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CAREERS - Don't let crises derail your career

Published:Sunday | March 13, 2011 | 12:00 AM
Glenford Smith

Glenford Smith, Career Writer

How prepared are you to manage an unexpected crisis such that it doesn't disrupt your career and render you ineffective at work? Every day we hear of people murdered violently or people who die or are seriously injured in motor vehicle accidents. We have also had friends and colleagues diagnosed with life-threatening illnesses.

In addition, many of us have mourned with friends, family and colleagues who have lost children tragically, including through suicide. There are also many people reeling from the devastation of a painful and acrimonious separation or divorce, who seemed to have had the ground knocked out from under them.

Despite these stark realities of our existence, however, we routinely make two mistakes. One is to think it will never happen to us. We would never voice this belief, but we sure live like it. This relates to the second mistake many people make.

It is that we don't consciously and effectively prepare ourselves to deal with sudden disasters. As a result, many persons allow their pain, loss, and suffering to render them moody, irascible, and unproductive at work.

It is natural and appropriate to cry, to feel hurt, angry, or even distraught, depending on the nature of the crisis. If, however, you allow your pain, sadness, and depression to affect you beyond a reasonable point, your productivity and interpersonal relationships will suffer.

While your customers, co-workers or superiors will be sympathetic, they will also expect you to fulfill your contractual obligations to the company and your commitments to agreed targets. A prolonged failure to meet these expectations could turn off your customers, sour your work relationships or culminate in your termination. If you operate your own business, you're only one mismanaged crisis away from a business failure.

Helpful strategies

To prevent this from happening, apply these two strategies:

1. Give up the belief that sudden disaster only happens to other people and instead prepare yourself just in case.

2. Take the following steps when faced with a sudden crisis:

  1. Get counseling. A qualified counselor, a HR professional at work, or your pastor, will help you to manage the trauma.
  2. Draw on the support of your friends, family and colleagues. Don't buy into the belief that no one will understand what you're going through, or that people are too busy for you. It will be cathartic to share your turmoil with confidential, caring and supportive people at church, work and in your family network. Don't live in denial or pretend that everything is okay and you don't need anybody's help. You do, and there are people who want to help.
  3. Communicate with your boss, co-workers or employees. Assure them you'll do your best not to allow your personal crisis to adversely affect the business. Ask for their help, specifically when you need it; don't assume they should know. This can include time off.
  4. Tap into your spiritual resources. Pray, read your bible and other spiritual literature, meditate, and write in your journal.• Exercise daily as this will improve your mood, generally. Take a walk, swim, or play a favourite sport.

Glenford Smith is a motivational speaker and success strategist. Email: