No, you’re not a failure — here’s how to deal with setbacks at work

Story by

Yessi Bello Perez

Former Senior Writer, Growth Quarters

Setbacks are a normal part of life and work — and let’s face it, you’re likely to encounter many throughout your working career. 

They don’t discriminate either: it doesn’t matter if you’re the best performing team member, an award-winning CEO, or the new kid on the block.

The truth is that there will be times when you have to rectify mistakes and solve problems on the fly. 

Some setbacks will be small — the kind that entail you working late one evening — and others will have a profound impact on your professional and personal life. 

With this in mind, here are five sensible tips to help you deal with setbacks at work in calm and collected manner.  

Own it

You need to keep it real. If there’s a problem, you first need to identify the issue and acknowledge it. 

It can be tempting to brush things aside when you’re busy but this won’t make the problem go away — if anything it might make it get worse. 

The quicker you acknowledge there’s an issue, the easier it will be to solve.

For example, it’s recently come to your attention that a third-party supplier will struggle to meet a deadline you’ve set. As a result, there’s a significant chance you won’t be able to deliver to your client on time. 

Don’t ignore the issue, tackle it head on. Speak to your supplier, try and find a solution, and then communicate this to the client. That way, if you’re going to struggle to meet the deadline, your customer will know well in advance. You’ll save yourself a lot of sweat and tears!

It won’t last

Setbacks can be stressful and although it may seem like the world is crashing down on your shoulders at one particular point in time, don’t forget that it’s not the end of the world. 

It may feel like the be all and end all but as time passes you’ll realize it wasn’t probably as big a deal as you thought.

You’ll probably look back in hindsight and ask yourself why you got so worked up in the first place. 

Next time you find yourself in a tricky solution remember that things can — and will — get better.

No, you’re not a failure

Suffering a setback at work doesn’t make you a failure. In fact, it’s just part of life. 

Take the problem at face value and make peace with the fact that it’s an isolated incident. 

Change your internal dialogue, don’t put yourself down, and don’t dwell on what you can’t control or solve. 

Whatever happens, you need to realize that it’s not going to determine who you are or who you will be in the future. Plus, everyone makes mistakes and it’s about how you learn from them that counts.  

Ask for help

Don’t feel like you have to do it alone. 

If you’re really stuck, lean on your colleagues and ask for help. 

Explain what the problem is and what challenges you’re facing.

Be transparent and communicate. Tell them how the issue is affecting you — no one expects you to be superhuman so don’t expect that of yourself. 

Move on

It’s so easy to get caught up in what went wrong, how you could have acted differently, or what you should have avoided. 

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