7 tricky work situations and how to respond to them

Ever found yourself in a tricky work situation and not know how to respond in the heat of the moment? The right words refuse to come out or even formulate themselves in the first place. This phenomenon, called analysis paralysis, occurs when your brain suddenly becomes overtaxed by worry or pressure. And it has a nasty habit of happening in the workplace…


The Harvard Business Review feels your pain. It has published some useful go-to phrases for workers to internalise and use across a handful of common difficult work scenarios. Click here to see the full article or view the highlights below… And breathe!


Situation #1: Someone takes credit for your idea.

What you should say: “Thanks for spotlighting my point.”

Why it works: Spoken with composure, it allows you to reclaim your idea. You can further boost idea ownership by offering more detail or clarification.


Situation #2: You’re asked to stay late when you’re about to leave the office for a personal obligation.

What you should say: “I’m sorry, I have another commitment.”

Why it works: This sentence minimises your risk of backlash because it establishes an information boundary that puts anyone who crosses it at risk of appearing intrusive.


Situation #3: You have to say “no.”

What you should say: “This is a good launching point.”

Why it works: Spoken with a tone of enthusiasm and flexibility, this positive statement allows you to re-frame the person’s idea as a starting point to be explored (and potentially re-shaped) later, rather than a set idea that you have to commit to now.


Situation #4: You have to give negative or awkward feedback to someone you’re close to.

What you should say: “I’m here to be for you what someone once was for me.”

Why it works: Delivered in a calm and candid tone, this sentence can save an awkward moment from spiralling out of control. It gives the other person a moment to brace themselves and instantly unifies you through your shared vulnerability.


Situation #5: You need to push back on a decision you believe is wrong.

What you should say: “This is my preference.”

Why it works: It will allow you to direct the conversation toward a desired change, while still conveying openness for other approaches.


So if analysis paralysis shows up at your door, send it packing with one of the above phrases! You’ve got this!


Have you got any phrases that you rely on to get you out of a workplace jam? Please get in touch to share them. And, if you’d like some expert advice on finding the job of your dreams, and nailing the interview, please also get in contact! With over 30 years’ experience in the field, 124 open job vacancies currently on our books and strong relationships with more than 400 leading organisations worldwide, ABL is in the strongest of positions to help.