I’ve been working with some family going through difficulties and it’s interesting to see how the adage “when it rains it pours” becomes true. I’ve observed a couple different subsets of that, and I think there can be some interesting insights for companies.
- The urgency bar for things to get addressed gets raised. When there’s a crisis, people’s attention gets focused on the crisis, and preventative maintenance on lower-urgency issues gets deferred or delayed, increasing the risk that they will themselves become crises. Even if they are already problems, the urgency level needed to break through and attract attention is now higher – so only other crises will get attention. For those making decisions it will seem that every decision is a crisis, and that’s because they’ve narrowed their scope of attention to only crises.
One way to deal with this in a work situation might be to delegate crisis-handling to only a few people and try to keep the rest of the team out of crisis mode. In a family situation, having more members and friends to help is a source of resilience.
- For those operating in crisis mode, it’s easy to be distracted or rushed when getting tasks done, making those tasks more prone to error. Because there’s already a lack of resilience, those errors can be derailing and feel more impactful. This is where meditation really helps, to constantly work to coming back to mindfulness and taking time to do it right. The simple example I encountered – changing lightbulbs in an unfamiliar basement on a stressful day. I didn’t have a proper stool so I was really reaching. I used my left hand on one, screwed it the wrong way and broke the bulb in the socket. There was a temptation to panic, but as a supporting family member I realized it was really important I not pass this stress on. So I took a breath, found a flashlight, pliers and the breaker panel, and fixed it, without ever telling the homeowner.
- People’s decision making ability does actually suffer under stress. A lawyer warned me of this not too long ago and suggested that during difficulty I only make the decisions I absolutely have to and I postpone as many others as I can. When making decisions, try to pick the simplest route and don’t get complicated by trying to optimize too much.
Sometimes I feel difficult situations are complicated further by pricing models on things like airline tickets that penalize short-term decision-making. But I’ll take a moment to be grateful for people and organizations who do pitch in to help with responsive services and kind gestures.