Redefining Workplace Emergencies So You Can Actually Get Your Work Done

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Last minute requests used to set me off into a frenzy of activity.

I would set out to meet a short deadline with an urgency that would have made you think that my life depended on it.

I’d be frustrated about the expectations placed upon me and complained about the lack of notice I’d been given. 

But I would also scramble to comply.  Again, and again, and again.

Until one day, a psychologist colleague suggested that I didn’t need to treat other people’s lack of planning as my problem.

I had never seen the situation in this light before.

I discovered that I was compensating for other people’s lack of planning by treating non-urgent situations as emergencies.  I was enabling poor planners to continue not planning.  Because I would swoop in and save them.

I was not making them live the consequences of their failure to plan because I ensured that the work always got done on time. 

I was stressing myself out to the max in the process.  But I was getting it done.

Until I realized that I was taking on all of the stress and ownership of someone else’s lack of responsibility.

“Someone else’s lack of planning is not your problem”.

These are words that I’ve come to live by.

I suspect that you too, may have experienced workplace emergencies that were not actual emergencies – situations where you’ve been asked to do something without being given adequate notice. 

Here’s an example.

I’ve seen time and time again situations where a 9am team meetings will be scheduled long in advance.  However, the agenda will be sent along with accompanying documentation at the end of the work day, the day before the meeting.  Or even worse at 9pm.  

This isn’t so bad in and of itself.  Where is gets messy is when there’s an expectation that the documentation must be reviewed prior to the beginning of the meeting, but it’s been sent with inadequate time to review.

Life happens and situations like this may occur once in awhile.  And this is entirely ok.  However, it becomes problematic when it occurs chronically.  Particularly when people are unable to effectively address when non-urgent matters are consistently expected to be addressed on very short notice.

If you find yourself constantly getting caught up dealing with last minute workplace emergencies that are thrown at you by someone else, it may be time to stop and ask if you are enabling this dynamic.

Just a reminder again – someone else’s lack of planning is not your problem.

In reality, it’s not quite as simple as this.  It is your problem if someone is constantly throwing last minute work at you.  However, if you can find ways to express your needs in this situation, and to stick to your boundaries, it will not remain your problem.

The challenge is that when we avoid uncomfortable conversations such as these, we end up experiencing heightened stress.  We may even be addicted to the adrenaline rush that comes from always working under considerable pressure.  And it may be easier to shift responsibility for this pressure to those who are making unreasonable requests, instead of looking at our own role in the dynamic.

I should know.  I did that for years.

But it’s ultimately an unhealthy dynamic.  It leaves people feeling resentful, which ultimately evolves into employee disengagement.  Furthermore, if these types of issues are not addressed and resolved, productivity and performance will unquestionably begin to decline.

I’ve worked very hard in my life to learn to address these types of situations head on and have trained and coached teams on how to get comfortable having uncomfortable conversations so that situations such as these can be addressed and resolved.

The only path to stress-free communication is cultivating communication practices that will leave everyone in your organization feeling heard and addressing the issues that no one wants to talk about head on.  If you’re interested in learning more, get in touch.

If you liked this post, you might also like:

The Importance of Setting Boundaries

How to Deal with Boundary Pushers

Setting Better Boundaries

Lindsay Lapaquette

Lindsay Lapaquette

Lindsay Lapaquette, M.Sc.(A) works with middle managers who want to communicate authentically so they can effectively lead their teams without losing themselves. As a former Speech-Language Pathologist, Lindsay applies her expertise in the neuroscience of communication and connection to help managers foster an environment of trust and respect in their teams, so that everyone can bring their best selves to work.

Lindsay’s approach has been profoundly influenced by her work with First Nations organizations, her experience as a parent to two neurodivergent children, and the premature loss of both of her parents. These experiences have taught Lindsay great lessons about the power of excellent people skills that extend well beyond her professional expertise.

Lindsay Lapaquette

Lindsay Lapaquette

Lindsay Lapaquette, M.Sc.(A) works with middle managers who want to communicate authentically so they can effectively lead their teams without losing themselves. As a former Speech Language Pathologist, Lindsay applies her expertise in the neuroscience of communication and connection to help managers foster an environment of trust and respect in their teams, so that everyone can bring their best selves to work.

Lindsay’s approach has been profoundly influenced by her work with First Nations organizations, her experience as a parent to two children with pervasive mental health challenges, and the premature loss of both of her parents. These experiences have taught Lindsay great lessons about the power of excellent people skills that extend well beyond her professional expertise.

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Hi, I'm Lindsay

Leadership communication skills to elevate team performance.

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