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How To Deal With Curveballs At Work

Even if you think that you have everything covered, there are things that can throw you off, especially in the workplace. For someone like me who has repeatedly professed my love for structure and being prepared, dealing with curveballs at work has become almost a weekly occurrence in my current position. I am not perfect by any means, but I like to think that I have learned how to deal with them over time. Here are some of the things that have helped me.

How To Deal With Curveballs At Work

1. Recognize That There Are Things You Can and Can’t Control 

In every job, there will be things that you can and can’t control. For someone like me who likes to be prepared and doesn’t like curveballs, this is a difficult thing to accept, but the truth is that it’s reality. There are things you can control, like your individual performance, what time you show up to work, what you wear to work, and your attitude. On the other hand, there are things about a workplace that you can’t control, like the culture of an institution, established practices, and how other people react.

Focus on the things you can control. Focus on doing little things that contribute to a favorable impression. Arriving on time (or early if you’re motivated), dressing professionally, doing your job well, preparing well…the list could go on, but I’ll stop because I think you can see where I’m going.

Focusing on performing and doing the things you can to contribute to a favorable impression is a far better use of your time than griping about something that you have absolutely no control over. Being angry and griping won’t solve anything. Focus on what you can change, and pick your battles wisely.

2. Speak To Someone If You Really Can’t Handle It

If the situation is appropriate, speak to someone who can help you and see if they can offer you advice or a potential solution to an issue. Sometimes having an objective perspective help you find a solution to the problem or at least make it a little easier to live with.

In any workplace, there will be curveballs and things you dislike, but it is impossible to change the culture of a preexisting institution. I have found that speaking to co-workers that I trust helps me release a lot of frustration when curveballs come my way.

Of course, if the situation calls for it, I would recommend speaking to your superior or someone directly involved who can help you. There is a difference between being assertive and being angry. Of course, the culture of your workplace will differ from place to place, but if a superior is willing to speak to you about it, feel free to do so.

Being assertive will tell the other person exactly how you feel and where you stand in relation to the issue. Whenever I have had an issue with my workplace, I have spoken to my boss directly. Speaking to my boss directly usually resolves the issue within the next few days or at the latest, within the week.

However, I would also keep in mind that there is a time and place for expressing emotions. This is not to say that you should keep your emotions to yourself, but I would recommend gauging an appropriate time by asking questions and being considerate of the other individual’s time.

3. Accept The Curveballs With Grace

No matter how much you may hate the situation, maintaining a professional attitude in the workplace is essential. You may hate your schedule, your co-workers, or your boss. However, no job is perfect. Maintaining a professional attitude will leave a favorable impression with your superiors, and ultimately make your life easier in the long run.

This is not to say that your feelings are not valid and you do not have a right to feel uncomfortable or dislike a curveball; those feelings are absolutely valid. However, there is a time and place for expressing those emotions and there could be long-term consequences for poor timing.

Maintaining a professional attitude is essential in the workplace. No matter how much you may hate the situation, remember to maintain a professional attitude and perform your responsibilities to the best of your ability.

4. Increase Your Self-Care If You Feel The Need To

Maintaining self-care in times of stress, especially if you are not a fan of curveballs can work wonders for you. Do whatever you need to make yourself feel better.

Increasing your self-care may seem like a luxury to some, but it’s something that’s absolutely necessary. Just as you would increase your water intake in order fight a sore throat, you need to increase the amount of time you devote to self-care if you know that you are someone who doesn’t deal with curveballs well.

The truth is that you will encounter curveballs everywhere, no matter where you go or what situation you’re in. Since you can’t make them go away, it’s your job to build your resilience and strength and make sure that you can handle them; you don’t have to like them.

Increasing the amount of time you devote to self-care is one way to build your strength. Listen to your instincts. If you don’t feel like going out with friends, thank them for the invitation and turn them down politely. Choose things that feel good. Honoring yourself and what you want and feel is one way to take care of yourself.

No job is perfect, and there will be curveballs thrown your way. Learning to adapt and building your flexibility is an asset, especially in the workplace. However, I understand that curveballs in the workplace can throw some people off. Yes, they can throw people off, but there are things that you can do to get back on track.

About the Author

Alisa Tanaka

Alisa Tanaka graduated with a Communications degree from Lewis & Clark College in 2012. She hopes to develop a career that allows her to make a measurable impact on the world while doing something that she loves. Her interests include psychology, linguistics, and mental health. She can also be found reading, watching documentaries, and writing her blog.