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Strategies for professionals

Bouncing Back From Workplace Challenges

In the fast-paced and demanding world of work, setbacks and challenges are inevitable. Whether it’s missing a crucial deadline, dealing with a difficult colleague, or facing an unexpected project failure, the ability to bounce back is essential for sustained success and personal wellbeing. Resilience is not just a trait we are born with but a skill that can be cultivated. 

As someone who has navigated the ups and downs of the corporate world for over a decade with companies such as KPMG and BDO in senior management, I’ve learned that resilience is the cornerstone of unstoppable growth. It is the catalyst that empowers individuals to face the monkeys on their backs – the work-related stressors, self-doubt, procrastination, or personal challenges.

Here are five practical strategies to help you cultivate resilience and thrive in your professional life.



“What the mind can conceive and believe, it can achieve.”

(Napoleon Hill)

Resilience begins with the right mindset. A growth mindset, as coined by psychologist Carol Dweck, is the belief that abilities and intelligence can be developed through dedication and hard work. This mindset fosters resilience by encouraging you to view challenges as opportunities for growth rather than insurmountable obstacles.

I still vividly remember that defining moment from several years ago. I was 23 years old and had just become a fully qualified Chartered Accountant. I was working at a large international firm BDO. One day, my boss approached me with a task that filled me with trepidation. The Australian government had just introduced new tax incentives that supported expatriates living away from home, subject to meeting specific requirements. Given our clientele of multinationals, we had an influx of enquiries from expatriates. My task was to get my head around these complex new tax rules and write a comprehensive piece of tax advice for each client regarding their eligibility.

I had never done this before, and severe doubt began to creep in. Memories of my early career struggles flashed back, especially those initial years when I started out and didn’t make probation in several companies before joining BDO. The weight of those past failures made the challenge seem even more daunting.

Despite the overwhelming uncertainty, I decided to approach this new challenge with a growth mindset and an eagerness to learn. I sought guidance from my more experienced colleagues and immersed myself in understanding the intricacies of the new tax regulations. I dedicated myself to researching and absorbing every detail about expatriate tax incentives.

Gradually, I began to find my footing. The pieces of the puzzle started to come together, and my confidence grew. Through persistence and a willingness to embrace the unfamiliar, I not only completed the task but also became the go-to person within our firm for dealing with expatriates and LAFHA benefits.

That experience taught me the power of resilience and the importance of a growth mindset. It was a turning point in my career, showing me that even in the face of severe doubt and unfamiliarity, we can overcome and excel by embracing challenges and continually learning.

Practical Suggestions:

  • Adopt Positive Thinking: According to Mayo Clinic, positivity makes it easier for you to handle difficult events, which lessens the negative impacts of stress on your body’s health. Start your day with positive affirmations and focus on the good aspects of challenging situations.
  • Set Learning Goals: Instead of solely focusing on performance outcomes, set goals aimed at learning new skills or improving existing ones. This shift in focus helps reduce the pressure of achieving perfect results and encourages continuous improvement.
  • Seek Feedback Actively: Embrace feedback as a tool for growth. Whether it’s from colleagues, supervisors, or clients, constructive criticism can provide valuable insights into areas for development. Use this feedback to refine your skills and approach.
  • Reflect on Personal Experiences: Remember when you aced that project or received praise from a client? Store these moments in your “Resilience Bank.” Draw on them for inspiration and motivation during tough times. Reflect on what you did well and how you can replicate those successes in future challenges.
  • Cultivate Curiosity: Approach new tasks and challenges with curiosity rather than fear. Ask questions, seek out resources, and be open to learning. For example, if you’re assigned a project outside your area of expertise, view it as an opportunity to expand your knowledge and skill set.

By adopting a growth mindset and incorporating these practical strategies, you can transform setbacks into stepping stones for professional and personal growth.



“No one can whistle a symphony. It takes a whole orchestra to play it.”

(H.E. Luccock)

Building and maintaining a strong support network is crucial for resilience. This includes colleagues, mentors, friends, and family who can provide emotional support, advice, and encouragement during tough times.

When dealing with workplace stress, don’t hesitate to lean on your support network. For example, if you’re struggling with a difficult project, seek advice from a trusted colleague or mentor. Share your concerns and brainstorm solutions together. During a particularly challenging period in my career, I found that regular check-ins with a mentor helped me stay grounded and gain new perspectives on my problems.

Practical Suggestions:

  • Daily Check-Ins: Set aside time each day for a casual chat with a trusted colleague or mentor. Discuss your day, share challenges, and celebrate successes. This can help maintain strong connections and provide regular support.
  • Active Listening: Show genuine interest in the thoughts and feelings of your colleagues and mentors. Avoid interrupting and offer empathetic responses. Phrases like “I understand how you feel” or “That sounds challenging” can validate their emotions and build stronger relationships.
  • Share Your Experiences: Relate to the experiences of your colleagues by sharing your own recent challenges and how you overcame them. This not only humanises you but also provides valuable life lessons and fosters a sense of camaraderie.
  • Offer and Seek Help: Be generous with your support and don’t hesitate to ask for help when needed. If a colleague is overwhelmed, offer assistance. Similarly, if you’re struggling, reach out to someone in your network for guidance or support. Consider the importance of mental health first aid officers within your organisation. They play a crucial role in providing immediate support and guiding individuals to professional help. If your organisation doesn’t have trained mental health first aid officers, think about the benefits of having such resources available. Training individuals in mental health first aid can create a more supportive and resilient work environment.
  • Offer and Seek Help: Encourage a culture of support within your workplace. Organise team-building activities or informal gatherings where colleagues can connect on a personal level. This strengthens the overall support network and fosters a resilient work environment.

By developing strong support networks and incorporating these practical strategies, you can create a robust foundation of resilience, enabling you to navigate workplace challenges with confidence and support.



“Taking care of yourself is the most powerful way to begin to take care of others.”

(Bryant McGill)

Self-care is not a luxury; it’s a necessity. To build resilience, you need to ensure that you’re physically, emotionally, and mentally well. This means prioritising activities that recharge and rejuvenate you.

Incorporate self-care routines into your daily schedule. This could be as simple as taking short breaks during work to stretch or go for a walk, practicing mindfulness or meditation, or setting aside time for hobbies you enjoy. When I faced burnout early in my career, I found that introducing a daily meditation practice and setting strict boundaries between work and personal time helped me recover and maintain my energy levels.

Practical Suggestions:

  • Incorporate Regular Breaks: Take short breaks throughout your workday to recharge. A five-minute walk, some stretching exercises, or a quick meditation session can do wonders for your mental and physical health.
  • Set Boundaries: Establish clear boundaries between work and personal life. Designate specific “offline” hours when you are not available for work-related tasks. This helps prevent burnout and allows you to fully unwind and recharge.
  • Engage in Physical Activity: Regular physical activity is essential for maintaining energy levels and reducing stress. Whether it’s a daily workout, a yoga session, or a simple walk, make sure to incorporate some form of exercise into your routine.
  • Practice Mindfulness and Meditation: Mindfulness and meditation can help manage stress and improve focus. Set aside a few minutes each day to practice mindfulness exercises or meditation to stay centred and calm.
  • Pursue Hobbies and Interests: Make time for activities that bring you joy and relaxation. Whether it’s reading, painting, gardening, or playing a musical instrument, engaging in hobbies can provide a much-needed break from work-related stress.
  • Reflect on Your Needs: Regularly assess your wellbeing and identify areas where you may need to focus more self-care. Listen to your body and mind, and take proactive steps to address any signs of stress or burnout.

By prioritising self-care and incorporating these practical strategies, you can build a strong foundation of resilience, ensuring that you have the energy and mental clarity needed to tackle workplace challenges effectively.



“A setback is a setup for a comeback.”

(Ann Napolitano)

Resilience is a skill that is built gradually, brick by brick, through various strategies and experiences. Integrating different techniques into your daily routine can help you become more adaptable and stronger in the face of challenges.

Resilient individuals view setbacks as learning opportunities. Instead of dwelling on what went wrong, focus on what you can learn from the experience and how you can apply that knowledge moving forward.

After a failed project, take the time to conduct a thorough debrief. Identify what went wrong, what could have been done differently, and what lessons can be applied to future projects. For instance, after a significant client presentation went poorly, I reviewed the feedback, identified gaps in my preparation, and sought public speaking training. This proactive approach turned a negative experience into a valuable learning opportunity.

“Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.”

(Henry Ford)



“To know oneself is to study oneself in action with another person.”

(Bruce Lee)

Emotional intelligence, or EQ, is the ability to understand and manage your own emotions and those of others. High EQ helps you navigate social complexities, manage stress, and make informed decisions under pressure.

During a heated team meeting, for example, take a moment to understand your colleagues’ perspectives and emotions. This approach not only helps in resolving conflicts but also strengthens your relationships and creates a supportive work environment. This is especially paramount for leaders and managers. I recall a time when tensions were high in my team due to a tight deadline. By taking the time to listen to each member’s concerns and showing empathy, we were able to work together more effectively and meet our goals.

Practical Suggestions:

  • Practice Active Listening: Show genuine interest in the thoughts and feelings of your colleagues. Avoid interrupting and offer empathetic responses. Phrases like “I understand how you feel” or “That sounds challenging” can validate their emotions and build stronger relationships.
  • Develop Self-Awareness: Regularly engage in self-reflection to gain insight into your own emotions and behaviours. Identify your strengths and areas for improvement. Techniques like journaling or seeking feedback from trusted colleagues can enhance your self-awareness.
  • Enhance Self-Regulation: Manage your emotions effectively by practising techniques such as deep breathing, mindfulness, or taking short breaks when you feel overwhelmed. This helps maintain composure and make more rational decisions under pressure.
  • Foster Empathy: Put yourself in others’ shoes to understand their perspectives and feelings. This can improve your interactions with colleagues and clients, creating a more supportive and cooperative work environment.
  • Improve Social Skills: Build strong interpersonal relationships by honing your communication and conflict resolution skills. Participate in team-building activities, offer constructive feedback, and encourage open dialogue within your team.

By cultivating emotional intelligence and incorporating these practical strategies, you can enhance your ability to manage stress, build stronger relationships, and make better decisions, ultimately leading to a more resilient and successful professional life.

To conclude, building resilience in the workplace is not just about bouncing back from setbacks; it’s about equipping yourself to handle challenges with strength and wisdom. By implementing these five practical strategies—taming the self-doubt monkey, forging powerful connections, ditching depletion to nurture your well, turning setbacks into comebacks, and cultivating true power with EQ—you can transform your professional life into a thriving, supportive, and resilient environment.

Remember, everyone faces their own set of “monkeys” or challenges that can weigh them down. By addressing these monkeys head-on, you empower yourself to overcome obstacles and create a pathway to resilience, success, and personal fulfilment.

I’ll leave you with the inspiring words of Joshua J. Marine:

“Challenges are what make life interesting and overcoming them is what makes life meaningful”

(Joshua J. Marine)

By building resilience, you are not only enhancing your ability to manage stress and adversity but also expanding your vision of ‘what could be,’ setting yourself up to realise your full potential. Embrace the journey of becoming the leader of your life, because resilience in action is the key to unlocking your true potential and living a life of purpose and fulfilment.

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Daniel is an award-winning international speaker, trainer, transformational coach, and author, specialising in wellbeing and leadership.

Daniel has developed clever and fun ways to engage, empower and equip thousands of people worldwide  – from students, parents, educators to corporate professionals and business entrepreneurs –  to get the monkeys off their back and thrive. He has been featured on radio and media outlets, and his work has also been acknowledged in NSW Parliament.

Daniel is an accredited Certified Speaking Professional (CSP), an international designation that recognises the experience and professional capability of Australia’s leading speakers.  Daniel is also an accredited Mental Health First Aid Trainer.

To order Daniel’s book Get the Monkeys off Your Backclick here. For more information on Daniel’s school programs, click here. For corporate programs, click here.

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