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How to Maintain Professional Control in the Midst of Chaos

How to Maintain Professional Control in the Midst of Chaos

In the face of workplace chaos, maintaining professional control can be a challenge. To help you navigate these turbulent waters, we've gathered twelve invaluable tips from professionals including CEOs and creative directors. From embracing strategic disengagement to understanding your crisis-management style, these insights will equip you with the tools to stay composed and effective, no matter the situation.

  • Embrace Strategic Disengagement

  • Master Interpersonal Understanding

  • Boost Emotional Intelligence

  • Set Priorities Effectively

  • Practice Mindfulness

  • Lighten the Mood with Humor

  • Model Desired Behaviors

  • Champion Facilitation and Collaboration

  • Apply a Five-Minute Reframe

  • Maintain a Logical, Calm Mindset

  • Establish Objective, Incentive-Based Goals

  • Understand Your Crisis-Management Style

Embrace Strategic Disengagement

As the owner of a creative agency, I've seen my fair share of chaos—tight deadlines, client revisions, team conflicts, and so on. My best tip for maintaining professional control in such moments is the principle of "Strategic Disengagement."

When chaos erupts, the natural inclination is to dive in, put out fires, and become a part of the whirlwind. While immediate action is sometimes necessary, it can also lead to reactive decisions that compound the problem. Strategic disengagement means momentarily stepping back from the chaos to gain a broader perspective.

Take a few minutes—whether it’s stepping into a quiet room, going for a brief walk, or even just closing your eyes at your desk. Use this time to breathe, assess the situation objectively, and prioritize. Ask yourself: What needs immediate attention? What can wait? Who on the team is best suited to handle each task? This brief period of detachment allows you to approach the situation with a clearer mind.

Master Interpersonal Understanding

Learn the personalities of those with whom you are working. This information will help you speak and interact with each person based on how they prefer to receive verbal and written information.

Ask people how they prefer to receive information. Some like email, others prefer a chat message. Some people enjoy light banter, while others want you to get straight to the point. Once you master this, you can move quickly across teams and build stronger personal working relationships.

Leave your ego at the door. Remember, leaders should be followed naturally. Disrespecting people means you will not be respected. You cannot change others, but you can change yourself. Make your work life the best it can be by making good use of your coworkers' time. The office may be chaotic, but your side of the house will be calm.

Beth Smith, Life Coach and Owner, Thriving With Resilience

Boost Emotional Intelligence

Repeat after me: "To thine own self be true." Professional self-control is a real thing. Conflict will arise in the workplace, so no matter how many times you try to snap your fingers and disappear, it will find you.

So, face the giant, especially if you are conflict-averse, and dig in. That begins and ends with increasing your emotional intelligence and practicing the art of verbal judo. Deal with the conflict and stay away from attacking the person. That means, even if the relationship is not a great one, build bridges and not burn them.

It is better to strive for harmony and synergy, above all. I used to be conflict-avoidant until I realized that by doing so, I would never allow myself to stretch and be my best self. These days, claiming space and letting my voice be heard (respectfully) in the room increases my self-confidence and builds respectful relationships.

We spend a lot of time at work, so we should face our fears. This minor tweak will make you an example to many.

Set Priorities Effectively

When things are changing quickly at work, the best way to maintain your professional skills is to learn how to set priorities effectively. As the storm rages, it's important to take a step back and figure out which tasks and problems require immediate attention and which ones can be postponed.

Focusing on the most important things restores some sense of order and shows your colleagues and superiors that you are calm and adept at problem-solving. This strategy makes it easier to navigate through the turbulence with a steady mind, leading to wise decisions and preventing overwhelming emotions from taking control.

Sharing your strategic plan with your team fosters collaboration, secures their support, and guides everyone towards a more peaceful and productive path amidst the chaos.

Practice Mindfulness

In the midst of workplace chaos, I've always relied on the power of mindfulness. Instead of getting overwhelmed or stressed out, try to return to your breath and focus on it for a bit. By grounding yourself in the present moment, you can navigate through the chaos with a clear head and a quiet mind.

I've used this technique during tense situations, like when I had to mediate between two colleagues who were arguing. By staying present, I could listen actively, understand both perspectives and find a solution that worked for everyone. So, the next time you feel the storm of workplace chaos brewing, take a deep breath and anchor yourself in the now.

Bayu Prihandito, Psychology Expert, Life Coach, and Founder, Life Architekture

Lighten the Mood With Humor

When things get chaotic at work, the person who can keep their cool will almost always come out on top. My best tip for maintaining professional control is to add a little humor.

A well-timed quip or joke can help snap people back into reality and remind them it's probably not life or death. When things get too serious or chaotic, some quick (and appropriate) humor can help control the situation.

Logan Mallory, VP of Marketing, Motivosity

Model Desired Behaviors

As a leader in your organization or department, model the behaviors you expect to see from others. Concentrating on what you can control is key, and that translates into your performance, your behavior, and your interactions with others.

Rather than contributing to that chaos, be the calming force that shows others how they should behave and do not engage in conversations that keep contributing to that chaos or negativity.

Not only will you stand apart from others in a positive light, but you may also be part of the solution and change in culture, one coworker or subordinate, at a time.

Patty Hickok, SPHR, GPHR, SHRM-SCP, Sr. Director Employee Relations, HRIS, and HR Operations, NANA Regional Corporation

Champion Facilitation and Collaboration

As a small business owner dedicated to shaping the art of facilitation, my driving force is an unyielding passion for impactful change in the workplace. Each facilitation-training session we conduct isn't just a class; it's a revolution in progress.

We meticulously design our courses to equip professionals with tools that don’t just make meetings efficient, but transformative. When we guide someone to become a superior facilitator, we're not just teaching them a skill—we’re empowering them to champion meaningful dialogues, give space to diverse perspectives, and steer away from unproductive corporate routines.

I draw immense motivation from the ripple effect our training sets off: a single trained facilitator can reshape countless meetings, promoting inclusivity and action. To me, this isn't just a business; it's a mission to usher the world of work into an era of true collaboration and understanding. This vision is my North Star, and it helps me maintain professional control.

Apply a Five-Minute Reframe

When everything is spiraling out of control, I step back—literally, if I can, mentally if I can't—and give myself five minutes to reframe the situation.

When this happens, I ask myself three questions: What's the immediate issue? What's the worst that could happen? What's in my control to change right now? This helps me sift through the noise and focus on actionable items, avoiding the trap of getting overwhelmed by things I can't control.

The Five-Minute Reframe doesn't just help me; it sets a tone for the entire team. When they see me stepping back to assess the situation calmly, it becomes a cue for them to do the same. It's like a collective deep breath that helps us regain our footing and approach the problem with a level head.

Maintain a Logical, Calm Mindset

One golden rule stands tall: Refrain from utterances requiring later apologies. Maintain clarity and logic, recording facts while embracing the human element.

Maintaining a logical, calm mindset amid workplace chaos is crucial. Avoid uttering words you might later regret. Document facts accurately and consider the human element in every situation.

Recognize that mistakes happen, leading to apologetic remarks. Workplace stress can trigger uncharacteristic behavior, even from accomplished leaders. In such instances, seek solace from a trusted colleague.

Retreat to a quiet space, pen down facts and emotions and prioritize tasks. Remember, your actions are within your domain—choose your words prudently. This approach safeguards interactions, upholds professionalism, and fosters positive engagement.

TK Morgan, Founder and Visionary, Tuesday At 1030

Establish Objective, Incentive-Based Goals

Create organization and structure with objective, incentive-based goals. As a business owner, without objective goals, your team will not know where they, and the company, are going on a daily, quarterly, and annual basis.

Once you have established these structures and goals, you will need to facilitate transparent communication in your team. This can be especially hard now that many, if not most, office workers do not want to work from the office or interact with co-workers in any manner unnecessary to do the job.

Weekly, but short and productive, meetings can be helpful, whether in person or on Zoom or similar. But any opportunity to get the team together and communicate effectively will ultimately help bring order to the chaos.

Understand Your Crisis-Management Style

Have a firm understanding of your crisis-management style. There are quite a few ways to handle a crisis, and you want to understand both your natural reaction to dealing with one and your optimal way to actually respond to one.

This is something that you can extrapolate outside of a crisis setting, as really what you are doing is understanding how you will react versus how you should react ideally when faced with a chaotic situation.

Leaders are expected to remain cool and have all the answers, so knowing yourself and how you deal with stressful situations is the first step toward building that very important image.