Episode 099 — The Digital Broker Podcast

Bad Days at the Office: Why They Happen, How to Deal with Them


On this episode of The Digital Broker, Ryan Deeds and special guests Azia Hurley and Melissa Wilder recall the worst days they’ve ever had at the office. By listening to this episode, you will learn:

  • What a bad day at an insurance agency looks and feels like.
  • Why the insurance industry is especially vulnerable to bad days.
  • What an insurance agency can do to minimize the incidence of bad days and reduce the negative impact of the ones that happen anyway.

A couple of years ago, Azia Hurley put in a superstar day at the office, arriving hours before everyone else and spending all day moving from one task to another, without even taking a lunch break. This went on until closing time; Azia stayed to finish out a few more tasks. The stress of the day was beginning to wear on her. She was tired. She was looking forward to going home. But she knew that she could feel good about having given it her all that day.

Just a moment before she clocked out, a colleague sent her an angry email, basically berating her for something she hadn’t done right. Azia was stunned. To this day, when she is asked about the single worst day she ever had at work, this moment comes to mind. What could have otherwise been a day she could be proud of, or a day she could eventually forget, became a source of lasting pain—all because of a single email.

Bad days are going to happen. This episode doesn’t contain anything about “avoiding” bad days, because that’s impossible: bad days are a matter of when, not if. This is especially the case in the insurance industry, where operations depend on many moving parts and the pace is frequently hectic. In so stressful an environment, everybody will be tested, even famously laid-back people like Ryan, who admits to having lost his temper at work a couple of times and felt terrible about it later.

But the inevitability of bad days doesn’t clear an agency’s responsibility to do something about them, both beforehand to minimize their incidence and afterwards to contain the negative effects they can cause.

Usually, when an employee has a bad day, it is not due just to being overworked or stressed out. In fact, when people are passionate about their jobs, they don’t mind putting in long hours. It is a lack of appreciation that can turn an ordinarily busy day into a bad one: this is when employees go the extra mile for the good of the company and are denied the recognition they deserve or, worse, receive a reprimand for their troubles, like Azia did. You can minimize the likelihood of this happening by cultivating a culture of appreciation, like we’ve talked about doing here.

Even so, bad days are going to happen, and if a lack of appreciation isn’t causing them, it is important to figure out what is. Sometimes, bad days are just one-offs; other times, a pattern of negative experiences can be traced back to a common cause. Is a particular employee treating other people badly? Is a particular process testing employee patience? It is impossible to know for sure unless you have data, and you won’t have data if employees don’t feel free to talk about their bad days without fear of judgment or prejudice. Therefore, along with a culture of appreciation, try to encourage a culture of safe and open communication.

Sometimes, simply talking about a bad day is enough to help an employee get over it. Azia brought her concerns to her COO, whom she credits with having been very patient, wise, and supportive as she let out her frustrations. “If I hadn’t had that backing,” she reveals, “I think that would have been my last day at that company.” Such is the power of having someone at work whom employees know they can talk to when things are challenging. Whether this person is a mentor (like we’ve talked about appointing here) or someone else in a position to hear out employee concerns and advise, try to make sure your employees have access to such a person and know about it.

When venting is not enough, meaning a formal complaint or some other kind of followup is in order, make sure employees see you’re taking action promptly and transparently. Working up the courage to complain about anything, formally or informally, is tough enough for many employees. It is discouraging to go through all that trouble, only to see management do nothing about it. This is only going to foster a culture of resentment, which will multiply the likelihood of bad days occurring.

Remember—being there for your employees can make a world of difference. Azia was lucky to have somebody she could turn to when she needed to deal with a bad day. Years ago, at a previous job in another industry, Ryan had no such person. He repeatedly felt like his work wasn’t being taken seriously, so he quit. Later, he got another job, his first in the insurance industry. Had anybody taken the trouble to hear out Ryan’s concerns at his previous job, you might not be listening to this podcast right now.

What was your worst day at the office? Why did it happen? What did your company do about it, before or after? We would love to hear your stories in our Digital Broker LinkedIn group, where we post information about upcoming episodes and take questions and comments from our listeners. Join us and let’s chat.

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