Thursday, February 5, 2009

On Not Lashing Out

No matter how professional we are, when a really bad day comes around sometimes it just kills you. Frustration upon frustration, nothing comes out right, everyone wants something, you screwed up but good and there's no space to fix it, and you just don't even have a moment to yourself to think! If something doesn't give real soon now you're gonna blow.

There's standard advice here: It's just a job. Take a deep breath, go for a walk, and come back refreshed. (Or if you're like me, grab some flour and yeast and water, and pound away at some bread dough for 20 minutes or so.)

There's some validity in that. The real trick, though, is to not say or do anything stupid until you can get out of there and blow off some steam. And the first part of that is recognizing that you're starting to lash out.

So, how do we know things are going downhill fast and it's time to get out?
  • You don't know of one thing that's gone right today (and you certainly don't expect that to change!).
  • You get some emails and boy do you feel attacked (is it paranoia if they might actually be lashing out at you?).
  • You're flushed and no one else thinks it's hot in here.
  • Most of the things you want to say to your coworkers are to show how wrong they are.
  • Someone asks if you're okay (generally this means you're already giving off signs you're not okay).
Conflict and difficulties are part of working, and of course we're all professionals here. But no matter how bad one day is, it's not worth damaging the relationship you have with your coworkers and your customers. Your first priority is not making your world worse. Your second priority is fixing the problem. Getting the second priority right will not fix the first priority.

Don't turn a bad day into a bad environment. Get out before you lash out.

And I hope tomorrow is better.

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