How to stay up when work’s got you down


by Jeff Mowatt, BComm, CSP

Someone once said that life would be easy, if it wasn’t for other people. However, making a living usually involves interacting with humans. Your job may be fine when customers are pleasant and everything goes well. But, sooner or later, unavoidable delays, foul-ups and interruptions can make even good jobs turn into, well…work.

To help you have more up days than down – even when things go wrong – here are five strategies I share in my seminars for making your job easier and your mood better. The bonus is your boss and your customers will love you for them.

Take the Lead

AdversityNo matter what your job description, if you view internal and external customers as interruptions, you’re going to be frustrated and angry a lot. We all know that without those customers we wouldn’t have jobs.

Ultimately, the purpose of everyone’s job is to serve customers and co-workers. That means when customers ask for something that’s not technically in your job description, instead of focusing on what you can’t do, focus on what you can.

Contrast saying to a customer, “You need to call another department”, versus, “I’ll call that department and see what I can find out for you.” With the second approach, customers will be easier to deal with and you’ll have a better day. Ironically, trying to avoid customer requests or foist them on to others makes your day harder and more draining than just finding a way to solve the problem.

Roll Up Your Sleeves

Adversity6Imagine you’re about to talk with a customer who is obviously unhappy. Starting the conversation by asking, “How are you?”, invites the customer to start a rant, which sends the conversation in a downward spiral.

By the same token, if it’s evident the customer is unhappy, asking them how they are indicates that we must be blind to the obvious. That doesn’t exactly build trust.

So, when you suspect a customer may be frustrated, instead of asking, “How are you?”, instead ask, “What can I do to make your day a little easier?” That opening shows that you’re aware, and positions you as problem solver. Chances are you’ll have a better interaction.

Watch Your Language

Adversity8Speaking of words that improve outcomes, try my Phrases that Pay© with your customers and co-workers.

  • Instead of: I’ll deal with it. Say: I’ll take care of it.;
  • Instead of: You’re welcome. Say: My pleasure.;
  • Instead of: Bear with me. Say: I appreciate your patience.;
  • Instead of: It won’t be here until Tuesday. Say: It will be here as soon as Tuesday.

Did you notice how just changing a few words changes the whole tone? When I speak at conferences, participants who’ve used these tips report afterward that they’re amazed at how much easier customers are to deal with once service providers become more thoughtful with their word choices.

Focus on Job One

Adversity9Chances are, you may have several co-workers or customers with whom you have absolutely nothing in common. They may come from a vastly different culture, upbringing or value system than you. That means if you try to win them over as friends, you’ll likely be disappointed. I suggest that instead of trying to become buddies, you position yourself more as a trusted advisor.

Think of the relationship between a medical specialist and a patient. As a patient, we don’t expect the cardiologist to phone us at home to talk about movies. We may only interact with them once or twice a then never see them again. Yet, we feel a strong bond because we see them as a trusted advisor. At work, your day will be easier if you expend less energy trying to be liked and focus more on satisfying customer needs as a trusted advisor.

Be Good to Yourself

Adversity10You know that great feeling you have after you work out? It’s more than a temporary endorphin high. It’s also the sense of well being and self esteem you generate by doing something that you know is good for you.

So, if your job involves a lot of stress and potential conflicts, then I encourage you to exercise before you go to work. Yes, it may mean getting-up earlier. Fine, get up earlier and go to bed earlier. Being kind to customers and coworkers starts with being kind to yourself. You’ll not only have better outlook, you’ll also have the energy to face life’s daily challenges.


Bottom line – you may not have control over every foul-up or frustration that happens when you deal with customers and co-workers. Fortunately, you do have several tools to make work more pleasant for everyone.

Jeff Mowatt is a customer service strategist, Hall of Fame speaker, and bestselling author. For more tips, training tools or to inquire about engaging Jeff for your team, visit

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