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How to Deal with Turbulent Times at Work

Peter Drucker wrote, “The greatest danger in times of turbulence is not the turbulence; it is to act with yesterday’s logic.” Whether it’s in an organization, relationship, or society in general, times of change and unrest are inevitable. This year in particular, has been unsettling for many of us. Whether you’ve been affected by work […]

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Peter Drucker wrote, “The greatest danger in times of turbulence is not the turbulence; it is to act with yesterday’s logic.”

Whether it’s in an organization, relationship, or society in general, times of change and unrest are inevitable. This year in particular, has been unsettling for many of us. Whether you’ve been affected by work changes due to Covid-19, increased pressure due to taking care of children while working from home, stress due to the current state of politics, or some other form of uncertainty, 2020 has been a challenging year.  Yet, in my work as an executive coach I’ve seen that while some clients have struggled with the many hurdles that this year has posed, others have been able to take it in stride. 

If you have been wondering how to deal with turbulent times, read on for some strategies that may help you to better cope with the challenges that you’re currently facing. 

Handling a Turbulent Workplace

Many of my clients are experiencing turbulence in their organizations. Although most are beyond the point of having to make difficult decisions about layoffs or furloughs, many are still having to continually pivot in response to the uncertain future that Covid-19 presents. Others are dealing with more typical business turbulence, such as mergers, a culture in need of repair, or disgruntled employees.

If your workplace is experiencing heightened turbulence, it can be human nature to get caught up in each new development that arises each day. While you clearly have to deal with the daily “fires” that arise, this is a time at which it is equally important to keep the big picture in mind. The more you can understand and accept that these cycles of change and churn come up in business, the better you can keep the long range in mind. In turn this will help you to keep your head above the fray, as opposed becoming overwhelmed or resistant to this natural process. It may also be helpful to take a step back to educate yourself on the workings of your business and trends in your industry. That way, you’ll increase the odds that you can make more accurate predictions about what you might expect in the future (understanding that no predictions are perfect).

In addition, when things are unpredictable in your organization, it can be helpful to make sure that you have clarity about the top priorities that you need to be focused on. Communicate with your boss so that you can ensure that you are performing at a high level. Make sure that you are contributing to the best of your ability. At the same time, it can be helpful to have a good back-up plan in place, in case you’re negatively affected by any changes. Therefore, be intentional about tending to your network, should the need arise to get a new job.

Leading through Turbulence

If you’re in a leadership position, it’s essential to understand that change and uncertainty will pose challenges for your team. While you might be more “in the know” about your organization’s future, your team members will likely be less informed. This can cause greater stress and agitation for them, which can have a negative effect on their ability to perform at their best. Therefore, when you’re coming up with a game plan about how to deal with turbulent times, it’s critical to lead in a way that is thoughtful and intentional.

As a first step, strive to be as visible and transparent as possible. While you likely won’t be able to communicate everything you know, make sure that you are keeping employees informed to the extent that you can. This will go a long way in terms of building trust, assuaging fears, and letting them know that they are respected enough to be kept in the loop. While you are doing this, it will be important to manage your emotions and model resilience. After all, your team looks to their leader for cues about how to feel. As such, the more that you are exuding a grounded and even demeanor, the calmer they are likely to be.

During turbulent times, you’ll also want to put an emphasis on keeping top talent. When dealing with uncertainty, you might just find that your high performers may jump ship (as they’ll likely have more options than your less valued employees). Therefore, make sure that you are focused on succession planning, recognizing strong performance, attending to employee engagement, and letting your team know that you value them. 

Taking Care of Yourself Through Turbulence

Finally, when dealing with a lot of uncertainty, it’s more important than ever to make sure that you are taking care of yourself on a personal level. To that end, be relentless about sticking to your self-care routines. We humans tend to prefer predictability; uncertainty can register as a threat that can cause our stress responses to be triggered. Therefore, make sure to exercise, eat right, and get adequate sleep

In addition, make sure to get support during this time.  There’s an overwhelming body of research with suggests that emotional support acts as a protective factor for dealing with life’s difficulties. Thus, make sure to reach out to family or friends so that you’ll have a safe space to vent, unwind, or take your mind off of your work-related challenges.  Also, don’t be afraid to seek professional help, should you need it. Whether it’s with an executive coach or psychologist, having an objective party who can support you through a challenging time can make all the difference in terms of getting through it smoothly. 

In addition to taking care of your body and seeking support, some additional strategies to manage yourself during these times can include practicing mindfulness, taking a vacation (even if it’s just a “staycation”), reflecting on what you are grateful for, and focusing on lessons learned. All of these strategies will increase the odds that you can use the experience as a catalyst for growth. 

Writer, Mary Anne Radmacher wrote, “Courage does not always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, ‘I will try again tomorrow.’” Whatever the turbulence you may be dealing with, as long as you are committed to keep trying and persisting, you will have won half the battle. 

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