“Slowing down is sometimes the best way to speed up.” – Mike Vance

As an executive coach and consultant, many clients reach out to me for support and guidance when they find themselves navigating chaos in the workplace.  Chaos feels awful. It’s confusing, disheartening, frustrating, and exhausting, but it’s normal to find yourself in chaos at some point in your career – in most cases multiple times.  But it’s not always a bad thing. It’s usually an indicator you’re growing.

As your business grows, staffing needs change and the world around you evolves quickly. Keeping up can be challenging. In my last blog, I talked about the importance of using past experiences as a roadmap when navigating chaos in the workplace.  But even this can’t happen while you’re underwater.  That’s why slowing down so you can speed up is key to moving out of the chaos.

When chaos strikes, it typically means more work has to be done by fewer people. That’s when you move into survival mode.

But survival mode is not a good place to be, especially long-term.  You need to come up with a strategy to help you navigate the chaos and make sure the most important work is getting done. That’s why slowing down is the key to navigating change in the workplace. If you’re able to stand in the chaos, that’s when opportunities present themselves.  And having a plan to get through this challenging period is important.

So here are 4 questions that will help you navigate chaos in the workplace so you can get back on track faster:

1. What activities are essential and what tasks can be sidelined?

When you’re navigating chaos in the workplace, things feel out of control.  It’s normal to feel like everything has to get done, but that’s when slowing down to look at things logically and rationally becomes an important first step.

There’s work that needs to be done like fulfilling customer orders or paying employees. However new initiatives and programs could be put on hold while you focus on key tasks. This will alleviate stress while you get your bearings. Make a list of the activities that fall into each category. Then prioritize.

2. How do individual roles and responsibilities need to change?

As you discern the most important tasks to be done while navigating chaos in the workplace, match talent to task.

Who are the best people on your team to take on these short-term survival tasks? This is knowing the people on your team and ensuring you are distributing the work evenly, in a way that fits each person. Balance leads to growth.

3. As responsibilities change, how do you know the limits of each person on your team?

The biggest mistake leaders make when navigating chaos in the workplace is not taking the time to understand what’s on each person’s plate.

As they take on new tasks, even temporarily, some current tasks will need to be put on hold. People need permission to pause some of their tasks or they’ll quickly become overwhelmed and burned out. This is how a company loses its best people.

Check-in with each team member to make sure their workload is balanced and sustainable.

4. How will you communicate these changes?

Leaders answer all these questions automatically in their heads. You assume everyone else on the team will have the same perspective and make the same choices. But don’t underestimate the stress everyone is feeling while navigating chaos in the workplace. This is when communication within the organization is crucial.

Increasing communication feels like you’re slowing things down. It feels wrong because there’s so much to get done.

Holding a meeting or even just having a conversation seems ridiculous amid all the work. But this is when pausing to gather everyone’s thoughts and come up with a logical and feasible plan is most important.

Distributing the essential work as evenly as possible and communicating expectations are key to moving forward successfully.  It’s also how you get through the chaos fastest. 

Diverse group of young office workers sitting around a table talking and working together.

No one likes being in chaos, but unexpected changes in business are unavoidable.

While taking the time to communicate seems counter-intuitive during times of stress, being able to slow down and come up with a game plan is key to keeping you and your team sane and balanced.  It also ensures everyone is working toward the same goal so you can start thriving faster.