As I’ve gotten older and the stresses of life have increased, I have become prone to panic responses. It doesn’t have to be a life-and-death emergency for my panic to be triggered. It could be a deadline I’m suddenly in danger of missing because a person I was counting on didn’t deliver. Or it could be a person I owe work to, who has suddenly become unreasonable. “Well, what am I going to do now?” I sometimes nearly shriek aloud. I have alarmed people before with this kind of panic. They have assumed that something life threatening was happening, rather than the potential of a missed deadline or a work assignment that might not be delivered in the shape I wanted.
Lessons from Healthcare
My parents both worked in hospital settings, where emergencies are real emergencies. However they may have flown off the handle or panicked in their personal lives, they both knew how to stay calm in the face of workplace crisis—something more important than a missed deadline or an unhappy client. In the case of my father, a physician and surgeon, an emergency could be someone in the process of bleeding to death. In the case of my mother, an executive managing a healthcare system, it could be an operational failure that threatened the hospital’s ability to serve patients in need of immediate care.
They knew how to stay calm because they were trained in their professions to know what to do in such emergencies. There are protocols they were taught to help them manage a wide range of emergencies that could create life-and-death situations. Most workplaces don’t have such high stakes as those in healthcare settings. However, employees can still be prepared for what to do when things go wrong. There can still be protocols in place that employees can immediately turn to when faced with a crisis that can negatively impact the business.
One Thing at a Time
I found an article on Indeed with “17 Ways to Stay Calm at Work.” Remaining focused, confident, and positive are a few tactics the Indeed editorial team says is a good start. One of the challenges of the modern skeleton-staff workplace is that many of us are being pulled in several directions at once. When a crisis arises in one of those directions, you have to be trained to immediately prioritize and focus on the crisis. This may seem like common sense, but when you have five people asking you questions and waiting for deliverables, it can be hard to remind yourself at any given time that you have to focus on getting the most important and pressing of those things done first. If a crisis has emerged in one direction while the other directions have pressing needs but are not in crisis mode, an employee should be trained to put the other tasks away completely until the crisis has been managed.
You’re Not Alone
Relying on your team is another tip Indeed offered. When there is a crisis in a healthcare setting, the doctor or hospital executive is not managing it alone. There are nurses and specialists and other hospital employees who can be tapped to provide assistance in their areas of expertise. Employees should be trained, and provided with a job aid, that shows who to contact when mishaps or crises occur. That way, they can do a quick search of the document and get a lifeline to a possible solution.
A big part of my kneejerk panic response is the sense that I have no one to turn to when something goes wrong. When I worked in an office every day, with most colleagues a short walk down the hall or just down the cubicle aisle, I panicked less. I knew there were people right there with me to share my crisis. They could help me find a solution without having to wait for them to e-mail, text, or call me back. With workplaces having shifted so that significant time is spent with employees working remotely, there needs to be easy and quick ways for employees to get help when an urgent mishap arises.
Planning and Perspective
Taking breaks and planning ahead also are recommended as good keep-calm strategies. One thing I’ve been doing right is taking a long break in the middle of the day for a four-mile walk and the running of errands. Many people exercise and run errands early in the morning or in the evening. A workplace culture that doesn’t enable employees to take a break in the middle of the day is a culture that may feed anxiety and panic. Taking a long walk, away from the computer and with the phone left behind or kept in a purse or pocket, can put work crises into perspective.
Meanwhile, planning ahead can avoid crises in the first place. If you know a work strategy is not sound, but you’re doing it anyway to save money, reevaluate your decision. Employees should be trained to avoid cost-saving measures that have a significant chance of causing mishaps that risk the loss of customers.
When your employees have sound processes in place and know what to do when the worst happens, they have much less reason to shriek to themselves, “What do I do? What do I do?”
Do you have protocols employees have been trained in, so that they know how to respond to crises?