Organizing @ Work: Dealing with a Crisis

Posted By on May 6, 2014

Life is messy. When it is, it spills over into our world of work whether we want it to or not.

Unfortunately, we all have had experience with the bumps and challenges life throws at us.

I’ve been dealing with family issues during the month of April, which included the sudden passing of an aunt and traveling to Missouri to attend her funeral. If that wasn’t enough, my Dad was briefly hospitalized the same week back in Oklahoma as part of his ongoing health issues.

Meanwhile, back at the office, I jettisoned a full schedule of meetings and events, and one of my co-workers stepped in to work a big event I was supposed to staff.

When you’re stretched thin and dealing with personal issues, how do you handle work?

Be prepared. When talking to my organizing clients at work, I encourage people to be ready to win the lottery. This means you should be organized enough at work before a crisis happens so your co-workers can find the stuff they need to cover for you.

Speak up when necessary. Some people like to keep their personal lives private at work, but you do need to let your boss and co-workers something is happening. You don’t have to go into the details if you don’t want, but the people who work with you should know something is up. If you don’t speak up, then they’ll just make up their own stories.

Practice good self-care. You have to be a bit ruthless and take care of yourself. Make sure you get enough sleep, eat more healthy stuff than bad stuff, exercise, and meditate. Spend time with your friends and family, and see a therapist if you need one.

Also, keep in mind that while you’re dealing with serious issues with yourself or your family members, many work things will seem trivial. It’s hard to get worked up about a staff meeting when you’re planning to attend a funeral or dealing with chemo treatments.

Don’t feel guilty. Stuff happens, and we have to deal with it. Don’t feel guilty. Do what you have to do. At some point, you will pay it forward by covering for your co-workers when they are having their own crisis. Be sure to thank co-workers who are covering for you.

Know your limits. Jettison any extra-curricular things that bog down your energy. Because of ongoing family issues, I had to step down from a volunteer commitment because I was being stretched too thin and didn’t have any additional emotional bandwidth. The leaders were very understanding, and amazingly enough, the world did not end.

Don’t make big decisions. When you’re in the middle of a crisis, this is not the best time to make big, life-altering decisions. Give yourself breathing room before making any big decisions.

Ready. Set. Focus. Work can actually be a welcome distraction when chaos is brewing. When you return to work, take a deep breath and focus on what you MUST do on your to-do list first. Steadily work your way down the list. If needed, come in a half hour to hour early for a day or two to tackle the extra email that’s stacked up in your inbox.

Dealing with a crisis is hopefully a short-term issue, but a little preparation, communication with co-workers and a plan will help you through it.



One Response to “Organizing @ Work: Dealing with a Crisis”

  1. “… amazingly enough, the world did not end.”

    I think this applies to many things. We often think we are expendable. I once left a job where I was looked up to, expecting to receive many phone calls for help (it was in the days before email – yes, I am that old LOL) – and the only call I got was to ask if I knew where a certain book was. (I didn’t.) And when I took my first vacation as a small business owner, I made a detailed list for my backup of every possible thing that might come up while I was gone, and she didn’t get one call or one email from any of my clients.