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💡 Invincible Tip - Avoid Contagious Stress (Issue #504)
Don't let their urgency become your emergency
Does your boss ever stress you out with urgent requests?
Would you like to avoid that feeling in the future?
I certainly had a few managers like that in my past life. It seemed like there was an emergency at work every week when I was a corporate employee.
I spent almost 20 years in Silicon Valley tech companies, so I’m pretty sure this happened thousands of times to me. I’m surprised I don’t have an enormous ulcer. Here are a few real examples from my life:
“Hey, we have a surprise meeting with the execs tomorrow! Can you pull a presentation together with the latest project updates tonight? Thanks!”
“Our numbers are way down in Spain this weekend!! What’s going on? You need to diagnose this issue ASAP and get back to me today!”
“We need to start development on Monday. You’ll have to write the design specification over the weekend so the team can get going.”
It was always so stressful. I had to drop everything in my life and scramble to get the work done. I missed my kids’ soccer games, had to stay home when they went to the park to play, stayed late at work and missed dinner with my family, etc.
But you know what?
Most of those emergencies ended up being BS. I did the late-night stressful work for nothing.
The execs postponed meetings with us over and over again.
Senior leadership frequently canceled “super urgent” projects that were oh-so-important.
People would panic over metrics that ended up being incorrectly measured.
The team would kill themselves to get a project launched that ultimately meant nothing.
Of course, you can’t avoid all urgent issues. Real emergencies do occasionally happen. Sometimes, you must work late or do some work over the weekend. I think we all expect that.
However, what we don’t expect is that the world is constantly on fire. Everything shouldn’t be an emergency. Leadership should not expect teams to stay in stress mode 24/7. It is not healthy or sustainable.
I know it’s hard to push back on your boss. It’s even harder if you don’t feel powerful. That’s why I want you to have an invincible career. I want you to always be in demand, aware of opportunities, and feel empowered to question urgent requests.
It’s so easy to push back and demand a reasonable workload when you know you can walk out the door and land a new job any time.
Here are a few things you can try the next time you’re hit with an urgent request or emergency:
Ask for a prioritization of the urgent request relative to your current workload. Something has to give, so you have time to work on the new request.
Ask what the consequences are if the emergency isn’t resolved. What’s at stake? Sometimes, you can talk someone down when they realize the consequences really aren’t that dire.
Set boundaries on your time commitment to work on the request. Let them know you have other obligations that can’t slide. For example, “I’ll work on this first thing tomorrow morning because I have to leave in a few minutes to pick my son up from school.”
Make them aware of the impact on your work or personal life. For example, “Yes, I can focus on this urgent request, but that means we’ll miss the deadline for project ABC. Is that ok?” Or, “I can stay late and work on this, but I’ll miss dinner with my family. I get it, but I don’t want this to become a habit.”
Document every single time this happens. Have a conversation with your boss about it. For example, “In the past 30 days, we’ve had 23 emergencies and urgent requests. I’m sure this isn’t fun for you, either. Can we discuss how to reduce the frequency of these emergencies?”
Ultimately, if you’re working in a company culture that always feels the need for urgency, you need to decide how long you’ll put up with it. I’ve worked in companies like that, and some never changed. So, I found a much better opportunity and left.
Don’t let their poor planning and weak operational skills pull you into their world of stress. It’s not good for your health!
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I’m Larry Cornett, a success coach who can work with you to optimize your career, life, or business. My mission is to help you take complete control of your work and life so you can become a more “Invincible You.” I live in Northern California near Lake Tahoe with my wife and Great Dane.