Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Strategies for getting the blue out of a bad day when you have to go to work

Bad days happen and they aren’t always rainy days and Mondays. Causes behind a bad day can range from the silly, such as forgetting to put a filter in the coffee pot and getting a cup full of grinds; to the tragic, such as hearing about the desperate misfortune of a good friend.

We are all susceptible to life-issues that will impact our moods and attitudes and can follow us to work. The challenge is not to let these issues have a negative impact on our job, colleagues, or customers.

When the blue’s on you…

When you are feeling blue, here are three simple tips to help yourself:

Be prepared. Take some time before going into work to process what’s going on. Plan to meet with a friend to talk away from work. Write down any actions you can take to deal with the issue. A simple plan helps alleviate a sense of being powerless.

Be aware. Acknowledge your feelings; stuffing or ignoring them won’t make them go away. Even talking out loud about the problem as you drive to work can help relieve stress and bring clarity.

Be happy. Worrying won’t make a problem go away or a dark day brighter. One you’re at work, it’s okay to ignore the issue and focus on your job. What often happens as you distract yourself from the issue is that emotions settle down, the mind clears, and solutions surface as if by magic.

When the blue’s on them…

When it’s a co-worker struggling, here are tips to help them:

Be sensitive. You know how far a little sensitivity can go. The tendency to counteract a perceived bad mood is often to try to inject humor. Humor is not always appropriate. Show empathy, listen, and learn what the issue is first.

Be tactful. Once you learn what’s going on, respond appropriately. If it is something silly, lightening the mood with humor can be exactly the right thing. If it’s something more serious, showing concern and understanding are best.

Be balanced. You’re not a therapist so don’t feel you have to be one. Don’t pry beyond what the person is willing to share. Listen a bit, maybe offer some gentle feedback, then let it go without being critical or judgmental. It’s okay to redirect the conversation or recommend they consider seeking out a counselor if the issue warrants.

Also, keep in mind, some people just need a little space and a second cup of coffee and they’ll come around on their own. Be patient and focus on your work in the meantime.

Showing the blues who’s boss

Managing your attitude while at work is important for at least two reasons:

• Your customers deserve your best. A bad mood or a negative attitude will impair your ability to give good customer service. No customer wants to hear about your bad day, nor should they.

• Your co-workers depend on your best. An obvious bad mood can create tension with co-workers and impact everyone’s productivity. To paraphrase a well known quote, to maintain a positive attitude when dealing with a life-issue: seek the serenity to accept what you cannot change; the courage to change what you can; and wisdom to know the difference.

Facing a life-issue with courage and maturity in public will help beat the blues and clear the way to a brighter day tomorrow.

In the meantime, when you’re home out of the public’s eye, it’s also perfectly okay to whine, pray, cry, be grumpy, sit quietly in a corner, stomp all over the house, stuff yourself with ice cream, let out a few screams, and do whatever it is you need to do to grapple with and work through whatever has blued your day. Just don’t hurt yourself or anyone else as you process. And know that it does get better.


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