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When your boss pushes the panic button . . . How do you respond?

Publication 13,

When your boss pushes the panic button . . . How do you respond?

All too often we have conflicting work priorities. We’re all working managers with daily tasks that have to get done and new assignments that come and go. We don’t have a whole lot of room for organizational emergencies or pop-up projects!

But the emergencies and pop-ups are going to come, and the boss is likely to push the panic button. Let’s face it, the world changes on a dime these days, so many times our bosses are reacting to their bosses’ requests—and you know what happens in a chain reaction! We’ve all been guilty of pushing the panic button during some phase of our lives—but why!?

  • Peacemaker bosses push the panic button because they fear not all the stakeholders got a chance to give input or feedback to a project.
  • Organizer bosses push the panic button when they don’t see deliverables and think the staff isn’t getting the work done.
  • Revolutionary bosses push the panic button because they don’t think the staff is working fast enough.
  • Steamroller bosses push the panic button when they don’t see cars in the parking lot on a weekend; they translate that as not demonstrating a passion for the work or the organization.

So when the dust settles and the latest crisis has receded, we should reflect on how we manage ourselves after the boss pushes the panic button; and of course, we manage those cues differently:

  • Peacemakers – try not to panic, . . . but sometimes you’re like a swan above the water while your feet are moving super-fast below the water!
  • Organizers – immediately try to figure out how to “fit in” the new work to your already impossible workload!
  • Revolutionaries – shift gears and get people to follow in your wake; other things might get skipped over, but oh well!
  • Steamrollers – question the panic, i.e., “What’s the urgency?”

As managers we have to learn how not to perpetuate the mania in the organization. Managers have to translate what their bosses ask them to do into manageable sound bites for their staff so no one runs out the front door screaming! Here are some ideas about what you can do to engage a staffer before you hit the panic button (and you will)!

Working with Peacemakers – the manager should make a personal phone call or visit to explain the situation and ask for their help and support.
Working with Organizers – the manager should know that they already have a lot on their plate, and help the Organizer figure out where the new work should go in the queue.
Working with Revolutionaries – the manager should tell them to stop doing one thing, and immediately start to do another.
Working with Steamrollers – the manager should make them know that their contribution will be invaluable to the new project that just came up and that you need their expertise.

So the next time you or your boss decide to push the panic button, identify your communication strategy before you panic. Stop, think and select the words that will motivate your staff into action. If you craft your message before you speak, you’re more likely to create good will and the work is far more likely to get done! How simple is that!

Happy Fall!

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