How to Keep Cool Under Pressure

When business is booming and your environment becomes unruly, how can you keep a cool head?

file000884219889Many of us, when faced with angry customers, a whirlwind day of meetings, or flurry of activity, even a crowded store of sales can become irritated, flustered or even angry. The problem is that if we are the Customer Service representatives, it is we who need to be the individuals setting the tone (or atmosphere) around us. How can we do that?

I have my own simple answers.

  1. Take each person or problem on, one at a time.
  2. If you need a break, make the time and take it.
  3. If you can avoid the problem, face it head on.

It is this combination of factors that offer an environment free of absolute chaos. Not convinced? Let me explain my reasoning in more detail.

If you are not taking each person or problem on, one at a time, you are multitasking.

What is multitasking? If you are watching a movie in the theater and texting at the same time, you are multitasking. If you are talking to a customer and typing out a search on a computer at the same time (this includes typing out a message to your boss in the middle of a meeting), you are multitasking. Think about our traditional fast food drive-thru. Joe Pesci’s character, Leo Getz (Lethal Weapon II) complained vociferously about the service he received in very colorful metaphors. His character’s reaction however, was indicative of how people feel about bad service. Why was his service bad? Probably because whoever was taking his order was not listening and was guilty of multitasking.

Multitasking only leads to certain, inevitable conclusions:

  1. Decreased efficiency
  2. Poor work ethic
  3. Inability to recall
  4. Possible brain damage

Let’s look at these problems.

Our brains (at this point in our evolutionary stage) are hard-wired to focus on one thing at a time.

What about the differences between men and women? Women are hard-wired differently than men, and are able to focus on many things at the same time. Not. In a Wired magazine article written by Christian Jarrett, editor of the British Psychological Society’s Research Digest blog, entitled “Getting in a Tangle Over Men’s and Women’s Brain Wiring”, he discusses shortcomings of articles published in the past that focused on claims that gender differences showed evidence that women are “hard-wired” for multitasking, and that men are only capable of focusing on them, one at a time. Mr. Jarrett argued that the differences between men and women’s brains are not as noteworthy, and that behavioral differences between the sexes – things like intuitive thinking and multi-tasking, were not being used as decision factors in theirs.”  In Forbes magazine, Travis Bradberry wrote an article “Multitasking Damages Your Brain And Career, New Studies Suggest”, espousing, not only the detriments of multitasking, but the possible dangers as well.

What about taking a break?

How can taking a break allow anyone to keep a cool head? It is when your environment is the most stressful, that breaking from it, even for a short time, can allow you to think more clearly and act more decisively.

Rather than an office, let us look at an environment that many of us are familiar with, that of a retail store.

Those of us who work in retail will attest that breaks are not only a very important part of your workday, but a necessary component that helps you keep your sanity and your stamina. Bob Phibbs, The Retail Doctor discussed the importance of taking breaks on his blog in an article, “How Retail Employees Can Maintain Their Sanity During The HolidaysIf you get overwhelmed, ask the manager if you can go in the back for five minutes to be by yourself.

Office workers, can be notorious for working diligent hours without taking a break.

Wikihow offered some very helpful advice in an article entitled, “How to Take Breaks at Work”. Sage tips such as, “Schedule your break time into your daily work schedule”, and “Evaluate your need for exercise” are wisely included in this collection. All of the suggestions are keen on one thing, maintaining a high level of productivity.

Which brings us to facing problems head-on,

My father taught me long ago, never to run away from my problems. In a December, 2012 article entitled “Leadership Means Facing Challenges Head-on”, Mike Myatt CEO of N2Growth wrote, “Many would say if you’re in the leadership business, you’re also in the business of dealing with adversity.” Nicole Fallon, Business News Assistant Daily Editor wrote an excellent article, “Tackling the Challenges of the Multigenerational Workforce”, where she pointed out that by developing Communication styles, negative stereotypes and cultural expectations, today’s offices and organizations stand a better chance of success. Progressive thinking in today’s multigenerational office can rely on this factor, “For real progress to occur in the multigenerational workforce, flexibility and openness on the part of every age group is critical.”.

I have seen many managers in the past, brought into an organization with ideas to “shake it up”.

These managers were unwilling to give way to employees (many of whom had spent a long time, developing sound processes), push forward new processes that were ineffective or threatened the bottom line of the business. This kind of friction often affects the bottom line of an organization with established workflow at the expense of different processes with implementation that may or may not have been effective.

What an organization might do instead, would be to found or create a Research and Development unit.

Better to place a bright manager with new ideas in their own department (by themselves) to develop their strategies for implementation. If they are unable to work with, train and nurture those employees under them, then allow them to work alone.

Keep the manager who has the ability to accept and creatively strategize new and old processes.

One who can implement new ideas in concert with coworkers and keep the old ones that work. A manager who is dedicated to ensure that workflow is kept smooth and tractable, is the person that makes the process effortless; that employees who work diligently and methodically as a team feel rewarded. Fostering an environment, where employees feel no negative pressure in the organization or dread coming to work should become the workplace standard. For, to find a drive for excellence and success in the workplace, that is as natural as breathing, driven by the passion of their manager, is how everyone keeps cool under pressure.

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