Avoiding Chaos at Work

Working on the boiler of a locomotive at the 4...

Working on the boiler of a locomotive at the 40th Street shops of the C & NW RR, Chicago, Ill. (LOC) (Photo credit: The Library of Congress)

The last two years I have gathered some ideas on avoiding chaos at work and would like to share them. This is part of my quest in becoming a minimalist. I put that label on myself not for others but for myself. It reminds me where I want to go and the instruments to lead me there.

First, I want to talk about the types of chaos seen at work. There is the dysfunctional coworker that drags you down into the goo of their behavior. It might be their lack of work ethic, their self-induced pain in their personal life, or their stalker tendencies that drive us mad. Then there is the power freak. It might be your boss, an ambitious coworker, or the guy down the hall that can’t stop competing for any reason. Then there is company policy changes. These seem to happen frequently now in the corporate world as each business strives to keep up. Changes can come out of the blue with little or a lot of reason. They stir things up and make new boundaries that make the stress go way up. Finally there is the customer that has high expectations of customer service or just wants to be heard. Maybe they don’t understand your new policy, or perhaps they just want things their way. You are tired of dealing with people and just want one day where no one walks in the door and all is quiet.

None of us has much control over any of the chaos at work but we can reduce the chances of it as well as change our reactions to it, thereby avoiding it altogether. Here are some simple ideas to try at work:

1)  Don’t get personal

Yes you have to work with people and it even helps to be pleasant but there is no rule that says you should get personal. You are not required to ask anyone about themselves, know their dog’s name, find a dance school for their daughter, or get involved in their latest challenges and personal drama. Once you involve yourself in a coworkers life it complicates yours. Now you have dilemmas in a blur of boundaries between personal and professional. Remember the three P’s: Pleasant, Polite, Professional. Leave the personal stuff for friends that work elsewhere. Also, never take a job working for a friend or with a friend. Period.

2) Work from the heart

When you work from the heart in every moment of time that you are on the clock it holds you up in two ways. You never have to worry about the chaos of a reprimand or feeling guilty about not doing a good job. You also feel good at the end of the day knowing that you did mindful work. When you put your heart and your best intentions as well as efforts into every aspect of your job no matter how mundane it is, you instantly give it meaning. Try it sometime and see how the day goes. It may surprise you how well you accomplish even hard tasks.

3) Change your attitude

Going to work expecting it to be a bad day will instantly bring you chaos and add even more when you react negatively to every event that happens that day. Change your attitude by not getting sucked into negative talk. You don’t have to be bubbly and fake. Look at each situation and ask yourself if you can find a positive. Decide to find the good things about your work and be content.

4) Be kind

Just because you don’t get too personal doesn’t mean that you need to be mean or act as a loner. Being kind will allow you to avoid the chaos at work of hard feelings should you offend someone with thoughtless words or deeds. Kindness doesn’t mean that you do everyone’s work for them while they sit around. It means not gossiping, keep opinions to yourself unless giving a strictly professional opinion, allow others to do their job their way and give advice only when asked. Sometimes being kind is just listening.

5) Do work for work’s sake

Avoid chaos at work by doing your job, not because you want an award or because you want to beat someone else in the quota race. Do your work for work’s sake, meaning you are there to do a job with no unnecessary distractions or complications. Set your own boundaries by being known as the workhorse.

6) Do honest work

If you work for an individual or company that is less than honest consider looking for other employment. Find work that inspires you and makes you feel good at the end of the day. Doing a job that makes you fearful or doesn’t do something that really helps the world will be the surest way to have chaos in your life as well as your work. An honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay. Simple.

7) Organized is as organized does

If the company you work for is never organized, can’t make payroll, doesn’t keep adequate records, or flies by the seat of their pants during inspections or otherwise, give notice. No job will be perfect but blatant disorganization and noncompliance with standards is no one’s peace.

8) Do what you love

Work doesn’t have to be your passion but it does make your work day much more pleasant and you will feel content doing something you love.

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2 Comments

  1. You’ve gotta get to know people, I think. I love sharing life with my coworkers–on an appropriate level. But just because we get to know each other, doesn’t mean that I get dragged down into “goo” or drama. As long as you’re willing to set boundaries and not buy into office gossip/drama/goo, then I think sharing life with coworkers makes the work experience crazy valuable. But all this comes from a counselor–and we like getting to know people, so take it with a grain of salt!

    • Considering each individuals work is right. It seems your work would require you to know people. That being said, your are right that no one has to get dragged into drama. I used to work in an environment that can often have dysfunctional aspects. I think that as long as we realize that we are not obligated to fix things for others but allow them to find their way, life tends to be healthier. Again, that’s just opinion and I fully understand when others have a different perspective. I always enjoy your comments. They provoke more thought. Thanks.

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