10 Common Workplace Struggles and How to Overcome Them

Discover major obstacles at work and how you can overcome them.

Exhausted worker struggling at her desk

Are you struggling at work? Do you lack motivation or feel that you’re not achieving your potential? Or does a specific struggle keep you awake at night?

As Oprah Winfrey once observed, ‘Where there is no struggle, there is no strength’.

Pluck up the courage to work through and resolve your workplace struggle, and you will be stronger and better equipped to face problems in the future.

We all have difficulties at work from time to time, and this applies to the employer as much as the employee.

We’ve listed 10 common workplace struggles with pointers to help you get started on how to overcome and resolve them.

1. You’re not achieving your potential

Have you hit a rut in your role? Are you doing the same old things again and again? Do you feel you’re not progressing? Or is your daily work vastly different from what you were hired for?

When you’re struggling to achieve your potential, you need to take charge of your career.

The simple solution is to speak to your line manager or supervisor. You don’t need to wait for a formal performance review. Your manager should be pleased that you’re reflecting on your job. But don’t turn up to your meeting just to complain. Come with suggestions and possible solutions. These could be a temporary job swap with a colleague or ideas for on-the-job training or professional development to enhance your skills.

Training budgets are always under pressure, so if you can find and complete free training online, it can help build your case to take a paid course. You never know, it may give you some great ideas for steps you can take towards a change of career.

2. You’re afraid to speak up at meetings

Perhaps you’ve never spoken at meetings or the one time you did, you weren’t listened to.

Before the meeting, check the meeting agenda and prepare what you want to say in advance. You don’t need to be the first to speak. Nobody wants to be the person who dominates discussion and has something to say about everything.

Acknowledging and building on your colleagues’ thoughts before you speak is a good way to start before adding the contribution you’ve prepared. Be that person whose input is concise, to the point and moves the discussion towards a resolution.

3. Your colleagues gossip about you

Gossip is a fact of life, unfortunately. It’s hurtful, however, whenever it happens – whether it’s whispering in the corner or emails shared behind your back.

If you can, identify who started the gossip, and go and speak to them. The gossip may amount to slander, which is when unsubstantiated allegations or false remarks are made about you orally that can damage your reputation. Both employees and employers need to know about preventing slander, understand what it is and when to get HR involved.

You need to put a stop to the gossip. If needed, get your supervisor or HR involved. On a more serious level, if the gossip involves a false and unfounded accusation (orally or in writing), careful handling will prove your ultimate worth to the organisation.

4. You’re bored and lack motivation

No job is 100% satisfying. There will be times you will experience tedium and a lack of inspiration.

Are you tired at particular times of day? Save the boring, easy tasks for those times. Or check out our ideas for what to do when you’re bored at work (and they don’t all involve playing games on your phone!).

If you’re continually unmotivated, perhaps it’s time to look for a new job, as carrying on is doing yourself and your employer no favours. Just remember not to update your résumé while you’re at work.

5. You face discrimination

Discrimination on the grounds of age, gender, race and sexuality is illegal. If you see a pattern, you need to carefully collect evidence, as proof is essential. It’s advisable to have a free consultation with a lawyer.

We’ve outlined 10 steps you need to take to deal with workplace discrimination, which don’t all entail running up a large legal bill.


6. Your bubbly personality annoys your colleagues

You’re a chatty extrovert but you get your work done. A bubbly personality is perfect for customer-facing jobs and is still an asset in backroom roles.

But if you notice that your bubbly personality seems to get on your colleague’s nerves, try saving your cheeriness for greeting people when you come in or for social events outside work. That said, when you’re coming into work on a dull winter morning, your bubbly personality will be a plus.

Your bubbly personality may mean you’re overlooked for serious methodical work, so it’s down to you to prove that you can handle the workload.

7. You have no work-life balance

It’s Millennials who experience most struggles at work with their work-life balance, according to EY’s Global Generations survey (PDF). The same survey found that Millennials had made or were open to making sacrifices to cope with both work and their family/ personal responsibilities.

Meanwhile, a US survey of full-time employees in large organisations found that three-quarters of female millennial caregivers experience high stress levels. The most popular solutions to reduce stress were the ability to work from home, stress management, medication sessions and a pet-friendly workplace for women and recreational events for men.

Work has got harder. Routinely, people are working longer hours for less financial reward. Consider developing ideas with your colleagues to improve work-life balance for everyone. Can you work from home from time to time? There is much evidence to show that working from home improves productivity for many employees.

8. You’re struggling with working remotely

Whether you’ve been working remotely for years or have just started, you may find it a challenge at times. One survey on remote work found that employees working from home struggled most with loneliness and collaboration and communication. On the employer side, the Society for Human Resource Management in the USA surveyed HR professionals and found that 71% of employers were struggling to adjust to remote work.

If you’re in an organisation that has office-based and remote employees, make sure you get to visit the office regularly so your colleagues can put a face to the name. While communication tools have improved, face-to-face contact is beneficial when you need to collaborate in future.

If you work for an organisation in which all employees work remotely, often in different time zones, make the best use of communication tools. Is there one day/time when all employees are online and can have an informal meet-up, for example?

9. Your team is full of clashing personalities

Are you fed up with the procrastinator, the kitchen slob or the over-sharer in the office? Or do you have a bossy coworker who can’t resist glancing at your screen, commenting on your work and telling you how to do it?

Workplaces have many personality types, and you need to learn to recognise and cope with them. If you have regular clashes with one personality type, consider inviting them for a coffee and talking it over. Acknowledge that you have different personality types and ways of working and discuss how you can work better with each other.

10. You’re being bullied at work

Bullying at work can take many forms, including verbal or written abuse and exclusion from projects. You shouldn’t put up with it. The situation needs careful handling. The first step is to find out your rights, before approaching HR or taking legal advice.

No one should struggle at work. Whatever you face, there will be a solution. Sometimes you just need to take a step back and think hard about what the issue is.

Have you faced a workplace struggle? How did you resolve it? Let us know in the comments!