A workplace guide to expecting the unexpected

April 17, 2023
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The difference between a good and a great worker sometimes comes down to how you cope under unexpected circumstances.

Whether it is loss, shifts in your personal life, or the unprecedented conditions of our world, it's all about how you react.

Much like the lotus flower - some may crumble under pressure, while others will thrive through adversity.

Luckily, dealing with the unexpected in the workplace isn't innate; you can learn, practice and improve.

Crises require you to act immediately. If you have time to think, you know you can deal with the unforeseen. In most circumstances, the better option would be to take a moment or two to make sure you have a composed, considered response.

But what if things go south?

Do things seem to be falling apart?

It may be impossible to see but remember - It's not a problem; you can learn from those mistakes. Whichever way you view it, you could not be better positioned to cope with what is in front of you.

Look at it this way: It is an opportunity in disguise. Here's the chance for you to show your initiative and how you cope under pressure.

Talk to others

While an unexpected happening can allow you to prove how independent you are in a crisis, you don't need to be a lone ranger in this battle.
If you ignore the people around you, you could be digging yourself a hole too deep.

Seek help. The people around you are a well of untapped knowledge, and you could be surprised that you aren't the only one experiencing this. When it makes sense, ask for a second opinion.

If you feel you are being subjected to workplace bullying, remember that it is not always obvious and does not always happen face-to-face.

Execute your plan

Our jobs can pose many challenges, forcing us to find new ways to navigate the the workplace. (photo cred: Jason Goodman)

Carefully consider what to do; what's the way forward? Psychologically, we often make decisions based on our emotional reactions, experiencing anger, hurt, denial and even some form of anxiety.

After seeking advice, you have received some feedback that could lead to a solution. Explore every possible solution you can come up with, even if it seems unreachable or ridiculous. From there, you can see there are ways to navigate these waters.

Now that you have a clear plan of what you need to do, you can implement it.

Because you are handling an unexpected situation in real-time, you should be ready for things to change at any moment.
Make sure you are aware and actively manage your plan. If you have asked others to do things for you, set a time to check up on them proactively.

However, do not entirely rely on others to help you reach your end goal.

Focus on the bigger picture

Sometimes, an elaborate plan of action is not necessary. In less-than-ideal circumstances, it's all about 'doing.'

At these times, it is worth remembering that whatever your role in the business, ultimately, your job is quite simple.

You are there to ensure the business's cogs are turning and minimise as many writes off as possible.

Focus on being productive. Don't let that discourage you if there is a spoke in the wheel. There is always another way.

Evaluate what happened, how the unexpected problem came up in the first place, how you handled it, and how you could have managed it more effectively.

This is also the time to discuss with your colleagues what happened and whether they could have handled anything better. Always begin any conversation by asking for their version of events.

You might find that they had as little control over what happened as you.
You cannot prepare for every eventuality, nor are you expected to do so. That's not how the cookie crumbles.

However, you can protect yourself against succumbing to problems you can overcome.