Suriving tough times at workplace

Tough times come in many forms at the workplace. For instance, in-boxes full of urgent assignments with multiple overlapping deadlines or leading a team in the face of a major restructuring or uncertainty etc. During these difficult and stressful periods, you may not see the light at the end of the tunnel. With over 14 years of experiences in the public and private sectors, Chin Hock shares 5 tips to help you tide over these bumpy rides, which have served him well in the demanding corporate world.

1. It Could Be Worse

During these difficult periods, you are physical and mentally drained. Self-defeating or negative thoughts may start to creep in. It is normal to experience negative emotions during tough times. The key is you must pick yourself up and keep moving ahead as planned. To avoid a long stay in the negative territory, tell yourself that the current difficult situation could actually be worse.
You are not alone and there are many others who encounter greater adversity and yet manage to overcome them. You must stay positive, put on the fighting spirit and continue to give your best.

2. Be a proactive lifelong learner

As an ex-commando, I can share that a Commando section is made up of highly skilled soldiers taking on critical missions. As the stakes are high, the unit is constantly on its toes in terms of learning so that we are prepared to handle all kinds of thinkable situations during a mission. There are many areas that we can work on and improve further when we are in our suits. Discuss with your supervisors about the skills and knowledge that are needed to take on the new assignment or challenge. For those who are stepping up to manage projects, you could consider project management courses or those who lose your cool faster than you could say "It is all right", consider attending an anger management workshop. Self development books are also a good source of knowledge. We are all capable of bettering ourselves. It is a matter of finding the drive to do so. My motivation comes from the desire to make a difference in the department and add value for my customers. If you are lacking in motivation, think "A lifelong learner who can offer more expertise will be of more value." 

3. You are not alone

Seeking advice and emotional support from colleagues whom are in a similar situation as you are can help to provide critical perspective from different point of view and encouragement for you to push on during these tough times. We can learn from the experiences of others who have been there and done that. Keep an open mind when you speak to people exploring ways to do things better and the potential pitfalls to avoid. They could offer you new directions or valuable insights. More importantly, credits should be given to people for their ideas and contributions. Remember a bumpy ride is only temporary but distrust can have a lasting negative effect on how you work with your colleagues in future.

4. Expect the Unexpected

The commanders could pull off a well tactical plan in the ops room but when we were out in the field, any variable could disrupt the well-planned operation especially those beyond our control. For instance, additional enemy reinforcement could lead to a change of course, different point of infiltration, change of strike time etc. The way to deal with it when on the ground is to prep ourselves mentally of potential changes, adapt effectively to the situation and make the best out of it. Developing contingency plans for less forgiving situations is necessary. For instance, having a backup file on the cloud for that critical management presentation and going through rehearsals to ensure all grounds are covered and that the execution is as close to the plan for large scale events.

5. Owning up to mistakes

Even when you know that a mistake would cost you or the department dearly, it is imperative to own up as early as possible and truthfully upfront. No one would expect you to be perfect but your colleagues would expect you to be honest and practise integrity in your work. Trying to cover up for a botched job, manipulating sales figures or other non-ethical behaviours etc are not acceptable.Everyone makes mistakes. As long you show the willingness to learn and take measures to prevent them, chances are your colleagues will be appreciative and more forgiving of your shortfalls. While learning from your mistakes, you are also building trust that is a highly valued commodity at workplace at the same time.


Written by Chin Hock
A version of the article was published in Straits Times Recruit Section dated 5th Jan 2017

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Chin Hock (Holdinghands in the Media)
Founder of Holdinghands and Filial Piety Award Recipient 2013