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How to Stop Taking Everything So Personally at Work

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I remember the first feedback I received on a marketing project. My boss completely ripped through my work with the infamous red pen. I was crushed. I thought I made a career mistake. I went home feeling devastated.

The next day I was asking a co-worker about my work and she confirmed that while the boss can be hard, this is just the nature of the game in marketing. She told me to think about that one college paper that came back to me loaded with red marks. That C- is just a draft for us. We get a do-over. Now, I welcome the red pen of opinions. It’s great to see how others view a project I am working on. We don’t have to agree but we can be respectful.  

If your boss tells you that you did something wrong, do you get flustered about the exchange? As long as your boss is not saying something about you personally, you should not take what he or she said to heart. It’s the job of a boss to make sure you are heading in the right direction. Too many people will take the criticism as an assault to their character, and this can be a problem.

Develop Tough Skin

You cannot know everything there is to know about your company or the people who work there. That means you will naturally make mistakes. Embrace the mistakes as a learning experience. You are not going to last long in your job if you take everything that people say about you in a personal way.  That attitude will hurt you in so many ways. No one will want to work with you or have you on their team. People don’t want to “tiptoe” around you or cater to your insecurities.

Welcome Criticism

It’s a wonderful way to learn and get feedback on what you are supposed to do and avoid doing what you shouldn’t. If you take what is said personally, you probably won’t listen to the criticism. Therefore, you hold your entire team back from reaching its goals. It won’t take long before you are given your exit papers and are fired. It’s a simple maturing process. Step outside of yourself and see the situation for what it truly is. When you own your own company, you can have complete control over decision-making.

Of course, if someone says something that is personal and they shouldn’t have said it, you have the right to confront the person saying it. It’s one thing to say that you performed a certain job incorrectly, etc. But, if someone says you are incompetent or stupid, then you should not let them get away with that and handle the situation immediately.

Stay Calm

Sometimes people will say something in a joking manner, and you may not take it as lightly as it was intended. This situation can be difficult because if you get too confrontational, you could be made to look bad. Others may say it was only a joke. Not all humor is funny though, and people have differing tastes on what constitutes humor. Your best bet in this situation is to calmly state that you didn’t find what the person said as being funny and ask them to refrain from making such jokes. Then, everyone should move on.

Avoid Gossip

It’s usually a good idea to not focus on gossip. Someone may tell you that you were the subject of some gossip. The best action to take is usually to do nothing at all because you won’t be able to prove what was said. You will find yourself in an awkward position if you go around accusing people of saying something and they deny it. One of the things I always say in these situations is, “What did you say?” I am more interested in what the person delivering the gossip said more than where they said it came from.

Be careful! There are people who love drama and would love to stir up problems for you at work.

How do you handle working with different personalities in the workplace?

Tags : developing tough skinhow to stop being sensitivestop taking things personally
Kesha Holloway

The author Kesha Holloway

Kesha Holloway is the founder of Living in Your Sweet Spot. She is passionate about being a wife and mother and desires to align herself with women equally passionate about their families. She believes the woman is the backbone of the family unit and it's her mission to help lift women to achieve their purpose.

34 Comments

  1. These are absolutely great tips to keep things calm at work. Some of us lead two very different lives, at work and not at work. I work at an all female environment, so there’s a lot of bickering going on. I personally stay out of harm’s way, because I don’t need that kind of bad energy – especially at a place that spend 40 hours a week at for x number of years.

    1. So true Jin! I refuse to deal with drama in the workplace and I’m pretty vocal about it. If there is an issue with me, my motto is “Come to me!” Don’t spread gossip or bicker behind my back. This isn’t high school and every one is an adult. We spend too much time with each other to be dealing with foolishness.

  2. Fortunately I’ve learnt after many years of taking things personally at work to grow a thick skin and let negativity and other people’s problems and issues not affect me a work. It definitely wasn’t easy, but it does help. Recognizing that we all have our strengths and weaknesses goes along way to diffusing potential conflict situations too.

  3. I love this article, and will share it with my team at work. I also practice not getting defensive by paying attention to my own reactions. If I feel the slightest bit heated about something, I take it as a trigger not to respond right then. Usually when I have cooled off, I see that it is not all that bad and respond much more professionally and productively.

    1. This is so good and so very responsible Ramona! Triggers can catch us all of guard. As adults, we need to recognized when we’ve been trigger and learn how to response at the right time with the right words. Most triggered situations seem so much bigger at the time of the offense. Taking a step back helps most parties involved.

    1. You are not alone Annie! It’s hard for most people. I commend you that you know this about yourself. I believe that’s most people’s main problem. They don’t know themselves well enough to deal with their sensitivities and insecurities. We all have them. We just need to deal with them.

  4. These are really great tips. I also worked in a company and be with my co-workers with a different personalities but I used to do in handling those differences are : I learned to grow a thick skin and not letting any issues affect me and my work. I let go all the gossips and negative opinions passes by so by that way I can also avoid getting trouble with my co-workers.

  5. I admit that I almost spend my life at work and makes me forget about my family. It is so difficult and stressful. This is definitely I needed right now.

  6. These tips are so valuable and true! Especially useful for young people starting in the working world. I am old enough to have learnt not to take things personally (thanks God, lol) but I have suffered at the beginning, like most people I guess.

  7. After leaving the corporate world to focus on my business I couldn’t agree more with these tips. Gossiping should be avoid at all cost, and we should enter the building with an extra layer of thick skin.

  8. There is so much to learn from it. I remember when I was an intern how hard time I had faced. Now It is all good.

  9. So many people experience things like this. It can be hard not to be hurt or even combative when criticized. If you step back & look at it constructively, it can be beneficial in improving your work.

  10. Honestly, I love this post. I do not know why people take things so personal at work. Look at it as constructive criticism.

  11. I’m totally agree stay calm is the most important thing in my life. Sometime no need to be so serious. Thank for your tips. Its help me alot

  12. Great article, I’ve always taken criticism and never really had any issues with stress or pressure from co-workers, although I’ve noticed my upbeat attitude does rub people the wrong way, but who cares if I’m having fun. 😛

    1. I’ve experienced that as well. I worked for a company that I came to work happy every day. I had some co-workers who were so unhappy at work. We ended up getting a manager with the same personality. She wanted the office to be happy in the mornings and not dread work.

  13. This is a really helpful post indeed. You made some really great points here and gave some sound advice on dealing with these issues.

  14. Great post! I agree with you on all these points. It’s very important not to take everything personally at work. Embracing the mistakes as a learning experience is a mature and professional way of handling things. Also, gossip is a deadly weapon when it comes to spoiling someone’s reputation. It needs to be ignored as much as possible.

  15. I agree with your tips and choices on how to handle imperfections at work. Learn from it, ask questions and figure out better ways to shine through them.

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