Chances are, there are times in your life where you have become frantic and felt out of control. These feelings can arise in a variety of circumstances: a missed deadline at work, in the midst of a traumatic accident, or during any number of high-stress situations. Sometimes, the situation is actually dire, warranting your intense feelings of distress. Most of the time, however, your feelings are a reflex reaction to intense circumstances and may actually hurt more than help your situation. When that is the case, you need to evaluate these reactions and determine a better way to handle them, particularly at work, when clear-headed thinking is the better response more often than not.
Consider people in jobs that involve life or death situations. If you were admitted to the hospital with a critical condition, would you want the doctor who took one look at your wounds and felt a surge of panic to be the same one who treated you? Is that doctor able to be effective if she is overcome by intense emotions that render her unable to think critically? Or would you want the doctor who evaluated your situation, made a mental list of treatment options, and started smoothly following through on the steps needed to save your life? Chances are, you would go with the second doctor.
While IT situations do not always have a direct effect on life or death situations, it is easy to feel that way sometimes. A company rendered paralyzed by an IT glitch can end up bleeding money, which can impact that company’s livelihood and the jobs of all of its employees. When the computers go down, then, tempers start to flare, people start to panic, and the IT team suddenly becomes the center of some much-unwanted attention. It can become paralyzing in and of itself, and if it is not handled correctly, heads could roll.
If you’re an SAP administrator and this situation happens to you, what would you do? Would you become the novice doctor who is suddenly rendered ineffective by panic, or would you be able to smoothly transition from understanding that there is a crisis to handling that crisis one step at a time? Would you be able to delegate a member of your team to fielding incoming calls reporting the various errors that are cropping up, and then set up the rest of the team to start performing diagnostics in order to lock down where the issue is coming from?
When panic sets in, we often forget that the best way to eliminate it is to remove the source of the panic – i.e., fix the problem and move on. But fixing the problem becomes a pipe dream when you’re overcome with sudden fear. It is important to focus and drown out the noise of other people’s chatter. Remember that by remaining the clear-headed one in the group, you can lead the way out of a crisis much more effectively than running around with everyone else without a clear plan for handling the situation.
Avoiding becoming flustered and panic is all well and good, you might say, but is it really feasible? You can think clearly now because you’re not in the middle of a crisis (at least, we hope not if you are taking the time to read this!) but when a problem actually comes up, it’s much harder to channel that energy when you have people yelling at you, systems crashing, error codes flashing, and all manner of chaos everywhere. So, what do you do then?
The truth is, only experience will help. The more you have to deal with stressful situations, the better you will eventually be able to handle them. That is why schools and companies hold fire drills. That is why novice doctors are paired up with experienced doctors and receive such extensive training, so that eventually they become the cool-headed one in the hospital calling the shots. That is why police officers and firefighters are exposed time and again to difficult situations before being sent out into the field. We don’t receive such intensive training in IT, perhaps because most of the time we are not putting out fires or looking down the barrel of a gun, but that doesn’t mean we won’t come across intense problems once we enter the workforce.
The first step for you to start your de-sensitizing process towards crisis situations is to observe other people in stressful circumstances. Who do you notice is running the show and keeping a level head, while everyone else panics? That might be a good person to work with in the future. Watch their behavior, and watch how other people react. You are more able to do this if you are not in a position with a huge amount of responsibility yet. If not, you may get a crash course in crisis situations fairly quickly.
The good news is, so-called “crises” are often not. It can feel stressful and upsetting at the time, but consider all of the situations you have already dealt with in your life that have felt similar, and how they all panned out. Where are you now? Did the crisis you dealt with back when you were 15 years old, 20 years old, 25 years old, etc, have a real impact on your trajectory in life? Chances are, this “crisis” will be the same. So relax, don’t panic, and keep a level head – it’s good for you, and for your career.
* Image courtesy of Jessica S. via Creative Commons