During moments of stress in the workplace our anxieties can rise and result in us behaving in ways we would prefer not to. Our normal, instinctual reactions are unlikely to be the best for ourselves or our organisations. I knew a manager who found that when something unexpected happened to them, they overreacted. This manager, let’s call her Jane, came to me as she found herself unhappy with how she handled stressful situations. Together we came up with a plan.
Every time Jane heard of something that was unexpected she became tense and reacted in ways that she later regretted. Jane would make decisions that made sense to her in the moment, but turned out to be causing more harm than good. Over time she had noticed that her direct reports were hiding things from her. Jane was finding out things that were going on in her team through conversations with other people.
Jane wrote out what it physically felt like when she didn’t react in line with her values. The next few times it happened she paid greater attention and added to her notes any feelings she had missed. Jane also noted down how she behaved, and how she would have liked to have behaved instead. Her notes included symptoms such as heavier breathing and increased heart rate. For each event where her behaviours had been instinctual, she chose more mindful ways of being that aligned to her values.
Shortly after Jane started taking notes, she started using them to become more aware of when she was misaligned. At first there wasn’t much she could do about it. She quickly learned to get her breathing under control and that helped to lower her heart rate. Once her physical response was under control, she could take a moment to make a conscious decision and stop reacting without thought. Where previously she had panicked, now she made time to think about various solutions and decide which one matched her values.
One day, she realised that she hadn’t been misaligned for months. Instead, she noticed that her direct reports started talking to her more and she knew about potential risks as well as risks already realised. The more she knew about what was happening in her team, the better her decisions became. These days her team is starting to consult her before making decisions so that they can try to avoid conflicting with things that they may not be aware of. Jane is producing better value decisions for her organisation, and is finding the workplace a less stressful environment.
In November, 2018 I’m running a Saturday workshop for women in management to build a better understanding of their values, triggers, and mindful actions so that you can commit to your values, even when stressed. For more details, take a look at the event page.