We all experience frustration at one time or another, and if we don’t learn to deal with it we suffer unpleasant and often critical symptoms of stress over our inability to move forward. On the other hand, an exploration of how frustration operates for us, can provide some valuable lessons about our development as adults.

James Flaherty sees frustration as both internal and external: “frustration is the judgment that I must make something happen and I cannot make it happen. The commitment is one that I cannot walk away from and the circumstances make it impossible as far as I can tell, to fulfill the commitment.” (Coaching: Evolving Excellence in Others) However, stress and frustration are essentially within us even though we may perceive them as coming from outside. Other thinkers suggest that frustration is an over reliance on ego, thinking we can control everything around us.

Here are some typical reasons for frustration:

  • Trying to force an outcome
  • Standards not being met, incompetence
  • Delays and cancellations
  • Being trapped in conflicting expectations
  • Poor attitudes around us
  • No power to affect the system
  • Determination not to let circumstances beat us
  • Others not seeing it our way
  • Gaps between our needs and aspirations
  • Feeling inferior
  • Clash between Type A personality and Type B personality
  • Excessive bureaucracy

How frustration feels:

·Out of control






·Boiling over

Tips for reducing our frustration levels. Some of these will work for you, and some for others:

  1. Live in the present moment.
  2. Seek inner peace.
  3. Put it on the back burner for a while – let your subconscious work it out.
  4. Take the focus off yourself.
  5. Try to see things from “their” point of view – (remember Covey’s “Seek first to understand…”  The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People)
  6. Develop your compassion for others.
  7. Become more patient.
  8. Keep your perspective – What’s really important on the larger picture?- “Don’t Sweat The Small Stuff”.
  9. Remind yourself that life isn’t fair.
  10. Act, rather than react.
  11. Let go of what you cannot control or influence.
  12. Own it, do something about it.
  13. Let go of self-pity.
  14. Lighten up; inject some humour into the situation.
  15. Focus on the things you are grateful for.
  16. Consider how you might be contributing to the situation yourself.
  17. Do some journaling or find a coach to help you work it out.

What leaders can do to reduce frustration for their team:

  1. Be a Barrier Buster – Your team will really appreciate it. Listen to your group and consider which barriers are real or perceived. Then do what you can to eliminate the road blocks. Why does the barrier exist in the first place? Who do you need to work with to eliminate it? What are the consequences of the barrier to your team? Describe how to eliminate the negative impact. Identify the potential benefits of the alternative you are recommending. Identify the opportunities to have your case heard. (Source: High Performance Work Systems: Leader Skills – The Belgard Group)
  2. Encourage dialogue and team problem solving – Model positive ways of doing this.
  3. Develop a personal/professional relationship with team members.
  4. Be a Sounding Board – sometimes your team members just need to vent.
  5. Seek a Sounding Board – you sometimes need to vent as well. Needing a sounding board is not a sign of weakness or incompetence!
  6. Inject some fun. Find some way for you and your team members to relax and blow off steam together.

Coaching Questions to Stimulate Reflection About Your Life & Work

  1. List the top 10 things that frustrate you
    1. on your job
    2. in your personal life
    3. in your community
    4. in the world
  2. List at least a couple of positive changes you can make to reduce or eliminate each one.