Monday, January 12, 2015

Pushing the Workplace Panic Button: Just Say No


It's as if it sits right there on my desk. It's big. It's red. It's calling my name. It's the panic button.

Okay, I'm not really there, but I have been. My workplace is a home office, and the freelance business I conduct here has slowed down a bit recently. One regular client is waiting for a budget to be approved. Another is now limiting how often any one freelancer is given projects. A potential client found a friend to edit his book for him instead. 

Well, phooey. This is not the kind of slow-down I appreciate, the kind that lets me "catch my breath." Right now, my breathing is fine, thank you. But there it is—at least a potential dilemma. Sometimes I have turned down work because I was booked up, yes, but other times I have considered organizing my sock drawer. The real problem is, I can be, oh, a little teensy bit inclined to push the ole panic button when work slows down. 

Now, panic in the face of a work dilemma can be a natural initial response for a human being. But I've learned IT DOES NOT HELP.  
  • Inward panic can make us a little crazy. Panic and wild speculation in your own head are not only useless but can quickly escalate in intensity. Trust me, I know. What if I never get work from that client again? What if most of my clients stop using freelancers altogether?! What if every publisher in the whole English-speaking world decides editing and proofreading are no longer necessary?!! We are in editorial nightmare territory now, but you see what I mean. Panicky thoughts, if they don't devolve into a depressing pity party that is also not so helpful, can fling us headlong into ill-advised, lone-ranger resolution mode. 
  • Outward panic can make others unnecessarily uncomfortable. Long ago, a freelance proofreader I had hired a couple of times told me over the phone that her family might not "have enough to eat" if I didn't give her more work. Talk about panic! Unfortunately, the quality of her work was not up to our company's standards. Not knowing her or her situation personally, but thinking a panicked proofreader with undeveloped skills would not be a good professional hire, I tried to let her down gently by indicating I did not have work for her, but avoiding the truth that she needed to be a better proofreader to get work from us. I should not have done that, but my point is that her panic in this situation did not help either of us.
I am not saying in a near panic we should not take action, having learned from the past what steps might be best to take now. Nor am I saying we should avoid sharing our concern with anyone. But we should try to just say no to panic because it does not help. Here are two suggestions:
  • Recall similar past panic-inducing dilemmas and how they worked out. Chances are, some past problem mirrors the one you are facing now. Or maybe the exact same situation has popped up before. Intentionally taking a deep breath and recalling how that dilemma was eventually resolved or managed can be instructive and keep panic from taking over. For instance, so far freelance work has always picked up again, one way or another. There is no reason to panic myself into thinking it won't pick up this time too—or that if it doesn't, I will have to give up freelancing altogether to make a living. (Some freelancers have part-time jobs too or some other means of income.) In my former job in the corporate world, dilemmas usually worked out as well, without any help from my panicking ways, and even if the resolution was not one I would have chosen (which happened plenty of times!).
  • Remember you can ask for input and help from trusted family, friends, and colleagues. It's okay not to try to go it alone. People like to help when they can. After some consideration, I asked an in-house editor friend to let me know if he thinks of anyone in the industry who might need more freelance editors on their list. He willingly agreed. And I have learned new opportunities can sometimes pop up well after I was tempted to push that panic button.
Be brave. If you ever pushed the panic button when you faced a problem, ask yourself if it helped. My guess is, not so much.  

I confess my finger is too often poised over the panic button whenever a slow-down occurs in my work. But pushing it never has helped. No rescue squad has ever popped out of the woodwork. Instead, remembering how past such dilemmas worked out, taking action steps that seem prudent upon consideration, remembering I can ask for help and input from others—and, for me, relying on God's promises—makes so much more sense than an "all is lost" approach. Besides, my panic face looks a lot like an ugly cry, and even if I do work alone here . . . well, let's just say no.  

How do you keep from pushing the panic button? 

Be brave. If you ever pushed the panic button when you faced a problem, ask yourself if it helped.
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Panicky thoughts . . . can fling us headlong into ill-advised, lone-ranger resolution mode.





2 comments:

  1. Sorry, I do panic. Often. And, it does make others uncomfortable. Wish I could do better. I think I should have read this sooner because I'm already in a panic about what is facing me at the office tomorrow. Let's go eat.

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