at work, can yield tremendous benefits for you. Do whatever is necessary to make yourself feel comfortable and productive. 

“Do not be afraid to give yourself everything you’ve ever wanted in life.”

Frank Lloyd Wright.

Taking care of yourself might sound like a luxury to some. However, it is an aspect in life that is definitely required. Just as you would increase your water intake when you have a fever, you need to devote more of your time to yourself if you know that you are someone who does not generally welcome curveballs warmly. 

The reality is that you cannot run away from unexpected events or surprises. Since you cannot hide from them, it is your responsibility to develop your resilience and strength to ensure that you can tackle them in a way that does not bring your well-being down. 

Putting more time to look after yourself is one avenue to develop your strength. Listen to your guts. If you are not in the mood to hang out with your friends at the bar, thank them for the invitation and decline it humbly. Prioritise things that please you. Respecting yourself and what you desire and feel is one way to look after yourself.


Final 2¢: It Is Not A Big Deal

The idea of an ideal job is, well… an idea. However, it does not exist in the real world, and so, curveballs are everywhere. Learning to handle them better and developing your flexibility are some of the greatest ways to invest in yourself, especially at work.

As mentioned earlier, presenting and maintaining a professional attitude is important at work. Regardless of how much you may dread the circumstances, be mindful to keep your composure and execute your duties to the best of your ability.

However, I understand that curveballs, by their nature, can disrupt the productive workflow of an individual or a team in the workplace. Even so, there are things that we can control so that we can resume our work and get the job done. 

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