How to change your attitude when things go wrong

How you act when things go wrong can separate you from others. It is easy to place the blame for mistakes onto other people. Or to feel sorry for ourselves. However, whether we are in the right or in the wrong, learning to sort your head out when sh*t hits the fan is a valuable lesson. In this article I will explain how I worked on my attitude in order to make the best of a bad situation.

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Recently I was placed in a situation at work where I disagreed with feedback I was given. I have written previously about the benefits of being open to criticism, and I do believe it can only benefit us.

Related: 6 steps to success: don’t ignore criticism

However, what I didn’t write about was how to change your attitude when you receive criticism. Sometimes people interpret our actions or behaviour in a way that was different to how we intended it. When this happens in our personal lives we can choose to talk about our differing opinions. However, when it happens in the workplace we usually have to suck it up and go with what they most senior person believes. And that can feel shit. So how do you turn things around quickly and take control of that situation?

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Change your attitude in the heat of the moment

If your work, or how you operate as a person, are criticised the immediate reaction can be one of f*ck you! But how you handle yourself when dealt with a blow can have a big impact on how things work out in the long run. So, you have just been told your report sucked. This is what you do:

  1. Leave your emotions at the door – You may have anger boiling through your veins but do not let this get the better of you. Whether the other person is right or wrong, if you start to mouth off, point fingers or get defensive you are only going to look foolish.
  2. Listen to what is being said – When someone criticises us we can often go deaf as soon as the first word strikes. However, as I said in my listening to criticism article, this person may have a valid point (even if they don’t say it the right way). Try to find the valid points in what they are saying.
  3. Make sure you log it – This may be a one off incident, but either way make sure you write down the date and time of the conversation and what was said. If possible email the person so they have a copy too. You could start the email with ‘Following on from our conversation today, I want to ensure we have agreement on the following points…’
  4. Leave the office for some me time – To make sure no damage is done at work, or to your mental wellbeing get out of the office and go vent to a friend. Call your mum. Anyone outside of the office, and talk about the situation out loud. Do some venting and get another opinion.
  5. Make a plan – Now think of a productive F*CK YOU. What issues did the criticism raise? Write each point down and decide whether it is something you need to deal with long term, or actually a type of behaviour that you need to modify when working with that particular person. What would be the ideal outcome of this situation? Re-doing the work and making that person eat their hat? Or swatting up on a topic so next time you have all the answers to a client’s query? Whatever it is have a think about how YOU WANT TO WIN!

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Change your attitude but don’t be a door mat

Taking the high road does not mean being a door mat. A positive attitude also means standing up for yourself when someone is sharing incorrect information or not following correct procedures. All formal conduct procedures should be in your employee handbook, contract and HR manual. If you want more help dealing with issues in the workplace you can try acas, for UK workplace issues. Remember, no decision can be taken without you being given the opportunity to put your case.

Do not vent to your colleagues

Unless someone at your workplace is truly a trusted friend, I would not vent to a colleague. You never know who that information is being forwarded to, or how it is being translated. This doesn’t mean you cannot be honest, but instead of saying ‘so and so is a massive d*ckhead’, you could say ‘I have been pulled up on a couple aspects of my work by x, it would be great for us to talk about how you effectively communicate with them’. That may sound overly formal, but your happiness and success is the end goal. So try to look for advice, and not a way to complain.

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Think about your brand

I was recently given good advice from a colleague. She said you have to think about your brand at work, and how that is perceived by others. I had given a lot of thought to my brand when it came to my personal business, but I hadn’t thought much about my brand in my day job. When you encounter negative information or criticism at work, remember how you want to be perceived. Think of the steps I took you through above and let your brain make the decisions, not your emotions. Change your attitude and take control.




3 thoughts on “How to change your attitude when things go wrong

  1. This is so true. We are in charge of our own emotions; and how we choose to react to a situation is what will dictate the next scene. “think of a productive F*CK YOU.” – – – haha! Love This!

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