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Workplace Challenges

Whether you are new to the workplace or a seasoned employee, problems occur at work.

The following are some workplace challenges and how to deal with them.

New to the Workplace

Fitting In

Figuring out how to be part of a new work culture can at times be frustrating. Get to know your coworkers by working on team projects. This promotes common interests, builds trust, and allies. Ask questions if you don't understand something. Be friendly and respectful. Your good attitude, manners, and work habits will show that you are a professional. Don't contribute to office gossip.

Being Heard

It takes time to gain the trust of coworkers to get them on board with your ideas. Listen and observe before suggesting changes. Bring solutions to the table. Engage your coworkers by knowing what you are talking about. Build a reputation of being clear-headed, objective, and reasonable.

Making Mistakes

They happen to everyone at some point. Admit them and apologize. Don't offer excuses or try to cover them up. Instead, offer solutions as soon as possible and fix the problem on your own time. Forgive yourself, and move on.

Time Management

It can be difficult when you're settling into a new job and adjusting to your new responsibilities. Create a daily "to do" or goals list. Breaking down your tasks will make them seem more manageable, keep you organized, and help you to be more productive and efficient. If you are still having difficulty managing your workload, ask a coworker for advice, or speak with your supervisor to prioritize your work.

For more tips, visit succeeding in the workplace.

Problems with Coworkers


Slackers lower productivity. If a coworker's poor work habits are affecting your job performance, explain respectfully to them how their behavior is affecting you and what you would like to see changed. But keep in mind that it is your (or the coworker's) supervisor's responsibility to deal with problem workplace behavior. Unless this person has authority to delegate work to you, you can say "no" to their requests to do their work. Concentrate on being a good employee. Don't fall into their poor work routine.

Disagreeable Coworkers

They create an unpleasant work situation. Avoid them if possible, be pleasant when you have to work with them, and stand up to them when necessary. Even if they need to be dealt with, don't get into a fight with them. Talk with them calmly, in private, about how their behavior makes you feel. Avoid involving your supervisor unless it's absolutely necessary.

Office Bullies

They cause anxiety and stress. And they often target those they see as a threat. Don't let them isolate you or make you feel bad about yourself. Stand up for yourself. Never sink to their level. Discuss the problem with a mentor to find the best way to handle them. If they are threatening you, report it to your supervisor.

Gossipers and Trouble Makers

They can be especially disruptive to the workplace and cause misunderstandings. Be friendly, but act busy and they will get the message that you have better things to do. While this person can serve as your ears to the office grapevine and workplace dynamics, don't comment or add fuel to their behavior.

Whiners and Complainers

They tend to see the negative side to everything. This attitude can be harmful to morale. Be empathetic, but put the problem back on them. Ask them what they intend to do about solving it. Complaining may be their attempt to avoid conflict, relieve stress about things they feel they have no control over, or simply to get attention. Do not try to solve their problem for them. Do not turn their complaints into office gossip either.

Saboteurs and Backstabbers

They cause distrust by spreading rumors or withholding important information from those they see as rivals. This can affect your career goals and reputation. Confront them calmly about their behavior. Do not play their game. When you have a good idea or assisted on a project, tell your supervisor so you get the credit you deserve. If someone is trying to make you look bad, check in regularly with your supervisor on your job performance.

Workplace Ethics and Integrity Issues

Poor business and workplace ethics can be hazardous to your job security. It can cause people to lose respect for you and follow you for the rest of your career. Stay clear of those who ask you to compromise your integrity. Say "no" to requests that make you feel uncomfortable. Review your employer's workplace ethics and proper business ethics. In some cases, these issues need to be reported to your supervisor, human resources, or legal representatives.

Getting Along with Your Boss

Problems with a boss are emotionally and physically draining. They can often stem from work style or personality differences. The first step is to figure out what specifically they are doing that is upsetting you. Then ask yourself why. It helps to look at the problem from both your perspective AND your supervisor's. Next, decide how best to discuss it with them. Avoid blaming, accusing, or venting. Try to use the "we" approach:

"WE seem to be missing deadlines because tasks aren't started on time. How can WE fix this?"

Offer a solution that will help the both of you meet your goals and look good. If the problem can't be resolved, contact their supervisor and human resources for assistance.

Dealing with Harassment or Discrimination

Harassment and discrimination are illegal and come in many forms. You do not have to put up with it. Ask the person to stop, and don't put yourself in compromising situations. If you feel unsafe or need help, report it to your supervisor and human resources. Keep a detailed log of the other person's behavior. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission can also offer assistance with these issues. In some cases, you may require legal assistance.

Workplace Bullying

Bullying in the workplace can include anything from condescending behavior and gossiping to exclusion or violence. Both coworkers and bosses can be bullies. If you are being bullied at work, you are not alone. You didn't cause this to happen and have options for how to handle the situation:

    • Try to deal with it yourself by confronting the bully in a calm, confident manner. Tell the bully that their comments or actions are offensive and give them an opportunity to correct his or her behavior.

    • Prepare for consequences. Bullying often escalates once they are exposed.

    • Make sure your superiors are aware of your good work. Bullies often try to spread the word that you aren't doing your job well.

  • Avoid situations where bullying is most likely to occur. Unfortunately, bullying cases are often hard to prove through legal action. You may choose to leave the hostile environment instead.

Fear of dismissal or retaliation keeps many employees from reporting bullying to their employers. Some employers dismiss the bullying as a personality conflict. Keep a detailed log of the bully's behavior and speak with someone in human resources or within the company that you trust.

Advancement Concerns

Being Passed Over for Promotion

It never feels good to be turned down for something, but be gracious about the news. Don't complain to others. Request a meeting with your supervisor to find out why and what you can do differently to gain a promotion. Below are a few other things you can do to help you get that next promotion:

  • Document your past successes and practice self-promotion so that your coworkers and networking contacts know about your accomplishments.
  • Acquire new knowledge and skills or update your current ones to keep yourself up to date and marketable.
  • Show initiative and leadership by actively look for ways to improve your company.
  • Be proactive and ask for more projects and responsibilities.
  • Find a person higher up in your company to serve as your mentor.
  • Be on good terms with your boss, and let him or her know you are interested in moving up.
  • Volunteer to work on teams.
  • Network with people inside and outside your company.

Glass Ceiling

If you feel like you have advanced as far as you can go with your present employer, you have probably reached what is called the "glass ceiling." You can see through that ceiling to the next career level, but you can't seem to reach it. In addition to working toward any promotion (see above), there are ways to combat the glass ceiling:

  • Prove your value to your employer and identify which traits and skills they are looking for when they promote people.
  • Discuss your career goals with your supervisor and how to accomplish them.
  • Nurture your relationships with other people where you work.


This means you have been categorized as someone who is skilled in only certain areas and not considered for any other type of work. This prevents you from moving up or in a new career direction. When this happens, you may feel stuck in your present role at work. Taking the following steps can help:

  • Speak with your supervisor about the issue to find out why you are parked in your present position. Express your desire to do something different.
  • Volunteer to take on new responsibilities and projects to prove you can do other things. This will increase your value and visibility.
  • Get some additional training if necessary.
  • Train a replacement for yourself so management won't feel they are losing the only person that can do your job well.

Looking for Other Work

Before you make a hasty decision to quit (especially in a tight job market), try to make your current job work. Pinpoint the problem, change your routine, take on more responsibility, or pursue an interest outside of work. Speak to your supervisor about ways to add challenge to your current position.

If the issues can't be resolved, then it may be time to look for a new job. This can be tricky if you are still employed. Do your job search on your own time. Network with those you trust to be discreet, and set job search goals for yourself. If possible, schedule interviews before or after work. Choose an employer that will help you achieve your career and personal goals. When you find a new job, give your current employer ample notice that you are taking another position, and don't burn bridges.

If you are laid off, help is available.