7 Methods for Dealing With Adversity in the Workplace

Updated July 6, 2023

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The ability to overcome obstacles is essential for dealing with adversity at work. If you're experiencing challenges in your professional life, learning more about the skills you can use to overcome them may be helpful. Understanding how to handle adversity can help you prevent problems, learn from mistakes, resolve conflicts and manage challenges in a professional and unbiased manner.

In this article, we discuss the importance of dealing with adversity, the types of challenges you might experience at work and seven ways to handle adversity in the workplace.

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Why is dealing with adversity important?

Adversity can create a substantial obstacle to productivity in the workplace. It can affect relationships between managers and employees, employees and their team members and even the business and its customers, so effectively managing challenges at work is essential for ensuring a company operates smoothly. 

Other benefits of overcoming obstacles at work include understanding how to prevent future conflicts, enhancing employee satisfaction, strengthening relationships between coworkers and having less stress in the workplace. These advantages, in turn, can lead to improved mental health, boosted productivity and a culture of trust.

Related: Interpersonal Conflict: Types and How To Resolve Them

Types of adversity you may deal with at work

In the workplace, you may encounter a wide range of challenges, including: 

  • Physical adversity, such as office arrangements and roadblocks

  • Mental challenges, such as adapting to working with certain personality types

  • Emotional adversity, like handling criticism and other kinds of feedback

  • Social challenges at work, such as building and maintaining relationships

  • Financial hardship, such as accounting errors and budget restrictions

Related: How To Overcome Challenges in the Workplace (With Tips)

7 ways to deal with adversity at work

When dealing with adversity in the workplace, the following steps can help you overcome it:

1. Prepare for multiple outcomes

When you take a significant action at work, such as submitting an important report or making a large purchasing decision, you can prepare for adversity by considering what result you want the most, outlining suitable alternative outcomes and identifying neutral outcomes. After determining potential outcomes, you can create a plan of action for the best- and worst-case scenarios, which can help you approach adversity calmly and objectively.

Related: How To Overcome Adversity in the Workplace (With Example)

2. Build a support network

Develop a support network to encourage teamwork and cooperation in challenging situations. Depending on your work environment, your support network may be a formal or informal group. For example, managers might encourage employees to form social groups, which can deepen relationships and grow the trust that's essential for overcoming obstacles, while other leaders might create dedicated task forces for dealing with specific types of obstacles. The employees themselves can also create networks by establishing a mission, offering to help each other during tough times and sharing useful resources.

Related: 30 Team-Building Ideas for the Workplace

3. Follow a role model

To help you conquer adversity at work, consider using previous challenges as examples of how to solve a current problem. To get started, consider whether you know anyone who has overcome similar obstacles and review the strategies or steps they took. You can then consider how to adapt these approaches to your current situation.

4. Change your mindset

When you tell someone about a difficult situation, how you tell it can affect how you feel about it. Try switching up your language so that you focus on the positive. That can help you attain a more objective perspective and help your coworkers feel empowered to take action against workplace adversity. To shift how you view a particular work situation, consider what the team may be able to gain from the circumstances, discuss what made it challenging and decide what steps you want to take next. Self-reflection and resilience may be necessary to develop positive thinking in your career.

Related: How To Change an "I Hate Work" Mindset

5. Emphasize what you can learn

Rather than focusing on how adversity makes you feel, use adversity as an opportunity for growth. Reflect on what you expected to happen, how the outcome differed from your expectations and what elements of the situation were in or out of your control. Based on this information, you can identify where the problem arose and better determine how to improve the outcome next time a similar occasion arises.

Related: How To Demonstrate Your Willingness To Learn at Work

6. Build confidence

Handling adversity at work is an excellent opportunity to develop confidence in your problem-solving capabilities. By focusing on positive results and decision-making to overcome an obstacle, you can also influence your coworkers to take action. Consider how the challenge can benefit you, what value the obstacle can bring to your team and what kinds of positive change the adverse situation may provide.

Related: Building Self-Confidence: 10 Ways To Boost Your Confidence

7. View challenges as an opportunity

One way to ensure you learn from adversity, rather than allow it to negatively impact you and your role, is to view challenges as opportunities. Consider what the situation can teach you and how it can contribute to your long-term professional development. That's one of the tenets of a growth mindset.

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Skills that can help you when dealing with adversity

Developing the following skills can help you overcome challenging situations in the workplace:

A sense of humor 

If you can laugh at a problem, you may be capable of looking at it objectively, which can help you learn from it, maintain a positive attitude and create solutions. One way you can boost your sense of humor is by investing in friendships in both the workplace and your personal life. Your friendships can also provide you with the social support necessary to handle certain difficulties. 

Related: 16 Essential Benefits of Using Humor in the Workplace

Critical thinking

Critical thinking skills can help you approach adversity logically. Develop your critical thinking skills by enrolling in online courses, attending specialized workshops, or attending professional conferences. 


Being able to discuss difficult times professionally is essential for overcoming challenges in the workplace. You can improve your communication skills by focusing on one topic in a conversation, being aware of your coworkers' body language and using constructive language.


By approaching challenges at work with patience, you can avoid making additional mistakes during the problem-solving process. Patience can allow you to realize inner strength when encountering negative emotions or challenging situations. You can develop patience through meditation, mindfulness exercises and specialized professional development programs.

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