Buddha At Work: Keeping Calm in the Hairiest of Situations

Most of us don’t want to react poorly when things aren’t going our way at the office. We don’t plan or rehearse our outbursts. Rather, our “adult tantrums” are the result of poor self-management when stress gets too high—for example, when you hear that your boss is interviewing an external candidate for a position that sounds very similar to the one you’ve been promised, or you’ve been excluded from an industry conference that all of your other colleagues will be attending, or your co-worker dropped the ball on the project you spent months planning… just to name a few.

All of us allow old thought patterns and behavior to dictate our conduct—and too often our worst selves come out.  So, along with the great tips offered from Peter Bregman’s article How Leaders Should React When Someone Disappoints, I want to add a few more which have helped my clients (and me!) stay calm and cool when the stress thermometer starts to climb:

Know Your Hot Buttons

Something as seemingly trivial as having a colleague wagging her finger at you or seeing your boss take all the credit can trigger bad behavior. The trick for managing these hot buttons is AWARENESS. If you know yours and then take action to manage them, you will save yourself from acting inappropriately.

Use Prompts

Prompts are words or phrases posted on your meeting notes or on Post-Its around your office to proactively prevent bad reactions. Your prompts might be:

  • Pause, breathe, count to ten (and count to ten again until you calm down and can speak thoughtfully).
  • If I react badly (screaming, condescending, blaming), I and/or the team will not achieve what is best for all.
  • It is what it is.
  • Can I do anything to change this? If so, what would that be?

Adopt “Beginners Mind”

Stay curious, ask questions, and seek real understanding for what happened. Understanding the motivations of your colleagues will make it easier to confront the issue in a more calm and rational manner.

Check The Room’s Temperature

Before every important meeting, phone call and email, assess your own “emotional temperature” along with the audience’s. In other words, take a moment to think about the thoughts and feelings that everyone in that room, or on that call, is bringing with them into the setting. This will not only prevent you from being blind-sided but also allow you to speak to the emotions in the room so that everything is out in the open.

 

The Buddhists believe that our suffering comes from an unwillingness to accept “what is” and wanting it to be different. We wouldn’t be human if we didn’t feel frustration and anger when our expectations aren’t met or when we don’t get what we want or what we think we deserve. But, being able to handle the disappointments with grace and acceptance, and having the ability to move on are the keys to bringing your Buddha self to work with you—everyday.