Toughing Out a Challenging Work Assignment


Not every work assignment is joyful. Sometimes you are faced with a challenging work assignment that you fear will result in failure, termination, or demotion. However, it is how we respond to these challenging work assignments that speak to our character.

Often it isn’t the challenging work assignment that is stressful but rather those that we are working with or for on the assignment that make it difficult. So the first thing to do when faced with these challenges is to identify what the difficulty is and is there a way to change it?

I recently heard from a woman in tech who shared her current situation at work. She has had a history of record breaking performance throughout her career but has promoted to a position that puts her in new territory. Where once her results had helped make a name for her, she is now in a circumstance that requires she start all over again to make a name for herself.

Going into this new position she already senses some opposition from a few male leaders and perhaps they are questioning her ability to be successful. So how does she go into work each day knowing that there may be people hoping to see her fail?

Dealing with Challenging Work Assignments and Team Members

First, let’s examine the people that may be making the work assignment difficult. There are a number of types of people in every company; not all are positive team players. If you find yourself dealing with a negative associate, the article How to Deal with Negative People offers a few really great suggestions:

  • Avoid spending time with a negative coworker.
  • If you are forced, through your role in the company, to work with a negative person, set limits. Do not allow yourself to be drawn into negative discussions. Tell the negative coworker, you prefer to think about your job positively. Avoid providing a sympathetic audience for the negativity.
  • Suggest the negative person seek assistance from human resources or their supervisor.
  • If all else fails, talk to your own supervisor or human resources staff about the challenges you are experiencing in dealing with the negative person. Persistent negativity, that impacts coworkers’ work is a work behavior that may require disciplinary action.
  • If negativity among employees in your company is persistent, if the issues that warrant negativity are left unaddressed, and the negativity affects your ability to professionally perform your work, you may want to consider moving on.

“Life is 10 percent what happens to you and 90 percent how you respond to it.” -Charles Swindoll

Challenging Work Assignments and Situations

There will also be times when the work assignment itself is beyond your current skill set or understanding. This should be embraced – I call it working your  “risk muscle.” Seek out people that can help you gain the knowledge you need. Consider focused reading, webinars or training that may provide additional knowledge. Find people who have already been successful at a similar project and buy them a cup of coffee. Pick their brain for advice.

The Tiny Budda offers some advice in the article Getting Started When You Don’t Feel Ready:

Maybe you feel a sense of urgency to step out, own your power, and live our out loud, but aren’t sure what your purpose or path is. So you stop yourself because of the feelings you might confront. It’s easier if you know what you’re doing first. That lets you feel more confident moving forward. Like you won’t make a fool or yourself. Like what you’re doing is “right.” But what if there’s never that guarantee? What if the only way to find out is by doing it? What if the only way to gain confidence is to do the thing we you’re not yet confident enough to do? What if the only way to gain knowledge is to jump in and find out what you need to learn? What if the only way to get more prepared is to prepare as much as possible, and then learn the rest as you go?

Lastly, seek out people who can lift you up and offer you positive reinforcement. The woman who wrote to me about her challenging work assignment had just joined our weekly Relevant Conversations. She had the opportunity to ask a question to hear a few different and supportive ideas to help her cope. She had this to say after the most recent call:

I would like to thank you for offering this series of webinars.  They are EXACTLY what I am in need of as I prepare for some changes in my job in the new year.

I hope you will join us on our weekly calls. Together we can support and encourage and inform each other as we conquer our challenging work assignments and create the best life possible.
IMG_5268cJJ DiGeronimo, keynote speaker for women, based in Cleveland, presents keynote addresses on women in leadership, diversity in business and advancement for women.

Check out JJ’s new book Accelerate Your Impact by downloading three free chapters.accelerate your impact

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JJ DiGeronimo

JJ DiGeronimo

Speaker, Author & Thought Leader for Women in Tech & Girls in STEM.

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