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Oh how I love Tim Gunn on Project Runway when he utters the words, “Make it work!” How many times a day do you have to utter those same words to yourself when something goes off-track? If you are me, it’s several times a day… and this week (yes, I know – it’s only Monday), has been a make it work experience.

When you are at work, inevitably we don’t always get our way. It’s frustrating, annoying, and sometimes downright demotivating. Especially when you know you are right. But I digress…

I’ll admit that I used to react to adversity at work in a reactive manner. I’d get argumentative, press my perspective or point of view, shatter the other person’s concept with a line-by-line dissection. Pretty, no? As I’m sure you can imagine, I didn’t win any friends with this approach.

So I tried something different and shifted my reactivity into troubleshooting. One of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever been given is from a sales manager who told me to never come to the table with only the problem. Present solutions in the same breath. So here is the best solution I’ve come up with when you really want to react to the annoying stuff around you.

How to NOT Get Huffy

I’m certain that most people would react like I used to – get somewhat personally offended and want to respond (maybe even loudly). Now I make the best of the situation and start attacking the solution, instead of dwelling on the problem.

Scenario 1 (from today): My work laptop broke.

It won’t turn on. It won’t load. And it definitely won’t allow me to do the work I need to do. Awesome start to a Monday, no? 😉

  • Old reaction: total freak out; yelling at the HP guy who wanted me to pay him $99 to just tell me if there is a problem with my computer, followed by perhaps some ranting and raving about how ridiculous the whole thing is, and ending with running out and getting a new computer because I *may* have done some harm to it.
  • New reaction: This is not an ideal situation, but I’m going to make it work… read some online forums, tried a bunch of things that didn’t work, searched for a local computer fix-it person, and figure out other ways to get work done.

See the difference? So perhaps not the ideal example, but when you are work – you can use the same principles.

Scenario 2 (at work): You are going to miss a deadline for a big project.

It happens. No, it’s not ideal, but sometimes you just aren’t able to complete something on time – regardless of whose fault it is.

  • Old reaction: Make excuses and try your best to CYA (cover your a$s) to your boss and perhaps pass the blame on to someone else.
  • New reaction: Notify your boss as soon as you know it’s going to happen and take full ownership of the situation. Don’t just come with the problem, but also a solution. Something like…
    • “Unfortunately I am not going to be able to meet this deadline. I ran into some issues with X when trying to solve Y, which set me back in time, but ensured I stayed on track. To that end, I would like to propose an updated timeline, although late, of XX. In addition to the original scope of work, what would you think if we did Y as well to help ease the issue of the missed deadline?”

Being able to make it work in any situation will greatly improve your work persona and your reputation at work. It presents a cool, calm and collected demeanor, even if on the inside you are freaking out (or cursing someone out). By focusing on what can be done next instead of what’s already happened, you will be the go-to person for just about anything. You will be known as the “fire-fighter” instead of fire-starter, which is awesome. And a great talking point when your manager is ready to discuss your readiness during Talent Management meetings.

Join the discussion One Comment

  • This is good advice for life at large. Today I had to bring my 2-year-old to my work with me for an end-of-day meeting (I have a flexible teaching job so I can get away with this sort of thing). After plucking her out of her crib from her nap, popping her in the car seat, and driving 40 minutes to work, I opened her car door to discover her feet were bare. Bare! Because, of course, a napping child is not wearing shoes… Talk about making it work – I managed to think to look through a box of hand-me-downs a co-worker had recently given me, and located a pair of slippers. They were fuzzy. They were pink. They did not look like shoes. But, hey, they covered the feet and that’s all we were going for.

    During this whole exchange I was freaking out inside, but seemed cool (I think) on the outside. I handed the kiddo off to one of my student’s (babysitter) and calmly headed over to my meeting with the College President. As if I hadn’t just spent 15 minutes scrambling to figure out what to do with my barefooted child! Timely post indeed.