3 min read

How To Give Employees a Pep Talk After a Bad Day at Work

How To Give Employees a Pep Talk After a Bad Day at Work

In a 2018 study of 700 private and public sector employes worldwide, 19% reported that they have a bad day at work every day or almost every day. While 29% said they had one at least once a week. In other words, half of the people surveyed regularly had bad days at work.

Among those surveyed, the top five reasons that were cited as the cause of their bad days were: 

  1. A lack of help and support from a boss (40%)
  2. Negative coworkers (39%)
  3. Lack of praise or recognition (37%)
  4. Uncertainty about the vision and strategy of the organization (37%)
  5. Busyness/heavy workload (36%)

While all of this is quite common in the workplace, you run into trouble when these causes turn bad days at work into bad weeks and even months. In which case, you will likely see demotivation, disengagement, and turnover rise among your employees.

So, what can you do as a people manager to help an employee move past a bad day? 

One technique is to deliver a well-timed pep talk that makes employees feel seen and heard, but that also encourages and motivates them to push forward and find a solution. To achieve this, consider applying the following tips the next time your employee has a bad day at work. 


5 Tips For Helping an Employee Get Over a Bad Day at Work

  1. Gauge their mental and emotional state
  2. Actively listen and resist jumping in 
  3. Share stories
  4. Adapt your communication style to the person
  5. Make it a coachable moment

Bad Day At Work - Niagara Institute

Is the way you communicate helping or hindering your effectiveness as a leader?  Find out in this guide.


Gauge Their Mental and Emotional State

Before you do anything else on this list, you first need to gauge where your employee’s head is after a bad day at work. If they’re too upset or angry, then hold off on the pep talk and give them time and space to calm down from the situation. Once they have, you will be able to talk more rationally about the situation and deliver a pep talk that is welcomed.


Actively Listen and Resist Jumping In

Whether in your personal or professional life, have you ever gone to talk to someone about your bad day, and instead of listening to you or letting you vent, they immediately jump into problem-solving mode or give you a pep talk that’s too cheery? As a people leader, it is especially important not to fall into this trap as it can have the opposite effect of what you intend.

Instead, when an employee has a bad day at work, give them the space they need to talk it out without interrupting, brushing them off, or downplaying their experience. When you actively listen in such a way, you may be surprised at how quickly they feel better and come to their own solution. At that point, you can determine if they even need a pep talk or if what they needed was to talk it out with someone. 


Share stories

One way to give a better pep talk is to share personal stories and past experiences with your employees. This will create a sense of reassurance, trust, and connection as they realize someone has been in their shoes before and got through it. As one Harvard author wrote, “With a simple personal story, [leaders] convey underlying values, offer insight into the evolution of their own experience and knowledge, present themselves as more approachable, and most likely inspire others to want to know more.”


Adapt Your Communication Style to the Person

If you want your pep talk to be as effective as possible, you’ll need to consider not only what you say to your employee, but how you say it. For example, would this person respond well to a phone call, or would it be best-delivered face-to-face? Would they respond well to a passionate pep talk or a more short and subtle one? Depending on the person and the situation, everything from your tone of voice to your body language and word choice can mean the difference between your pep talk being motivational or off-putting.


Make It a Coachable Moment

You can make the best of a bad day at work by turning it into a coachable moment or learning opportunity. After the pep talk and possibly even after the employee has resolved the issue, schedule some time in private to review the series of events, what (if any) mistakes were made, and what should change going forward to avoid a similar situation from happening again.

You may even want to open this conversation by saying, “I wanted to do this not to punish you or make you feel bad, but because I want to help you lessen the chances of it happening again in any way I can.” Starting with a statement like this will set the right tone for the conversation, create a sense of trust, and encourage them to open up to your coaching and feedback. 



A well-timed and thoughtfully crafted pep talk is a powerful tool people leaders can use to motivate and inspire employees after a bad day at work. While the tips above are a great start, you may also benefit from a communication course that is specifically designed to equip people leaders with the skills, tools, and confidence they need to speak like a leader in every situation, good or bad, formal or informal.

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