How To Handle Uncomfortable Situations At Work

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How To Handle Uncomfortable Situations At Work

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Well this is awkward…

No matter how competent you are in your role, you’re bound to make a mistake or two at some point in your career. Yes, it’s embarrassing to look silly at work, but the important part is how well you recover and how to respond when thrown a curveball. In terms of your fellow work mates, you are bound to come across all kinds of people. Some you might become great friends with, some are easy to handle, and some might be difficult or just that little bit annoying.

When handling an uncomfortable situation at work, ensure you manage it with care. Before addressing the situation, ask yourself if you are the appropriate person to deal with it or is it best to be handled by your manager? Is there an office romance that has gone sour or have there been complaints about someone’s body odor?

Whether the situation involves your colleagues or yourself, here is some advice on handling awkward situations.

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1. It’s getting tense in the office – be careful with your choice of words and be polite.

A work environment can be a sensitive area. People don’t like being put on edge and feel uncomfortable in the workplace. Choose your words wisely and use office appropriate language. This way even the most uncomfortable of situations can turn into a positive exchange. Thinking before you speak will not only prevent a fight but also help you to avoid wasting your valuable time. Be polite with your approach – it helps to strengthen professional relationships making them last longer and makes your approachable.

2. You’ve heard secondhand office gossip – don’t be judgmental.

In professional circles, you need to keep an open mind. Don’t let yourself get carried away by your own thoughts or the opinions of others. Gossip can spread through an office like wildfire. Believe only what you see with your own eyes or hear with your own ears. One main problem that many people in their professional lives face is that they judge people based on their predetermined beliefs which can create an awkward feeling between employees. You will need to consider the feelings of those being talked about. What begins as innocent gossip and escalate to bullying.


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3. We all slip up every now and then – be prepared but don’t be afraid to admit mistakes.

Imagine you’re sitting in a meeting with your whole office and you’ve been asked a question, but you have no idea what the question was because you were completely zoned out. Last nights episode of Married at First Sight was so dramatic, and you haven’t stopped thinking about how person A could cheat on person B and why can’t they live happily ever after!? You keep reliving the episode in your head – during the meeting. Its ok! Even if you don’t want to admit it, everyone zones out in a meeting sometimes, but you can quickly recover by simply asking your boss to repeat the questions or ask for clarity. This can work more effectively than someone trying to give a sloppy answer.

4. You’ve been given the promotion you’ve been waiting for – but your work friend doesn’t.

You’ve been given a well-earned promotion but your friend in the same team doesn’t and your sensing a little bit of resentment. Be proactive about the situation and talk about it out in the open. Address the fact that aspects of your work relationship will need to change but your friendship will stay the same. Be humble, honest and the occasional check in wouldn’t do any harm.


When handling awkward situations, tact is key! Many situations can be handled with the right level of sensitivity and empathy. When it comes to your own slip ups, owning up to your mistakes will demonstrate what type of person you are, and honesty is usually the best policy.

Or if worse comes to worst, pretend you’ve received an important call and leave the room. Whoever said running away never solved anything?

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