A New Way to Work

Success and change without burnout by Dr. Geri Puleo

Archive for the tag “Organization”

It’s About the Money! How Over-emphasizing ROI Creates Burnout

This is video #3 in my 10-part series focusing on the 10 ways that organizations burn out employees. I’ll discuss how focusing simply on financial results leads to employee burnout plus provide tips to balance tangible and intangible outcomes.

Dr. Geri Puleo, SPHR, is the President and CEO of Change Management Solutions, Inc., an eLearning company focused on techniques to eliminate the 5 workplace stressors that create and sustain burnout:  Job Change, Organizational Change, Work-Life Imbalance, Poor Leadership and Management, and Ineffective Human Resources.  An entrepreneur for over 25 years, author, blogger, career coach, university professor, and researcher, you can see her “in action,” watch her TEDx Talk on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hFkI69zJzLI.  To contact Dr. Puleo, please go to www.gapuleo.com

What Did You Say? How Poor Communication Leads to Burnout (Video)

This is video #2 in my 10-part series focusing on the 10 ways that organizations burn out employees.  I’ll discuss how poor organizational communication leads to employee burnout plus provide tips on effectively sending and receiving messages.

Dr. Geri Puleo, SPHR, is the President and CEO of Change Management Solutions, Inc., an eLearning company focused on techniques to eliminate the 5 workplace stressors that create and sustain burnout:  Job Change, Organizational Change, Work-Life Imbalance, Poor Leadership and Management, and Ineffective Human Resources.  An entrepreneur for over 25 years, author, blogger, career coach, university professor, and researcher, you can see her “in action,” watch her TEDx Talk on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hFkI69zJzLI.  To contact Dr. Puleo, please go to www.gapuleo.com

Where Are We Going? How a Lack of Vision or Direction Creates Employee Burnout (Video)

This is video #1 in a 10-part series focusing on the 10 ways that organizations burn out employees. Dr. Geri Puleo discusses how the lack of an organizational vision or direction leads to employee burnout plus provides tips on creating a compelling organizational vision and establishing the path to achieve it.

Dr. Geri Puleo, SPHR, is the President and CEO of Change Management Solutions, Inc., an eLearning company focused on techniques to eliminate the 5 workplace stressors that create and sustain burnout:  Job Change, Organizational Change, Work-Life Imbalance, Poor Leadership and Management, and Ineffective Human Resources.  An entrepreneur for over 25 years, author, blogger, career coach, university professor, and researcher, you can see her “in action,” watch her TEDx Talk on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hFkI69zJzLI.  To contact Dr. Puleo, please go to www.gapuleo.com

Have We Forgotten How to “Play Nice” at Work?

Teamwork - Bring on new memberWhen we were children, we were always admonished to “play nice.”  In other words, we should share our toys, be nice to other people, and help our friends.   In this way, we could enjoy our time together – and maybe even learn some valuable lessons about human behavior.

As adults, the equivalent to “playing nice” with playmates is to be respectful and helpful to our coworkers.  We should share our resources, respect our differences, and assist our colleagues when they run behind schedule or need a hand.

Like when we were children, we expect that there will be reciprocity:  if I “play nice” with you, then you will “play nice” with me.

While childhood was a much simpler time, these life lessons still ring true in the modern workplace.

However, I often wonder if we’ve really learned how to apply these childhood lessons of “playing nice.”  I have to ask:  have we forgotten how to “play nice” at work?

“Playing Nice” Is Inherently Reciprocal…or Is It? 

Just like no man is an island, no employee works alone.  We need to work with others in order to get the job done.

Ideally, teamwork enables us to get things done as the result of synergies arising from applying our individual KSAs (knowledge, skills, and abilities) to the task at hand.  The whole of our efforts, therefore, is much greater than the sum of our individual parts.  By helping one another, no one is overburdened or stressed out.

The ability to effectively work in teams also reflects (to a large degree) our mastery of interpersonal communication skills.  The logic is that teams understand how to communicate, embrace differences, and share a single-minded focus on an ultimate, unifying goal.  By being on “the same page,” conflict is reduced or averted.

All of these mantras on teamwork reflect the idea of “playing nice.”

However, problems occur when some team members “play nice,”…but others don’t.  When this occurs, there are inevitable feelings of hurt, anger, and betrayal – feelings that ultimately affect organizational productivity and performance.

Consider these examples:

  • Stanley is an extroverted, dedicated employee who makes the time to lend a helping hand to his colleagues.  During his 360° performance review, he is shocked to learn that his coworkers said that he was difficult to work with and actually prevented them from doing their own work.
  • Samantha is a highly creative employee to whom colleagues frequently turn when “stuck” on problems that require outside the box thinking.  As a key partner in the development of a new program, she is startled to discover that her coworkers “forgot” to mention her as a crucial part of the development team when they were interviewed for an article.

How would you respond in these situations?

Stanley chose to become more “cool” or aloof in his interactions with the coworkers who he believed “threw him under the bus” – a behavior that is incongruent with what he believes is required to have a productive workplace.

In contrast, Samantha decided to begin asking for the recognition that she deserves – but fears that she will be labeled as “difficult” and not a “team player.”

In both instances, the employees were surprised by the action or inaction of their team members.  According to them, they had “no warning” that anything was wrong with their relationships.  They felt confused, angry, and betrayed.

They also believed that the best way to respond was to change their behaviors in order to better navigate the politics within their workplaces.

But perhaps more importantly, both workers changed their perceptions about the nature of their work environments.  In fact, both are considering leaving their companies.

The question, of course, is:  could these situations have been averted if all team members “played nice?”

Puleo’s Pointers:  How to “Play Nice” at Work

Even though a worker believes in sharing resources, respecting differences, and lending a hand, it is impossible to “play nice” in a vacuum.  A workplace in which all employees “play nice” requires a culture of trust.

To “play nice” in a corporate culture where workers don’t believe that their colleagues consider others’ best interests would be masochistic.  Adults will never “play nice” when “playing nice” ultimately hurts them professionally and emotionally.

  • If you want employees to “play nice” at work, then you need to establish an organizational foundation built on respect, transparency, leadership, support, and empathy.
  • Recruitment, selection, retention, performance appraisals, and development practices should be based upon and incorporate these fundamental values.
  • Corporate managers and senior leaders must also be appraised on whether their actions support or undermine a culture of trust.
  • “Playing nice” does not mean that there will be no disagreements between employees – accept that they are inevitable.  Remember:  it’s not the number of disagreements that indicates whether trust exists in an organization; rather it’s how you as a manager and/or an employee respond to conflict that reveals whether the culture is trusting or distrustful.

“Playing nice” is not an admonishment that should be given solely to children.  Given today’s chaotic, high stress workplaces, it may be the only way to achieve the natural synergies, enthusiasm, and innovation that result from people trusting each other.

Dr. Geri Puleo, SPHR, is the President and CEO of Change Management Solutions, Inc., an eLearning company focused on techniques to eliminate the 5 workplace stressors that create and sustain burnout:  Job Change, Organizational Change, Work-Life Imbalance, Poor Leadership and Management, and Ineffective Human Resources.  An entrepreneur for over 25 years, author, blogger, career coach, university professor, and researcher, you can see her “in action,” watch her TEDx Talk on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hFkI69zJzLI.  To contact Dr. Puleo, please go to www.gapuleo.com

“What if…” vs. “Why not?”: The Fear vs. Creativity Conundrum

Frightened turtle

There is a major divide occurring in many businesses today.  The battle lines are drawn between the overly cautious risk avoiders and the equally overly optimistic creative visionaries.   The first group solemnly cautions, “What if…?” while the second group trumpets, “Why not?”

Understanding where your company falls between these two groups is essential for success in today’s constantly changing market and workplace.

On the one side, risk management is commonly and wisely accepted as a critical part of effective strategic management.  To understand the changes that could alter the environment, assumptions, processes, workflow, customers, etc. requires the creation of hypothetical situations that answer, “What if…?”

Paradoxically, another highly recommended business strategy is to boldly explore, innovate, and leap into new markets and product lines.  To identify and challenge the outdated assumptions in order to release such “outside the box” thinking requires answering the question, “Why not?”

But can these two vastly different approaches co-exist – or could the “what if” scenarios of risk management go too far?  In other words, are our fears of what might happen in the future destroying our creative spirit today?

Corporations are nothing more than financial and legal entities – they do not exist without their human workers.  Balancing the “why not” of creativity with the “what if” of risk management essentially requires an understanding of the true nature of what it means to be a human at work.  The balance between the two is the degree of fear (expressed or unexpressed) in the workplace.

How Fear Impacts the Workplace

Throughout modern business, we have been encouraged to leave our emotions at the doors of our offices.  In particular, the very real human emotion of fear has generally been avoided in business.  To be effective business leaders, we are advised to ignore our emotions and move forward solely on logic and reason.

Our gut instincts must be thoroughly tested and analyzed prior to using them to solve problems or develop strategy.  If our instincts aren’t supported by irrefutable facts, then they are often ignored.  After all, logic and reason are the sole means to avoid fearful circumstances and outcomes.

The psychology of being human, however, inherently includes emotions, feelings, values, perspectives, flashes of insight, creativity, and fear.  To attempt to ignore these powerful forces is (ironically) illogical.

But, even though fear is pervasive, no one likes to admit feeling it.  We’re advised to keep a “stiff upper lip” or “suck it up” in order to do what is necessary.  In addition, we human beings have a natural instinct to avoid situations that trigger our fears – whether real or imagined.

Despite the ubiquitous reality of fear, our reactions to fear vary widely.  Depending on our experience and perceptions,

  • We can choose to blindly ignore our fears by staunchly insisting that “nothing’s wrong.”  This can be seen when we fail to conduct thorough due diligence prior to making a decision.  In change initiatives, we label employees who question the changes as “change resistors” (which usually indicates that they are the “wrong people on the bus” and need to be replaced).
  • We can hedge the potential negative outcomes that we fear by engaging in extensive, protracted analysis.  Although it’s important to analyze both the internal and external factors that can potentially thwart our goals, “paralysis by analysis” can stymie an organization’s ability to quickly adapt to a constantly changing environment.
  • We can (consciously or unconsciously) exaggerate our fears into insurmountable obstacles.  Because we view the potential negative outcomes as so terrifying, we try to assuage our fears by rationalizing that we can never overcome them…that it doesn’t matter how hard we try…that it’s “inevitable” that our efforts will fail…so we quit without even trying.
  • We can act boldly at first,…but then second guess our decisions.  Inevitably, this leads to inefficient and ineffective processes due to the constant need to stop what we’re doing in order to replace it with something that we think might make the feared outcomes less likely.

No matter how the fear is perceived or expressed, its inevitable result is the loss of creativity and the courage to try something new.

Puleo’s Pointers:  Balancing the “What If’s” and the “Why Not’s”

Because “what if…” questions are fear-based, they tend to focus primarily on the potential bad things that can happen.  In sharp contrast, the “why not…” questions are inherently visionary and tend to evoke more boundless, blue ocean thinking.

It is not, however, a question of whether “what if…” is better or worse than “why not…”  However, it is a question of the balance between these two very different thought processes.

Fear stifles creativity, yet both fear and creativity are universal human experiences.  Due to this age of constant, unrelenting change, fears must be faced so that creativity can blossom.  The inability to innovate and adapt can be a death knell.

The telltale sign of fear is any iteration of “What if…?”  So, any time that you find yourself asking some variation of a “What if…” question, shift your focus to answer these four questions instead:

  1. What am I assuming will happen?  By giving your fear a name, you now have a target upon which to focus.
  2. Why is this potential outcome so frightening to me?  Am I afraid of losing something?  Am I afraid that I won’t be able to change?  Am I afraid of what other people will say?  The trick is to be specific BUT non-judgmental.  Just like the monster under your childhood bed, fears tend to subside once you clearly look at them.  Accept that the fear exists, then choose to move through it.
  3. What have I been putting off doing because of this fear?  One of fear’s greatest allies is procrastination – which is a form of self-sabotage that can create a self-fulfilling prophecy.
  4. What’s the worst that could happen?  Once you have confronted your fear, you can begin to take the steps to move through it.  Nearly all fears are exaggerations of projected outcomes.  In other words, the reality is much less frightening than the potentiality.  (Remember:  There never was a monster under your childhood bed.)

The process of overcoming fear is a cathartic tool that helps you to harness not only your natural creativity, but also your insights into the real potential outcomes of an action.  Why not start now?

Dr. Geri Puleo, SPHR, is the President and CEO of Change Management Solutions, Inc., an eLearning company focused on techniques to eliminate the 5 workplace stressors that create and sustain burnout:  Job Change, Organizational Change, Work-Life Imbalance, Poor Leadership and Management, and Ineffective Human Resources.  An entrepreneur for over 25 years, author, blogger, career coach, university professor, and researcher, you can see her “in action,” watch her TEDx Talk on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hFkI69zJzLI.  To contact Dr. Puleo, please go to www.gapuleo.com

Warning Signs of Burnout: 6 Symptoms That I Didn’t Ignore

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I inadvertently became a participant or statistic in my on-going research into what causes and maintains employee burnout during organizational change.  The situation:  I was a new full-time faculty member at a university that was attempting to transform itself and I had no control over the constantly changing expectations that were being demanded of me.

Last week I posted my Burnout During Organizational Change Model (B-DOC, for short).  Unlike most participants whom I interviewed as part of my research, I did not “suddenly” realize that something was very wrong.  Instead, I was acutely aware that I was exhibiting some of the various symptoms (or warning signs) of burnout.  These are the Top 6 symptoms that can occur at any stage in the cycle — from frustration and anger to a full burnout:

BDOC - Manifestations-Warning Signs

© 2011 G. A. Puleo, all rights reserved

Like most people who burned out, I displayed all of these symptoms at one point or another during my descent into burnout.  It’s fortunate that I experienced them in varying degrees and at different times — otherwise I would have been totally incapacitated if all of these symptoms were simultaneously present!  (Warning:  When all 6 burnout symptoms are present in a high degree, people literally shut down as a form of self-preservation.)

  1. Decreased accomplishment.  I’ll admit it:  I’m an over-achiever and I’ve always loved what I do.  I had earned accolades for my teaching when I was an adjunct at this university, yet I was put on a performance improvement plan as soon as I was hired for not meeting requirements that I knew absolutely nothing about.  (Lack of knowledge was not considered to be a defense.)  Even though I was still getting positive feedback from students, it was taking me longer to get things done (probably due to second-guessing myself) and I was not permitted to be creative in order to make sure that my students grasped the material.  (Warning:  50% of my participants were disciplined when they were burned out based on their inability to meet known or even unknown performance standards.)
  2. Physical.  Because I was literally working 7 days per week to teach +100 students each quarter, I was exhausted.  I did not have a day off for over a year.  While some burned out workers sleep all the time, others (like me) wake up every 1-2 hours, every night, for weeks (even months) on end.  It wasn’t surprising that I was diagnosed with a very bad case of swine flu (yep, swine flu) that lasted over one month – and I was still working 7 days per week!  (Warning:  A study by Taris, Geurts, et al., 2008, found that working long hours will not necessarily trigger health problems unless the individual is unable to detach from work.)
  3. Transfer to personal life.  I just wasn’t “me” any more – and I knew it.  I’ve always cared passionately about what I do and I’ve always had high (but achievable) goals and standards.  Conversations with friends turned into gripe sessions about work.  I had become boring and felt like a cog in a wheel.  Positive goals and an easy sense of humor were replaced with frustration, anger, and a sense of futility.  (Warning:  Losing your sense of humor is a very common symptom of burnout and was seen in over 50% of the participants in my research.)
  4. Grief and loss.  After finishing my Ph.D., I was excited to move from an adjunct to full-time faculty role and had high hopes for my ability to contribute to enhancing the students’ experience at the university.  Instead, I was micromanaged and I hated losing the sense of control over my own life.  I was warned to not “rock the boat.”  In other words, do what I was told and quit caring about the quality; if not, I would be another former employee.  Since I have always owned my own consulting practice, fear of job loss was a new feeling for me.  (Warning:  Fear of job loss is more common in women who are burning out than men – 70% compared to only 20%.)
  5. Psychological.  “Just do it” was not an inspirational Nike slogan, but was a warning to do what was asked without question – or risk losing your job.  Plus there was intense micromanaging of every nuance in teaching.  Eventually I was forced to take actions that I felt were not only not in the best interests of my students, but also conflicted with my value system.  (Warning:  Surface acting requires the individual to deny their authentic feelings and is a common symptom of burnout.)
  6. Alienation or isolation.  This is probably the toughest part for anyone who has ever burned out.  My colleagues had given up on trying to make things better and, because they no longer cared, advised me to also quit caring.  The problem was that I did care.  Going through the motions, putting on a noticeably fake smile, or feigning concern about the student’s welfare were actions that violated my core values.  Because I didn’t fit in, my only recourse was to psychologically withdraw.  (Warning:  64.3% of burned out workers report feeling alienated or isolated during organizational change.)

You’re probably wondering why I just didn’t stop the downward spiral into burnout.  This is where I became a participant in my own study:  I discovered the powerful potency of the interplay between an individual’s personality, the organizational environment, and physiological manifestations of burnout.  As you attempt to resolve one area of this Burnout Triumvirate, another area surges in urgency and causes you to continually redirect your focus.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be discussing specific things that organizations do to create and maintain burnout in their employees during organizational change.

Dr. Geri Puleo, SPHR, is the President and CEO of Change Management Solutions, Inc., an eLearning company focused on techniques to eliminate the 5 workplace stressors that create and sustain burnout:  Job Change, Organizational Change, Work-Life Imbalance, Poor Leadership and Management, and Ineffective Human Resources.  An entrepreneur for over 25 years, author, blogger, career coach, university professor, and researcher, you can see her “in action,” watch her TEDx Talk on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hFkI69zJzLI.  To contact Dr. Puleo, please go to www.gapuleo.com

Spiraling Downward: The Path to Burnout During Organizational Change

As I mentioned last week, I inadvertently became a case study over the last year in my on-going research into what causes and maintains employee burnout during organizational change.  Even though I had worked as an adjunct prior to accepting a full-time faculty position at this university, I was unprepared for the radical difference in expectations required to teach there.  Coupled with constantly changing requirements and standards set by the university, I felt like I had absolutely no control over what I taught, how I taught, or even where I taught.

As a high achiever, I consequently have high standards – but these standards could not be met even by working 7 days a week, 50-60 hours per week, and constantly thinking about what still had to be done even when I wasn’t working.  Is it any surprise that I felt burned out?

In 2011, based on extensive research and interviews with burned out workers, I created the Burnout During Organizational Change Model (B-DOC ,for short) to help understand what causes and maintains employee burnout during organizational change.  This is what burnout “looks like” – and I proved it in my own experience:

BDOC Model

© 2011 G. A. Puleo, all rights reserved

As you can see from this model, the path to burnout tends to be much steeper and quicker than the journey to overcome it.  Although nobody takes a job with the intention of burning out, workers who burn out during organizational change initiatives tend to follow this same pattern.

  • Ironically, burnout begins with hope.  It’s a new job, a new adventure, and a chance to learn new things.  But, probably more than anything else, the job is often seen as a chance to make a difference.
  • I found both in my research and my own experience that a variety of organizational factors leads to frustration in what were originally hopeful and committed workers.  (More about these specific organizational factors in a later post.)
  • As the environment continues to undermine or thwart the employee’s actions to do their jobs well, it’s not surprising that anger (either expressed or internalized) emerges.
  • Since being angry is not a good way to live your life, my participants and I both eventually quit caring – but apathy is the immediate predecessor to burnout.  In many ways, no longer caring was literally the only way to survive the stress.
  • The culmination of this downward spiral is burnout.  No matter how burnout was defined by those who experienced it, the results were the same:  the initial hope was extinguished and all that was left were the burnt embers of what was once a committed employee.

How long did this descent take?  About 6 months for change targets like me.  (Since I was a new full-time faculty member, I was not part of the leadership that was planning and directing the continuous changes.)

To overcome the burnout and arise from its smoldering ashes, the #1 strategy used by my participants as well as me was to psychologically remove ourselves from the stressful environment.  We still came to work, we still did our jobs, but we no longer cared passionately about meeting the unreasonable expectations or going the extra mile (because our efforts were not appreciated).

For most of, psychological removal was followed by attempts to physically remove themselves from the workplace.  In my case, a reduction in force changed my status to adjunct – a lot less classes, but a lot less pay.  According to my research, nearly all of my participants (over 90%) eventually left their employers as a result of their burnout (either voluntarily or involuntarily).

These psychological and physical removals represent the darkness before the dawn.  Many burned out workers acknowledged that once they had removed themselves (either psychologically or physically) from their stressful work situations, self-knowledge and acceptance were the unanticipated “gifts” of their burnout.

CAUTION:  The burnout cycle doesn’t end there.  To fully recover from the effects of burnout requires the creation of a personal revised psychological contract with work.  After burning out, people who have taken the time to acknowledge and accept what happened will draw distinct lines in the sand as to what they will and will not do for an employer.  There is a better understanding of what is essential for one’s success on the job.  Perhaps most importantly, the “deal breakers” have become visceral and this emotional context provides a stalwart determination to never tolerate such treatment in future work situations.

I proved my B-DOC theory in my experience as a full-time faculty member at this university.  However, neither I nor any other worker recovering from burnout is “out of the woods” yet:  any situation can trigger residual burnout in which we can rapidly move back into any of the previous stages of descent (frustration, anger, apathy, and even a new round of burnout).

My goal for this year is to move forward and, by sharing my experiences of burnout during transformational organizational change with you, I hope to give you some ideas to move beyond burnout, too.

Dr. Geri Puleo, SPHR, is the President and CEO of Change Management Solutions, Inc., an eLearning company focused on techniques to eliminate the 5 workplace stressors that create and sustain burnout:  Job Change, Organizational Change, Work-Life Imbalance, Poor Leadership and Management, and Ineffective Human Resources.  An entrepreneur for over 25 years, author, blogger, career coach, university professor, and researcher, you can see her “in action,” watch her TEDx Talk on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hFkI69zJzLI.  To contact Dr. Puleo, please go to www.gapuleo.com

What to Do First When Everything Is Changing (Podcast)

The only constant in work today is that everything is going to change – usually significantly and usually in a way that will have a trickle down effect on just about everything else that we do.

So how do you manage so much change without burning out?  The only way that I’ve found is to follow Stephen Covey’s advice:  keep first things first.  In other words, I have to prioritize what’s important, what’s urgent and what isn’t.

You can’t control everything in your work or life.  Stuff happens, things change, people don’t do what they say that they will do.  But to avoid feeling like I’m reactively bouncing around inside a pinball machine, I keep my internal compass set on what is important.  I let my priorities guide my actions.

I’d like to share some of my ideas on how to prioritize when everything is changing.  The link below will open the first of my podcasts on this site — so feel free to listen to and share!

The Power of Priorities During Organizational Change (podcast running time is approximately 6 minutes)

Dr. Geri Puleo, SPHR, is the President and CEO of Change Management Solutions, Inc., an eLearning company focused on techniques to eliminate the 5 workplace stressors that create and sustain burnout:  Job Change, Organizational Change, Work-Life Imbalance, Poor Leadership and Management, and Ineffective Human Resources.  An entrepreneur for over 25 years, author, blogger, career coach, university professor, and researcher, you can see her “in action,” watch her TEDx Talk on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hFkI69zJzLI.  To contact Dr. Puleo, please go to www.gapuleo.com

What to Do When Someone Else’s Disorganization Creates Your Chaos

I’m a planner; it’s the only way that I can accomplish all my goals without burning out or going a little crazy.  So what do you do when an authority figure gives you wrong information – but then YOU have to change your entire schedule in order to deal with the resulting chaos?  It changes all your priorities by turning important things into important AND urgent crises (thanks, Stephen Covey for these insights).

Well, that’s what happened to me in the past two weeks.  I’m teaching a class that I was told had a standardized curriculum – but there were no quizzes, tests or reports assigned.  Being a planner, I was pulling together my teacher’s guide for the class 3 weeks before it started and noticed these omissions.  I notified the person in charge and was told that everything would be posted a few days before the class start.  Guess what?  They weren’t.

So I was now in a situation where class had started and neither the 25 adult learners nor I knew what the assignments and due dates would be for the course.  Oh, and by the way, there was no repository of questions or assignments from which I could quickly pull the new curriculum.  Needless to say, everything else went on the back burner and I had to focus exclusively on developing the entire course curriculum from scratch as quickly as possible.

So much for managing my schedule to avoid burnout.

Do these types of things happen in business?  Sure, they do.  Are they fair to the person who must scramble to complete a project as the result of someone else’s disorganization?  No, they aren’t.  My question is:  what can be done about it?  Here’s my checklist to prevent these crises from happening in the future.

#1:  Keep your priorities.  Instead of throwing the baby out with the bath water, I looked at which projects were most critical and had the closest due dates.  The other things were rescheduled.  I didn’t want one crisis to snowball into a week full of crises (luckily, it didn’t).

#2:  Check with at least 2 authority figures if something is missing or feels wrong.  Don’t rely on just one answer.  Of course, this can make the original person whom you ask somewhat miffed, but you don’t want to be in a situation that causes additional stress to either you or the people who are depending on you.

#3:  Be a pest.  This follows the previous point – keep asking if your instincts tell you that the answer is wrong.

#4:  Be honest with the people who are depending on you.  I notified my students immediately about the confusion and asked for their patience.  Of course, I also gave them additional time to complete the assignments.  The result was very positive and had somewhat of a bonding effect on a new class.

#5:  Be honest with the people who will be the victims of the trickle down effect resulting from the drain on your time.  Since I’m teaching more than one class, I notified my other students that I would be running behind on correcting their assignments.  Again, the result was positive.  Silence can be deadly.

#6:  Use more than one way to contact the people who are depending on you.  Not only did I post announcements, but I also emailed the entire class to keep them apprised of the progress.  (It took 2 solid weeks to pull together the curriculum.)

#7:  Give at least a portion of the total project to the people who are depending on you – then work diligently to finish the balance as soon as possible.  In this way, my students were able to work on the first few weeks’ assignments and I had a little breathing room to develop the rest of them.

#8:  Take a break.  While I put in a lot of extra, unplanned hours to complete the curriculum, I didn’t kill myself by attempting an all-nighter.  (I can’t do them anymore because I’m a zombie for a few days after and can’t accomplish anything!)  Continuing to push when you’re exhausted creates a shoddy result – which, if you genuinely care about what you do, means you’re going to spend more time re-doing it.

#9:  Don’t get angry.  Concentrate on the light at the end of the tunnel – then celebrate when you’re done.  Being angry just causes more stress and anxiety and is counterproductive.

#10:  Learn the lesson.  Some organizations are notoriously disorganized, while some may have just suffered a temporary glitch.  Figure out which one applies – then keep this in mind for future projects.

Dr. Geri Puleo, SPHR, is the President and CEO of Change Management Solutions, Inc., an eLearning company focused on techniques to eliminate the 5 workplace stressors that create and sustain burnout:  Job Change, Organizational Change, Work-Life Imbalance, Poor Leadership and Management, and Ineffective Human Resources.  An entrepreneur for over 25 years, author, blogger, career coach, university professor, and researcher, you can see her “in action,” watch her TEDx Talk on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hFkI69zJzLI.  To contact Dr. Puleo, please go to www.gapuleo.com

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