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Career Development Tips

Preparing for Stressful Situations at Work

Posted by Glassdoor Team

Career Advice Experts

Last Updated June 29, 2021

Guide Overview

Handling a deadlineExamples of handling deadlinesDealing with irate people who are not thinking clearlyExamples of dealing with irate peopleDealing with unplanned work dramaExamples of dealing with unplanned work drama

Guide Overview

Preparing for stressful situations examples at work

Whether you are planning on working in customer service or as a first responder, one thing is certain; there will be stressful situations at work. As you prepare for your interview and then for your career, remember the key to a successful and healthy work-life balance is learning how to handle stressful situations at work.

Some examples of stressful situations that you can encounter in any job include

  • Handling a deadline (whether it is self-imposed or given to you by your boss).
  • Dealing with irate or upset people who are not thinking clearly.
  • Dealing with unplanned workplace drama such as someone else causing trouble for you because they are not happy.

Handling a deadline

Deadlines are something that everyone in the workforce has dealt with at some point or another during their career. Sometimes they are self-imposed. An example of this is if you are trying to give yourself an incentive to finish a project, such as “if I finish this part of the project by this time, I can enjoy 10 more minutes of sunshine before going back to work.” You may also have a firm deadline given to you by your boss. For example, “all of these notes must be done before the end of the day.”

While deadlines can motivate people, they can also serve as a source of stress for others. The question is, how do you handle a deadline regardless of whether you impose it or your boss does?

Examples of handling deadlines


I handle deadlines that my boss gives me by staying on top of my notes and story ideas throughout the day. The news is constantly changing, and even while I am working on an article, it can change in an instant. I give myself plenty of time to make any necessary corrections by the end of the day. If I am working on getting something done in a short period of time, I may set a timer on my computer or cell phone to keep myself on task.

Group Project Adviser

I am often dealing with two sets of deadlines when I am handed a new project. The first thing I do is create a task list and delegate the work to fit my team best. Yes, I take on my part. As I watch the clock, I keep my personal deadline in place and check in regularly with the others, so the presentation is ready with plenty of time for last-minute changes.  My calendar is my best friend when it comes to handling the stress of deadlines. 

Dealing with irate people who are not thinking clearly

As much as we want to help any customer, client, or person that we try to help during work, it’s not always going to work. There are a variety of reasons why a person may come in angry. They can be made because of a bill that a family member caused. They can be angry because a long wait is holding them up. They may even get mad because you are trying to help them finish what they are doing, but they interpret it as you are doing the task for them.

Learning not to take an irate person’s anger personally often causes quite a bit of stress at work. The question is, how do you handle it so that one bad interaction doesn’t ruin your day?

Examples of dealing with irate people

Veteran Teacher

Dealing with irate people is something every teacher does, whether you work with pre-school children or college students. The key is to defuse the situation as quickly as possible. You cannot talk down to people because it will only escalate the situation even more. You must stay aware of your surroundings at all times while you ask the student and/or their parent what happened. Do not tell them to calm down. For many people suggesting what they need to do just gets them more upset. 

Customer Service Agent

Whether it’s your first day on the job or you are a veteran, expect to deal with upset people. Do not cut them off while they are explaining the situation. Start taking notes and working through the systems you know you will need to help them as they vent. Once they have finished venting, confirm the main reason they are working with you. Then explain to them what you can do to assist them. 

You can also offer to give them multiple solutions to the problem. Do not give them generalized answers; make sure that all of the information you give them is specific to their situation. Do not rush them. Do not feel bad if you need to take a few minutes away from your job once you finish the difficult interaction. You are human, not a robot. 

Retail Worker

I can think of several times throughout the year when customers face long lines in the store. They can result from holiday shopping, a new product release, or nice weather. Regardless of the reason, I always put myself in their shoes. They have other things to do that day and want to get on with life. I smile, even when I am stressed, to keep the mood as light as possible. I try to make each person I deal with a smile by the time they leave me. There is no better feeling than turning an angry person into a smiling one by the time you leave them.

Dealing with unplanned work drama

Unplanned work drama can happen even in the happiest of work environments. Some situations that can lead to this kind of drama include a co-worker who is in a bad mood who wants to get people in trouble for no reason, or issues with technology. Since many people incorporate technology into their workday now through working from home, how do you handle the unplanned work drama that can impact your productivity for the day?

Examples of dealing with unplanned work drama


As a cashier, I often deal with unplanned drama if our systems go down. You would be amazed at how many people do not carry cash on them these days to use if our credit card systems break. When my register first starts acting up, I try to troubleshoot the unit. If the steps I am taught don’t work, my next step is to contact my supervisor on the floor. I do this for three reasons. One, I want them to know what is going on with the register. Two, I want to know if they can override the system to get it working right again without holding up the customers for long. The final reason is to see if I am the only one impacted by the problem.

Once I know what is going on, I am calm and clear as I address the customers. Then I take a deep breath and listen to their complaints as we work to fix things. If it’s a quick-fix situation, I do my best to engage them in small talk until the situation is fixed.

Brand New Waitress

If I hear a co-worker trying to cause trouble for the rest of us, I do my best to avoid that person. When I can, I also let the lead know what is going on and who is behind the situation. Thankfully, we can do this anonymously, so I do not have to worry about the angry person coming after me. Often, I will do my best to focus on the customers and not get involved in the behind-the-scenes stuff.

In terms of dealing with issues caused by technology, I always hand-write the customer’s orders down and deliver them to the kitchen. If the customer has a problem paying for their meal, I will give them suggestions for alternative methods. If they accept my offer but are not familiar with the suggestion, I will help them process the payment.

Office Assistant

As an office assistant, I have come to expect the unexpected at work. Whether my co-workers come in and they’re in a bad mood or something decides to crash at the worst time possible, I need to be ready for the challenge. In terms of dealing with my co-workers, I do my best to avoid the drama. However, I offer an open, non-judgmental ear for anyone who needs to vent to lessen the room’s stress. 

When it comes to technology, I always back up everything at least twice. If I am in the middle of a project for my boss, I often have a backup in writing and the computer. By planning ahead, I tend to avoid the stress that comes from unplanned drama.

Workplace stress happens in small towns and large cities. Whether you work for a small company or a large corporation, learning how to handle these examples of stressful situations at work is important. Preparing for an interview question of this nature allows your potential employer to have an idea of how you will fit into the company culture and routine.

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