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5 Tips for How to Handle a Bad Work Day Everyone has off days. Accept it, take a step back, breathe and reset.

By Sarah Landrum

This story originally appeared on Personal Branding Blog


Most people don't wake up ready to start the day like Snow White singing to her helpful little birds. Most days you get caught up in the hustle and bustle and have to push through, and then, there are the bad days when you're just not feeling it.

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The alarm goes off late. Your forehead is pounding, and your body feels like a semi-truck has hit it. Your computer crashes and destroys your assignment hours before the deadline. Your supervisor has taken micromanagement to the next level. You have to work through lunch, and it's not even the afternoon yet.

Everyone has one of those days. You may feel like it's your fault, but it's not. Most of the time, these stressful situations are outside of your control, but you can monitor, accept and reset your reactions. To get started, try these five tips for how to handle a bad work day.

1. Eliminate work-related stress

Want to know what the number one stressor is for Americans? Job stress. Today, 65 percent of Americans experience work-related stress, while one-third of people deal with chronic work-related stress.

To cut off the stress, ask yourself questions: What's important? What's not important? Start with the simplest tasks to get your confidence back and get into a groove of productivity. Then, create new deadlines that are realistic for you to accomplish, and if you're stretching yourself too thin, consider talking to management about reducing your workload.

2. Communicate with your boss

Your boss might carry the most pressure of all and sometimes, let that stress trickle down the work pipe to employees. Your boss' lousy day could be every day, or maybe your communication styles clash to the detriment of your work relationship. To improve your relationship with your supervisor, try to communicate through their communication style. Here are four types:

  • Analytical -- This communication style prefers real numbers and hard data. You should avoid vague language and be specific when talking to this person.
  • Intuitive -- This communication style focuses on the big picture and tends to avoid getting caught up in the details. They already know the answer and want to hear it. Cut to the chase. Give a more generalized overview of the situation and end on a solid conclusion.
  • Functional -- This communication style likes detail, timelines, outlines, processes and well-structured plans. They don't want to miss out on any steps, so make sure you're clear and concise.
  • Personal -- This communication style values connection and emotional languages over "cold" communication that's focused on data. They like going deep and finding the cause and are likely to enjoy getting to know their colleagues on a deeper level.

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Train yourself to speak in your boss' communication style. Don't change your personality and style entirely because your style gives you unique strengths, but talking in another communication style is like perfecting a second language and comes in handy.

On terrible days, it's best to get out of your boss' way, no matter who's having the worst day. Stay cordial, punctual and keep verbal communication brief and professional. Email may be best if you have to update them.

3. Avoid co-worker politics

Co-worker drama and office politics also affect your productivity. When drama takes its toll, it may be time to contact your company's human resources team about your concerns and how it's affecting your ability to do your job.

Otherwise, do your best to stay out of it because you're not in high school anymore, even though your co-workers didn't get that memo. If they do try to drag you into their drama, don't let them. If you feel tempted, keep these tips in mind:

  • Don't vent while at work.
  • When you feel frustrated, wait to reply. Don't get passive-aggressive.
  • If you think they will be open to it, try to talk to your co-worker about how their negative behavior affects your job.
  • Cut gossip out at the root. Say, "Sorry, I can't help you with that." Declare you're on a deadline and get back to it.

Keeping out of co-worker drama also lets you focus on doing your job, which makes you look good.

4. Take care of personal troubles

Work-life balance is all about being able to keep your professional and personal lives separate, right? Not exactly. Lousy news easily upsets the balance, and it's hard to stay focused when it feels like everything's been turned upside down.

Ask yourself if you can press on with your duties or if you need a day to reset. You don't have to spill all the beans to your boss or human resources team, but ask if you can shift some of your duties or take a half day because of the bad news you've received.

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5. Rest when sick

In the colder season, illness strikes and gets passed around like a puppy. If you don't take care of yourself or take time off, your recovery time will be longer.

If you have to work, come with your healthcare kit and keep a distance from co-workers. Tell them you may be coming down with something. Communicating by phone or email is another helpful tactic. Don't assume that your boss won't let you take a half day or work from home -- always ask.

When you're feeling awful, just take a sick day. It's better for your health and everyone else's.

Remember, most circumstances that contribute to terrible days are outside of your control, and everyone has an off day. Let yourself accept it. Take a step back, breathe and focus on resetting. The next moment is a new one. You've got this.

Sarah Landrum is a freelance writer and Digital Marketing Specialist. She is also the founder of Punched Clocks, a site dedicated to sharing advice on navigating the work world. 

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