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Calm Down It’s Much Worse Than You Think

Everyone at work knows it; you’re a person who is really good in an emergency. And that’s fortunate, since pretty much everything you touch turns into a disaster.

For people who don’t have quite as much experience in dealing with constant chaos, there is Kevin Daum. Mr. Daum is the contributor who penned, “8 Ways to Stay Calm in the Midst of Chaos,” a concise and useful bit of badinage that provides an eight-step program to achieve Zen-like serenity in the face of a looming catastrophe.

“Whether you are the chaos creator or just caught in the fray,” writes Daum, “the best way you can bring sanity back to your team is to be an island of stability.” I agree. It would be much better for you to be perceived as an island of stability instead of a continent of insanity. (Don’t be put off just because you don’t have a team. Of course, if you did have a team, you’d have lots of people to hold responsible.)


“Maintain your routine” is Daum’s first rule for staying cool, calm and collecting your paycheck. “If you totally abandon your regular responsibilities, you’ll create new problems and more chaos.” This is very true. Even if the disaster is of Godzilla proportions, you still want to continue coming in late, leaving early and enjoying boozy, three-hour lunches in between. This may not solve the problem, but it will keep your co-workers relaxed and confident until everything blows up.

“Take a break” is another good tip. “Don’t become a bigger part of the problem by jumping into the fray,” Daum advises. “Excuse yourself for a bit so you can step outside and regain your objectivity.” Or, if you want my advice, step outside and don’t come back. Remember the first rule of business success — if they can’t find you, they can’t fire you.

“Slow down and breathe” is another recommendation, because “when you’re going too quickly, carelessness is bound to occur, making an already chaotic situation much worse.” Breathing is definitely good, but sleeping is better. When the fire bell rings, you crawl under your desk, pull out your pillow and your blankie, and head off to dreamland. When you wake up, the problem could be solved or your company could be out of business. Either way, you’ll be rested and ready to move on to your next job.

It won’t be easy for you to “identify and manage your stress points,” since your entire body is one big stress point, especially when the snack machine isn’t working. (Talk about a disaster!) But you probably can “call for a momentary halt to the chaos.” If anyone listens to you, which is doubtful, Daum recommends you “bring in some food. Over pizza or cookies, you can help everyone assess the situation and define clear roles and actions.”

Here are the first roles to be assigned: There has to be someone who will buy the pizza and cookies, and someone to buy more pizza and cookies after you’ve scarfed the first bunch down. Most important of all, there has to be someone to pay for the pizza and cookies. Anyone will do, as long as it isn’t you.

“Keep perspective” about the disaster unfolding around you, Daum counsels. “Take a hard look at the repercussions of the problem as it relates to the big picture. Once you assess the potential fallout, isolate the issue to only those affected people.” This will be easy-peasy. The one question you have to ask and answer is — will this problem affect me? If you could be hurt by a bad outcome, it’s time to find an affected person and then, blame everything on them.

“Control what you can control” means that you shouldn’t waste valuable energy on issues that are beyond your reach. Concentrate on what you can reach — which is a can of Pabst Blue Ribbon and the TV remote.

If all seven of these surefire strategies fail to work in your particular crisis, you still have the last step — “smile.”

“With a simple honest smile, you can put yourself and others at ease and let everyone focus on the work rather than the emotion.”

I say — why not? If you have to go down with the ship, you might as well be smiling, and if you can avoid responsibility and shift the blame to an innocent party, you’ll have plenty to smile about.

Bob Goldman was an advertising executive at a Fortune 500 company, but he finally wised up and opened Bob Goldman Financial Planning in Sausalito, California. He offers a virtual shoulder to cry on at


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