Dealing with Frustration at Work

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  • 0:04 Frustration's Foundation
  • 0:59 Frustration Source
  • 1:25 Dealing With Frustration
  • 3:58 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Beth Hendricks

Beth holds a master's degree in integrated marketing communications, and has worked in journalism and marketing throughout her career.

Expert Contributor
Wendy Kwong

Wendy has an Honors Bachelor of Commerce degree from Laurentian University in Canada. She has over 10 years of teaching and accounting experience.

It may not always be possible to stop frustrations at work, but it is possible to deal with them. In this lesson, you'll learn more about dealing with frustration at work and some tips for lightening your load.

Frustration's Foundation

Imagine this scenario: It's Monday. You had a relatively easy morning getting out of the house. Your coffee was good and hot, the kids were cooperative and got to school on time, and the commute was a breeze. You enter the office building in a good mood ready to start your day.

Then. . . work happens.

You get to your desk to find a pile of work not completed by a co-worker, now pushed off on you. The coffee maker is broken, your computer won't start because of a glitch, and your boss is already on a rampage. That good mood you started the day with is now just a distant memory.

You're experiencing what thousands of people deal with on a daily basis: frustration on the job. Frustration is an unhappy, insecure feeling stemming from needs being unmet or problems going unsolved. Sound familiar? How do you go about dealing with these types of problems or unfulfilled needs in the workplace?

Frustration Source

To properly handle frustration at work, you must first assess where it is coming from. Perhaps you work in a high-pressure environment under tight deadlines. Maybe you've found yourself in the middle of office politics. It could be that you're struggling with workplace bullying or a micromanaging boss. Whatever the reason, defining and assessing the situation can be the difference between overreacting and properly channeling your frustrations.

Dealing With Frustration

Once you've assessed the situation, here are some tips for dissolving frustration.

1. Think positively.

Giving people the benefit of the doubt, relaxing and looking for the good aspects in a situation can help change your outlook on a stressful circumstance.

2. Breathe deeply.

Or, just breathe. There is scientific proof that simply stopping and breathing can reduce anxiety and lower blood pressure.

3. Be ready to talk.

If it's another person who has contributed to your frustration, addressing the problem head-on may be your best bet. Remain calm, avoid accusations, and listen to the other person's side of the situation. If this attempt at conflict resolution does not work, consider advancing to management or human resources for help.

4. Be the bigger person.

Even if you are unable to see eye to eye with a colleague on the source of a frustration, treat the other person with respect and dignity.

5. Focus on your goals.

It's very likely that whatever is frustrating you is an annoyance and not a roadblock standing in the way of what you want to achieve. Display your goals as a constant reminder of what you're aiming for. Focus on what you can control and ignore the rest.

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Additional Activities

Writing Prompts about Dealing with Frustration at Work

Journal Prompt

Imagine you just returned to work after being away for a two week holiday. When you return to the office, you quickly realize that a number of important communications to clients that you had worked on prior to being away were not addressed properly. These items were not finalized and sent out to clients. Meanwhile those clients were unhappy that they did not receive their information on time. As for others that were waiting on outstanding information, your coworkers did not follow up with clients in your absence as requested. Now your boss is unhappy as it appears that you neglected your responsibilities and failed to ensure a smooth transition. Write a journal about how you would handle this situation. Be sure you discuss how best to dissolve the frustration.

Discussion Question

When employees encounter frustration in the workplace, there is often a natural tendency to begin spreading gossip with coworkers. People may start to vent their frustration to colleagues and speak negatively of the workplace. When people gossip in the workplace, is it always negative in nature? Is there such a thing as positive gossip in the workplace? Be sure to provide examples to support your answers.

Short Essay Prompt

Write a short essay made up of several paragraphs about whether frustration with a colleague is best addressed through which communication channel, written (includes text), verbal or face-to-face.Under what circumstances might written communication be more advantageous? What situation might warrant having a verbal discussion with a coworker? What are the benefits of having a face-to-face meeting with a colleague in order to handle conflict and dissolve frustration in the workplace?


Journal Solution

First of all, I would start by determining the source of the frustration. After assessing the situation, I would then determine how to deal with the frustration. To dissolve the frustration I am experiencing, I would try breathing deeply in order to calm down. After calming down, I would try to maintain a positive outlook and give others the benefit of the doubt. Once I am in the right frame of mind, I would take the initiative to talk with coworkers and listen attentively so as to ascertain what challenges they might be facing. For example, they might already be stressed out due to being inundated with a seemingly insurmountable workload. During the discussions, I may not entirely agree with their perspective but I could still talk to them in a dignified and respectful manner. Rather than gossiping if I am still frustrated after the discussions, I should focus on my goals, look for mini-solutions, and document any problems with the objective of determining long term solutions. In the meantime, I could also distract myself during breaks in order to clear my head. I should also take time to focus on the positive, thus helping me appreciate the fact that I still have a job which allows me to pay the bills and enjoy my personal life outside of the office.

Discussion Question Solution

When people gossip in the workplace, generally it tends to be negative in nature more often than not. However, gossip in the workplace can also be positive in nature. For example, when an employee completes a project on schedule and within budget, talking about such things would have a positive effect in the workplace when everyone thinks and works together as a team. Another example would be when a colleague receives a well-deserved promotion. You can even share why you felt that the recipient was deserving of the promotion. Sharing such information may also encourage others to commend the recipient for his or her efforts and hard work. While negative gossip can be damaging in the workplace, positive gossip can create a healthy culture in the workplace that is beneficial to all employees.

Short Essay Solution

When you are frustrated with a colleague in the workplace, the ideal form of communication depends on the situation at hand. If emotions are running high, it may be more advantageous to wait until you calm down before meeting in person. In the meantime, you can arrange through written communication an appropriate time when you can meet with the other party. Once you are in a relaxed state of mind and have full control of your emotions, you can then meet with your colleague to have an open and objective discussion. You can verbally make the other party aware of your concerns by briefly outlining the issues at hand without making any accusations or placing blame. Perhaps it was just a misunderstanding that spiralled out of control due to miscommunication. By having a face-to-face meeting, there are benefits such as being able to read the other person's facial expressions and body language. Consequently, you may be in a better position to discern the other party's true thoughts and feelings. In turn, this can help you go beyond simply identifying the symptoms of the issue. The overall goal would be to determine the source of the problem and to come up with mutually agreeable solutions to dissolve the frustration.

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