How to remain calm in a sea of chaos at the workplace

This is a guest post by Daniele Rossi. Please show this awesome guy some love!

I have been complimented many times over years by colleagues on how calm I remain when an issue or crisis hits in the workplace. So I thought I’d share how I keep myself level headed and fully able to think on my feet.

1. Be a problem solver

I take a problem solving approach to everything I do. So when something unexpected and dire happens, my immediate reaction is to assess and come up with possible solutions.

Nothing keeps me calm than knowing possible solutions are at hand.

2. Build a network of support colleagues

Knowing who to call when crisis hits also keeps me calm. If you get their voice mail, follow up with an email. Especially if they have Blackberries, or any other type of mobile device.

This is another benefit of networking internally. You find out who does what, who is the expert in what and they can be that sympathetic voice on the other end of the call.

3. Know your limits

We should always strive to go above and beyond our job description, however, sometimes we just don’t have the resources, knowledge or authorization to do something. Or we have no choice but to wait on another party to complete a task. And sometimes what is an emergency to your team is not even a priority for the third party. No matter how many names your boss or VP try to drop names.

That is why there really is no reason to stress out over this area of the assembly line. You can only physically do what you can do.

For instance, at a former workplace, the corporate intranet went down at the worst possible time (of course). I had no authorization or access to fix it. All I could do was call up the tech powers that be and alert them of the problem to fix it ASAP. I only had user permissions in the CMS, not super admin. Only, they had another crisis on their hands at that time…

Should you find yourself helplessly waiting on something or someone, you will definitely need to…

4. Keep stakeholders updated

Your job is to make your boss happy. Your boss’ job is to make his/her boss happy. And that boss’ job… You get the idea. Everyone is counting on everyone to complete a task or solve a problem. Don’t let them see you sitting by. You’ll get them stressed out.

Keep stakeholders updated on the status of the situation. Back to my corporate intranet story; “I’ve contacted the tech department and they are looking into the situation. In the meantime, they offered X as a short term fix”.

5. Know your alternatives

Being familiar with the systems you use every day in the office can really help you be creative with solving problems. Even within constraints of technology, budget and resources.

Is there a way to work around one of the affected steps in the process?

And when you can think up alternatives on your feet, you’ll be able to handle any unexpected meltdown with more confidence than someone who expects a system to “just work” or someone else to fix it.

Crises are golden opportunities to learn valuable lessons for future upsets. We learn from failure. It’s the way nature intended. Unfortunately, western society preaches the opposite. Once order has been restored and everyone is able to breathe again, you can take a step back and assess what went wrong, how to prevent it from happening again (if possible), how well the solution worked (or didn’t) and remember it for next time (just in case).

 

Your turn

  • Please share your valuable experiences and thoughts in the comments box below.
  • What do you do to remain calm in the workplace, in the face of problems?
  • How do you approach challenging situations when you’re at work?
  • Please also share this post on your favourite social networks.

 

Daniele Rossi is a creative director living in Toronto, Canada. He is co-founder of Stutter Social, an organization which uses Google Plus Hangouts to connect people who stutter. A natural born storyteller, Daniele enjoys producing the Stuttering is Cool podcast in his spare time along with a number of web comics. His other favourite pastimes include bodybuilding, photography and reading a good book. You can find out more about Daniele at his website: http://danielerossi.ca

29 Comments
  1. Wonderful indeed!

    Yes, we all face problems in life and more-so, when they occur in our workplace, it does lead to chaos that disturbs us and our routine.

    What is needed at that moment is that we maintain a calm and patient attitude and learn how to overcome those problems, one at a time. What works best for me is to first analyze the problem and see if it is something that I can solve. Some problems are such that have no solutions or get alright only with time, and in such cases, you really shouldn’t waste much time to think about them.

    Like my mom used to always say…a problem is worth thinking about if it has a solution. If there’s no solution to a problem, then it’s not worth thinking about…and I do believe in that. Once you have analyzed the problem then you need to do your best to solve it, though do so with a clear mind, or else it might just add to the chaos! And yes, always keep your options open or have alternatives chalked out. Also, if causes no harm to seek the help of others or those who might be knowing something about the problem, if it’s at the workplace

    Thanks for sharing. 🙂

    1. Thanks Harleena! I agree, attitude is number 1 and always listen to your mother 🙂 We can’t dwell on an problem that we cannot fix. That’s where being proactive can save the day. For example, finding someone who can fix it.

      1. Exactly, Daniele! We can find someone who can fix the problem if we can’t. That’s where the real power as you say, of those relationships we have built in the workplace, really comes to the fore.

    2. Hi Harleena,

      What a wonderful comment and thank you for supporting Daniele!

      I agree that adopting a calm and patient attitude is vital in being able to face workplace problems. I’ve been doing this more and more, recently and it does make doing work more easy and enjoyable.

      Of course, there will always be problems at work that require solutions. I find that by working on problems objectively and with a clear mind helps tremendously. It’s like activating another level of consciousness, where you don’t become too attached to the problem you are trying to solve. You just attempt at solving it and see what happens.

      I agree with Daniele. Many thanks for sharing those great words of wisdom which your mum, used to say. What a great way of looking at problems properly, and a way of saving emotional energy by ignoring those problems that don’t really have a solution.

      Indeed as you say it’s always a good thing to keep our options open and this is very important in the workplace. If we are trying to solve a problem in one way, and it’s not working, then having other options at hand encourage us to keep trying.

      Many thanks for sharing your great insights on this topic! 🙂

      1. “…don’t become too attached to the problem you are trying to solve” – great advice, Hiten. I think that can be the root of people in general getting worked up. They may think they will be to blame for the problem not being resolved. Becoming at least a little detached (after all, you’re being relied upon to fix something) can help keep your head clear.

  2. Having goals helps fight chaos. We face many distractions but if you know where you’re going, you can focus on what matters. You might inspire others to follow your lead.

    PS Great drawing!

    1. Thanks for the compliments on my drawing, Promod 🙂 And you are right, keeping your sight on the important goals keeps you from being distracted. Like, for instance, what Harleena described.

    2. Hi Promod,

      I loved your comment!

      Indeed, there are tons of distractions in the workplace. As you quite rightly said, by keeping a razor sharp focus, one is able to transcend the distractions and continue to make progress.

      Such individuals definitely stand out in the workplace. They vibrate a different type of proactive and confident energy.

      It’s great to meet you, Promod! 🙂

      And I agree that Daniele’s drawing is brilliant!

  3. Daniele,
    I really enjoyed the drawing, too! I work as a teacher (when I’m not blogging) and I find #1 and #2 to be all important! We all work very well together so we are lucky not to have some of the typical office problems.

    I enjoyed your post!

    1. Glad you enjoyed my post, Betsy! I really like #1 because if you think of your boss (and colleagues) as your client, chances are, he/she will be happy with your work because you’re solving their/each-other’s problems 🙂

    2. Hi Betsy,

      Daniele really is an amazing artist, right? 🙂

      In particular, I like #4 and #2. Out of these #2 is probably my favourite in the list. The power of networking in the workplace is real and those who learn how to build and nurture great working relationships will be those who get things done, and ultimately make good career progress.

      Thanks for commenting, Betsy and for supporting Daniele.

  4. Hi Hiten and Daniele. Excellent points. I like to practice what I call “entering the NO-Free Zone to rise above the quagmire. This non-hostile state of mind is incredibly powerful.Have you ever been passively watchful as someoneacted out his drama about some matter in his life? You, emotionally detached, can plainly see the issues and solutions, but he, emotionally charged, is blind to them. When NO-Free, I am able to do this with my own life.

    This is why it is important to learn to practice calm focus when affirming our goals. Calm focus places our mind in the NO-Free Zone. When NO-Free, there are no feelings of inadequacy, and we act inways that effect the changes we desire.

    1. Hi Rob,
      Your description of the NO-Free Zone reminds me of a technique I use when I’m faced with a difficult problem. I’d imagine what kind of advice I’d give if someone else had that problem.

      1. Hi Daniele,

        I loved how you described using Rob’s NO-Free Zone as an opportunity to advise others. Being in such a state is perfect for doing this.

    2. Hi Rob,

      I loved your ‘NO-Free Zone’ state! The way you explained this was brilliant.

      Indeed, when a person is experiencing a particular challenge, it is an interesting consciousness to observe what is happening from a passive perspective. I feel my compassion towards the person increases a lot in such situations.

      The great thing about developing the type of self-awareness you talk about is that we can quickly catch ourselves acting out the drama of our egos, and shiftly step out into the calm and observe the chaos going on.

      Thank you for leaving such an amazing comment, Rob!

  5. Back when I was in the work force Daniele I sure could have used these suggestions. Although I always prided myself as having a good head on my shoulders, there were times when I would get very impatient and probably didn’t handle things as well as I should have.

    I sure have learned a lot about myself since coming online to work so I’m just so very blessed with all the lessons I’ve learned. It’s made me a much better person.

    Great post and thank you for sharing all of this with us.

    Hope you both enjoy your week.

    ~Adrienne

    1. Hi Adrienne,

      I wonder if working online has it’s own can go worms. In particular, text on screen eliminates emotional context.

      Then again, even working in the office, you’re faced with text-on-screen all day every day!

      1. Hi Daniele,

        I agree with your point about the lack of emotions when working online. As you say, the online world definitely has its cons too.

    2. Hi Adrienne,

      I found your comment very interesting and particularly the point about learning a lot about yourself, since coming online to do you work.

      As I was thinking about this, it made me realise just how many skills we develop online, which can then be applied in the workplace. These include collaboration and team working, relationship building, and business development, to name but a few.

      Many thanks for sharing your experiences in this area, and for commenting! It’s great to see you here! 🙂

  6. Hi Hiten and Daniele,

    Wonderful post. I used to teach elementary school, and we had plenty of chaos at times. It helped me to remain calm and rise above a situation when it was less than perfect. I found I was more in control and made better decisions when I was calm and not rattled by what was going on around me. Those lessons carry over to every aspect of life. Thanks for sharing this interesting post. Have a good weekend.

    1. Hi Cathy,

      Many thanks for your comment, and for supporting Daniele!

      What you wrote about being calm at school and not allowing yourself to be rattled, by the chaos around you was very interesting. It reminded me of, how one needs to be in such situations that really test our nerve, in order to grow and develop more wisdom, which will help us in those contexts, and in other aspects of life, as you stated.

      It’s great to see you here, Cathy! 🙂

    2. Hi Carhy,

      Staying calm is key. It keeps our head clear and distances ourselves from the problem enough to be able to make the right decisions. Even when they are hard.

  7. Hey Hiten,

    Nice post!!!

    It’s true about knowing your limits. That way, we wont make promises we can’t keep which is damaging to our reputation within the workplace. We simply won’t allow ourselves to.

    1. Hi Gemma,

      It’s great to see you here, my friend!

      I’m really glad you liked Daniele’s post. What you wrote is so true. It is better to know our limits so that we don’t over promise, as we then risk the possibility that we can’t deliver. In the corporate world, this can have damaging consequences for us and our organisations.

  8. hahaha
    the picture made me laugh, good one Hiten : )
    all the points are great but i love number 5 the most, i call it : have a backup plan
    it makes life better
    thank you 🙂

    1. Hi Farouk,

      I’m really glad you liked Daniele’s post. Indeed, he is a great artist and writer.

      I loved the way you described point number 5 as having a backup plan. This is great and many thanks for adding further to Daniele’s post.

  9. Hello Hiten very nice post, I think most of us can we all can relate to this at one point and time.
    I’m pretty calm by nature but have not always been like this. When I was younger I had a hard time dealing with people face to face, but then learned that there are somethings you just can’t change so why even get upset.

    Now there’s not much that upsets me these day and I feel a whole lot better 🙂

    Thanks so much for the great read….talk to you so my friend

    1. Hi Robert,

      Indeed, I can personally relate to what you wrote in your comment. I too used have difficulties dealing with people. I made it one of my missions in life to become a people person.

      In the process of developing and growing, I too have learnt sometimes things just don’t work out and there’s no need to waste time being upset about it. I’ve learnt to accept changes that occur and use these changes as driving forces to bigger and better things.

      Thanks very much for sharing your experiences and commenting on Daniele’s post, Robert!

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