Workplace Chaos is a Tilt-A-Whirl That Can Make You Sick

Managing Change
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When I was a kid, I loved the fair, especially the midway. We lived across the street from the fairgrounds, and I had a front row seat to the action.

Spending every waking hour immersed in the fair’s activities, I thought myself to be quite the expert on the fair, especially the rides.

Based on my insider’s knowledge, I was able to confidently declare the Tilt-A-Whirl to be the BEST RIDE, EVER!

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It had it all. There was the intense spinning of the individual carriages, squishing you against your friend. There was the whole up and down thing as all the carriages traveled round and round. It seemed so chaotic, and that’s what made it fun

I could ride all day long.

And then I grew up

As an adult, Marie and I found ourselves at a carnival. As we wandered about, we stumbled upon the BEST RIDE, EVER!

With all those good memories rushing back, I told her we should take a ride.

After about 30 seconds, I noticed I wasn’t having fun. 30 seconds more, and I was feeling sick. I was ready to be done.

It was a long time ago, so perhaps my memories aren’t completely accurate, but this is what I remember. I motioned to the operator to stop the ride because I was going to barf. He responded by cranking up the speed and laughing like a mad man.

Like I said, it was a long time ago. Perhaps I’m mixing that memory with some bad horror movie I watched, but the point is, I no longer liked the Tilt-A-Whirl. That was the last time I ever rode.

Spins and rolls and bumps

As I aged, my body developed an aversion to spinning; not to mention bouncing in airplane turbulence, rolling on ocean waves, and even riding the back of the bus.

The physical motion bothers me. But here’s the thing, emotional changes bug me more too.

Bouncing from one activity to the next used to be fun. It kept the day interesting. Change meant a new adventure, and I was up for it.

Now I’ve become much more interested in predictable and controlled. Chaos is something I’d prefer to avoid.

The trouble is that for many of us, we can’t avoid the chaos. It’s a dominant feature of our work.

Change comes at us from every direction. It’s all so chaotic, and unlike a ride on the Tilt-A-Whirl, we’re not sure we see a time when it will end.

The problem change ultimately creates for us is stress. And with stress comes all sorts of unpleasant symptoms: Anxiety, headaches, increased blood pressure, anger, depression, lost motivation, and dozens more.

You might not be able to slow down the change, but you can learn to keep it from bothering you so much. Here are three general approaches that will help you deal with the chaos in your work life.

1. Gather information

One of the problems I have with chaos is all the mystery. It’s darn hard to figure out how things are going to turn out. I accept I can’ t know everything I want to know, but I can clear away some of the fog by asking good questions and gathering as much information as I can find. Here are some questions you might seek the answers to:

  • Why are we changing?
  • What does the change look like?
  • How will things work leading up to and after the change?
  • What do I need to do?

Keep your eyes and ears open, and start asking questions.

2. Take action

During change, much of the stress comes from the feeling of being out of control. Find things that you do control and take action.

Serve your customers. Improve the way you do your work. Offer to help implement the changes.

All of these will help you regain your sense of control.

3. Practice effective coping

Sometimes you will be in the dark, and you will not have reasonable options. In these cases, coping is your best strategy.

Take care of your body. Take your mind off the situation by engaging in hobbies or other fun pursuits. Use your support system to discuss your concerns. Be good to yourself.

Take charge

You can’t prevent the chaos, but you can manage your way through it. Pick your strategy and go for it.

By Tom LaForce

Tom LaForce helps companies change by creating stronger teams, more effective leaders, and better processes. To discuss a challenge you're facing, use this link to schedule a free discovery call.