Keeping Your Head When the Office is in Chaos

Chaozinoffice_october2011_web If you work, you’ve likely felt work related stress. Studies have shown that more than three-fourths of the U.S. workforce is stressed out by at least one thing at their jobs, with it hitting home within the youngest of American workers. Even with the higher levels of pressure, something can happen at work that is even scarier than the known stresses or piled-up paper, and it can happen at any time.

It’s when order and structure fly out the window, and chaos and confusion reign supreme. It can be something as little as an influx of business to something as big as a full-blown crisis and, while it may not always take a crisis, several things can happen to make it feel like pandemonium at work.

Whether you’re in an office or in the field, chaos can rear its ugly head. But, as long as you keep your composure and a level head, you can work through any situation and learn how to avoid it next time. Here are three tips to help you keep your cool when there’s chaos in the office.

When You Want to React, Don’t.

When you receive an email or hear something that makes you want to respond, don’t. Write down what is making you stressed. If you have to, use word processing software, but avoid email or something transmittable. Then write down potential solutions to those items. Do you have control over any of those solutions? If so, work on them; if not, let it go. Then evaluate what your response will be. Processing your thoughts before engaging in confrontation will help you avert any escalation and keep the situation under control.

Stick With Strategy.

Most companies have strategies developed to achieve their goals, but nobody can plan for everything. Nineteenth century military strategist Helmuth von Moltke is best known for his quote, “No plan survives first contact with the enemy.” When chaos hits the office, it’s important to change and adapt your plans to the unexpected situation. The important thing is to have a plan. The storm will be much worse and last longer if you drop your strategy and become reactive to whatever is going on.

Find Some Personal Time.

When work gets crazy, especially during a crisis, it may require a lot of on the spot decision making. Sometimes, the best thing to do when things get too intense at work is to escape for a little bit and recharge. You don’t have to go as far as to take a whole day off from work, but there are little things you can do throughout the day to collect yourself. Take a few deep breaths. It's amazing how many people hold their breath when they’re upset. Fresh air in your lungs sends oxygen to your heart and brain and acts as a calming agent.

Believe it or not, counting to 10 actually works. Just slowly count and, with each number, remind yourself that by getting upset you're only hurting yourself.  If possible, take a 10-minute break and go outside once or twice to enjoy the little things in life. Sun exposure provides vitamins and can help your positive attitude.

No matter how much pressure, tension, and urgency comes crashing into the work place, keeping your cool, remaining focused, and staying calm will always give you an advantage. President Thomas Jefferson once said, "Nothing gives one person so much advantage over another as to remain cool and unruffled under all circumstances."

If you have experienced chaos in the workplace, what did you do to cope with the stress and keep your cool?


By Jared Cole


  1. Jane Burdick

    My sister works as a project manager, and several other job titles that causes her to work in an office, when people around her are wigging because of work mishaps she always goes back to…look this isn’t life or death. She picks that phrase because my work literally is life and death…I work as an ICU nurse. She frequently has a bit of a laugh at what co-workers
    get bent out of shape about.

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