work in sports

The PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Winter Games are underway. Despite the beautiful opening ceremony and excitement, a shadow of controversy lurks over the event. The ongoing political turbulence with North Korea is a major source of contention.

The country is sending 22 athletes who will compete in ice hockey, ice skating, and skiing. Just a few days prior to the start of the Games, North and South Korean players united in a game against Sweden, playing as Korea. This drew several protesters, who ripped up unified-Korea flags.

This puts the athletes in a tough situation, especially if they’re participating in an event they oppose. Many critics even said that North Korean athletes who are less skilled and less qualified took the place of South Korean athletes who were better.

When you work in sports, you’re going to experience a time when you object circumstances or decisions from leadership. This is a tough situation, but you still need to stay professional and focus on doing your best work.

Here’s how to stay focused and be your best despite your objections:

Identify What You Disagree With

Olympic athletes likely feel conflicted. While many suggest the Korea unity is a sign of North Korea offering reconciliation, opponents say it’s Kim Jong-un’s attempt to drive a wedge between the United States and South Korea.

While these matters may seem a far stretch from differences in the workplace, office politics create similar tensions. No matter what type of employee you are, you’ll face tension and conflict in your career. However, when you face a disagreement with your employer that directly goes against your values, you will most likely feel disengaged and frustrated.

The best first step when you sense agitation is to determine exactly what is causing your frustration. When it’s vague, you can’t fully understand the problem. Therefore, you won’t find a solution.

Start reflecting on what you object about your circumstances. Write out thought-provoking questions, such as: What is a major issue I face in the day to day? What can I control? How can I help solve this problem?

Converse With Leadership

Don’t bottle up your feelings and thoughts. They will continue to eat away at you. Then, you’ll build up resentment, frustration, disengagement, and dissatisfaction. This snowball effect will lead to diminished performance and can even give you a bad reputation, which is hard to overcome.

Once you are clear on what is bothering you, it’s time to take action. Document the obstacles you face, the effect it’s having on your performance, and a solution.

For example, you disagree with the new client leadership signed on. The client is disrespectful to you and your team, and you already see working with them will end up costing your department too much time and resources.

Write specific examples of the client being difficult and explain the negative impact it’s having on your team. Then, create an action plan, showing each step of how you want to solve the issue.

Once you’re ready, request a meeting with leadership to address your frustrations. During the meeting, express your thoughts and feelings on what particularly bothers you, like how your new client is difficult to work with.

Then, share your solution and action plan. While your boss might not approve, this meeting accomplishes a number of things. You brought an issue to their attention, started a conversation about it, and provided some options on how to address it.

Recall the Bigger Picture

It’s always important to pause and think about the larger scope of the situation. Even when you disagree with leadership, remember that you’re on the same team. You both want what’s best for the company.

Revisit your company’s values and mission. Explore your connection with them and remind yourself of your value. Recall your last three big successes and write how you felt about them.

If you’re frustrated about a circumstance that is out of your control, remember what you can control — your performance.

Stick to your process, and when you feel like your emotions are getting the better of you, name three things you can control in that moment. This simple practice grounds you.

Turn Negativity Into Gratitude

It’s easy to complain about circumstances. But when you work in sports, you know the mind of the athlete. The best of the best don’t whine about a loss; they get back to the training facility and refocus, with a sense of humility and thankfulness for their opportunities.

Think like a top performing athlete. Turn your negative mindset around by focusing on the benefits of your job and your role. Many people might think of this as being complacent. However, you’re actively trying to improve your current situation.

If you face negativity on a regular basis, where you feel like you’re dragging yourself through work each day, start a daily practice of gratitude journaling. In the morning, write three things you’re grateful for and three things you like about yourself. Then, in the evening, reflect on a few experiences you appreciate and what went well during the day.

This trains you to focus on the positive. So, even if you still have to tough it out with that unruly new client, you’re at least in a better mindset to handle the frustrations and manage conflict.

How do you stay in the game when you’re frustrated? Share in the comments!