We’ve all hit a workplace hurdle, here or there. In a setting where we strive to maintain peace and professionalism, figuring out how to overcome problems and address our needs can be challenging. We’ve rounded up easy solutions for five common workplace problems.
1. Someone takes credit for your work
Working with someone who routinely says, “I did…” for matters you both worked on or takes credit for your ideas is frustrating. Losing credit for your work unfairly diminishes your efforts and achievements.
One way to remedy this problem is simply speak to your coworker. Be calm. Lead with something you appreciate about working with your coworker and end with something along the lines of, “but I’d appreciate if you could say ‘we’ instead of ‘I’ on tasks we worked on together” or “I’d like like to talk about my ideas and contributions myself.”
Most people are reasonably honest and likely to fix their mistakes if you call them out. However, if your coworker continues taking credit for your work, or if you strongly prefer not to confront him/her, then take the initiative to speak first or speak more during meetings and presentations.
Knowing how to speak in public is an invaluable skill. When you speak for yourself, no one has the opportunity to take your achievements away from you. Moreover, no one can speak to your achievements, ideas, and efforts as accurately as you can. Speaking in public is a skill that requires practice, especially if you are uncomfortable with it. Find someone you trust to practice with or join a group like Toastmasters if you feel public speaking is a skill you need to improve.
2. You keep getting interrupted
If you find that you are frequently interrupted at work, solving this problem starts with introspection. While it’s possible that you simply have rude coworkers, it may be a good idea to evaluate your speaking style.
Record yourself and take note of whether you sound nervous, unsure, or unclear. Make sure to avoid rambling and verbal tics. Keep your audience’s attention with concise statements, utilizing short and direct sentences. Speak with deliberation and authority while making eye contact with each of your listeners.
If you’re still being interrupted, it’s time to get on your interrupter’s level. When they take a breath or make a pause, take the opportunity to say “excuse me, I’m not finished,” or “one more thing.” Another method, although it may seem awkward at first, is to keep talking when someone interrupts you. Let your actions and speech make everyone know that you are saying something worth hearing.
3. You’re not sure how to assert yourself
Instead of saying “The deadline for this is Friday morning,” you may find yourself saying “It would be really great if you could get this in at some point on Friday, if it’s not too much trouble.” If you frequently use hedge words or try to soften your tone, you may notice that tasks or needs you bring up seem weightless or go unaddressed by your coworkers. You may be afraid to tread the delicate line between assertiveness and arrogance.
But failing to communicate assertively sacrifices productivity in exchange for an almost negligible effect on harmony. Assertive communication doesn’t equal bossiness, arrogance does. Assertive communication is about being direct, concise, and saying what you want and why without threatening or belittling others.
“I” statements are a great way to communicate assertively while avoiding the aggression associated with arrogance. For example, saying “I think/prefer/need…” can help convey your message and its gravity clearly without blaming or involving others. Avoid using “should,” which can make others defensive about their behavior and feel like they’re being chastised.
4. Your office is too loud
While the pros and cons of open work spaces are still in debate, the trend has persisted steadily since the 2000s, with almost 70% of US offices adopting the concept.
One inevitable con of sharing one space with several people are noises or distractions. A great way to block out chatty coworkers or other noises is with headphones. Noise-cancelling headphones are ideal, but if that’s out of your budget any pair will do. You don’t even have to listen to anything while wearing the headphones—simply having a buffer between your ears and the noise can go a long way.
If headphones aren’t the solution for you, try addressing noisy coworkers directly. Politely explain that you are distracted easily by office chatter, that you are particularly busy, and that you would appreciate if they could be a little quieter.
Lastly, if your office doesn’t already have a quiet area, talk to your manager about setting up one. You may not be able to use it all the time (you may have to share it), but it will provide reprieve when you can.
5. You’re overworked
Your workload may get to a point where you feel you have to sacrifice quality to complete everything. Many employees are afraid to admit their workload is more than they can handle because they don’t want to seem incompetent. However, if you find yourself giving up restroom breaks to give yourself more time to do things, you have a workload problem that is well worth addressing with your manager.
Choose a time when your manager isn’t too rushed to sit down and explain why your workload isn’t manageable; maybe you’re taking on the tasks of a completely separate role, or maybe someone left and you’ve been assigned their duties.
Once you explain why the workload is overwhelming, suggest options. For example, saying “I can do A and B, but not C,” or “I can do C, but not with A and B.” You can also offer to advise someone else on a task, as opposed to that task being mainly your responsibility. Try to approach this conversation not as a way to complain, but as a way to offer improvements.
At the end of the day, if you’re passionate about your job, enjoy the people you work with, and have understanding leadership, you can overcome almost any work problem. But sometimes we discover a job or company isn’t the right match. It’s not the easiest decision to make, but moving on to a new opportunity may be the best solution. If this rings true for you, sign up for Seen, where you’ll automatically be presented to top tech companies to discover what opportunities await.