When to Sink, Swim or Call the Lifeguards


Shit Happens

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We all have those days that make us want to throw up our hands and scream. Despite our best planning, our most thoughtful deliberation and most diligent execution, there are times when, for lack of scientific explanation, the universe just seems to have other plans for us.

So what to do when forces (read: co-workers, clients or total strangers) make you want to go all Scarface on everything?

For better or worse, here are some thoughts:

1. Evaluate the Battle – Before leaning into a punch, figure out if you can come out the other side (mostly) intact. Let’s face it, there are some battles you can’t afford to lose, and others you won’t win for all the trying in the world. In these cases, a little bit of sucking it up needs to be an option, despite all the “go-getter” you have in your morning coffee.

2. Eliminate Emotion – I know you want to thump that idiot for what he just did. Thump him good, and then some, and make him go crying to his mama. But untamed enthusiasm for dishing out a good ass-whupping can make you lose perspective and miss critical details. Take a breath, count to ten, and size up the situation. Then plan your attack.

3. Take Your Time – Don’t go striding into someone’s office flinging f-bombs. Calmly approach your “offender du jour” and ask if they have time to talk about something that’s important to you. Do your best to have a rational conversation devoid of emotion, while still expressing how huge this issue is to you. A good person will welcome the dialogue and want to walk it through with you to find a solution. Lousy ones scream at you and go to lunch.

4. Propose Solutions – People who have climbed the office ladder to the top (or at least, to one rung above you) don’t want to deal with bullshit; that’s why they have people. They want you to think through it, do the work and bring them an answer they can sign off on. So when outlining the problem, remember to also have a proposed solution. Make it actionable, with a beginning and end, and make it something you can execute, rather than something for them to do (the only thing a supervisor likes less than an existing problem is also being given the work to do to resolve it).

5. Don’t Let it Happen Again – Usually an ultimatum from someone in the driver’s seat, in this case it comes to you from you. Hold yourself accountable for making sure you don’t repeat the same mistakes; learn from your experience. Because as they say, “Screw me once, shame on you. Screw me twice, shame on me.”

How do you deal with the universe’s little surprises?

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