When You Can’t Control the Storm

Reduce stressLast week was rough. If you watched even a few minutes of the news or spent any time on social media, you were, no doubt, bombarded by unsettling words and images. No matter how fast you changed the channel or closed the laptop lid, the images and feelings stayed with you. The feelings of shock, anger, pain, anxiety, sadness, helplessness, etc., permeate everything we do. What do we do now?

Take a deep breath. Now get back to work.

“How can we work at a time like this?!” you might be wondering. Work seems so insignificant at a time when there is so much to do to fix the world around us. And it is. It is insignificant. In the grand scheme of things, every one of us needs to make a positive impact on this world outside of work. But we only have so much emotion to pour into a single day. So as a matter of self-preservation, it’s time to take a deep breath and get back to work.

As a leader, you can’t control when riots will break out, when natural disasters will occur, or when politics become unbearable. You also can’t control when an employee is going through a divorce, is struggling with a child’s behavior, etc. But what you can provide is a stable, safe space for your employees to come every day to get away from it all. You can provide a mental break from all of the negativity for 8 hours every day. It may not seem like a lot, but it’s just enough of an emotional break to keep some people out of a downward emotional spiral.

The simplicity of a daily routine and mundane tasks can be a welcome relief for people who are overwhelmed by feelings of anxiety and helplessness. When the world feels out of control, we need to dig in to the place where we do have some control. 

It may seem small, but providing safety and stability is truly a gift in times of uncertainty. You can do more, though.

Lead through the crisis by creating a vision that is bigger than the job. Help your employees see past the specific functions of their job so they appreciate the impact they’re making on the world. The IT rep at a telecom company may not think about how their work saves lives, but you can cast that vision. Help them see that greater connectivity means people ask for help faster than ever before. The book editor might not think of their impact on third world countries, but you can cast the vision about how they are working to provide an education to people around the world. The cafeteria worker at an elementary school may not see past the plate they’re serving today, but you can cast the vision that a well-nourished student easily outperforms hungry ones. They’re providing nutrient rich soil for teacher’s plants to grow.

Give your team something positive to focus on other than the stress and anxiety-inducing events happening outside of the office. Help them recharge their emotional batteries and remind them that they do make a difference in the world every day through the work they’ve chosen.