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How to deal with problems at work

Like most areas of life, work has its uphill struggles. Each one of us faces challenges in our professional lives at one time or another. These can be to do with the job itself, the people we work with or the employer, as well as a host of other things.

In this article, we look at the different kinds of problems at work you might face in your career and how you can deal with them.

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What kinds of problems at work can we face?

This article is not a comprehensive list of problems at work you might face during your career. There are lots of other websites that have lists of challenges you could face but we wanted to talk about them in terms that are easy to understand. We’ve broken them down into 3 key areas – problems that are to do with:

  • The job itself
  • People you work with
  • The employer

We want to emphasise that there are few problems at work that you can’t get through with the right support and the right course of action. Let’s look at these problems in more detail.

1. Problems to do with the job

Unmotivated employee at desk

Lack of motivation can make working difficult but it is a common

problem and there are techniques you can employ

Problems at work that are connected to the job you do can include:

Trouble motivating yourself: It’s common to feel a lack of motivation from time to time. This can be because you’re not excited by the task or project at hand or for other factors related to our personal lives or stemming from anxiety or preoccupation with events in the world around us.

Dislike of the job itself: Occasionally, we find ourselves in jobs we really don’t like. This can make it very difficult to come into work in the morning, concentrate on the task in hand and lead to procrastination. Because work takes up a lot of our time, dislike of our job can make us miserable.

Finding a project or a piece of work too hard: Work that is out of our comfort zone can often be challenging. While sometimes we overcome the challenge through perseverance, occasionally we find ourselves up against a brick wall.

Unable to do your job properly: If we aren’t given the right training, we can find ourselves out of our depth and unable to do our jobs with confidence. In this situation, an employer may raise questions about an employee’s performance.

2. To do with others

Bullying or harassment: Sometimes we are treated badly by our colleagues or even by managers. This can include name-calling, stereotyping, sustained rudeness and exclusion for no obvious reason or due to characteristics that make us different, such as our gender, race, class or because of disability.

Interpersonal: Sometimes we find it difficult to get along with certain colleagues and this “interpersonal” tension or conflict can cause problems at work by making it difficult to work together.

3. To do with the employer

Disputes: A dispute is when an employee has a problem with the way their employer has behaved (known as a grievance) or when an employer begins a formal process because they are unhappy with with how an employee has behaved or performed (referred to as a disciplinary).

How to deal with problems at work

This depends on the nature of the problem. Issues in the second and third categories (to do with others and to do with the employer) are often dealt with through formal processes.


For example, a dispute is generally dealt with in line with the employer’s disputes procedure, which should be outlined in your employee handbook. In this situation, you have certain rights, including the right to have someone with you in any meetings, the right to trade union support and the right to legal representation should things come to that. Check out our guide to disputes at work to learn more.

Interpersonal conflicts

Employee and manager one-to-one meeting

A one-to-one meeting with your line manager is often the first

step to resolving problems at work

If you find yourself experiencing interpersonal issues including bullying or harassment you may want to try talking to the people involved first of all to see if you can resolve things amicably. However, this will not always be appropriate and you may not feel safe doing so.

If this is the case – or if you have tried an informal conversation and it hasn’t worked out – raise the problem with your line manager first of all. If your line manager is the person causing the problem, or is involved in a way that makes you feel like you can’t raise it with them, talk to the next level of management. You should have a look at our article on equality in the workplace.

Problems connected with your job

There are various ways to tackle problems in the first category.

Motivation issues are often temporary and you can check out our article on motivating yourself to find some possible solutions.

If they go on for a long time, it could be that you fundamentally dislike your job. This may mean the role itself or field of work is not the right fit for you. This can be a scary recognition but it is positive to understand this as you can then take steps to resolve the situation:

  • Talk to your manager about ways to make your role more interesting to you.
  • Check out our article “What job should I do?” which is designed to help you figure out which career path may be of most interest to you.
  • Talk to a trusted friend and family-member who can talk through some possible solutions which are tailored to you.

If the issue is to do with your ability to do your job, you may require more training. You should mention this to your line manager, who should be able to arrange this for you or – if your challenge is quite specific – provide that training themselves informally, or find someone else on the team who can do this with you. The earlier you raise this, the easier it will be to deal with. If you have been selected for the job, you probably have the skills and knowledge to do it, and there is no shame in asking for support.

We hope this guide has helped you see that there are solutions to all problems at work. Check out our section on working life for more pointers and detailed guides to different areas of working life.

Images: One-to-one by Mark Lord via Flickr