Avoiding A Workplace Meltdown

We’ve all been in one of ‘those’ situations before. You know… when your favorite project is cancelled after weeks of hard work; when a customer snaps at you unfairly; when your best friend (and co-worker) is laid off suddenly; or your boss assigns you more work when you’re already overloaded.

In your personal life, your reaction to stressful situations might be to start shouting or to go hide in a corner and feel sorry for yourself. But at work, these types of behavior could seriously harm your professional reputation as well as your productivity.

Handling Your Emotions

Stressful situations are all too common in a workplace that’s facing budget cuts, staff layoffs, and department changes. It may become harder and harder to manage your emotions under these circumstances, but it’s even more important for you to do so.

Here are seven strategies to help you deal with frustrations, irritations, worry, anger and disappointments so you won’t have an emotional meltdown.

  1. Stop and evaluate.
    Ask yourself why you feel frustrated. Write it down, and be specific. For example, you’re wasting time and could be finishing a report. Then think of one positive thing about your current situation. For instance, if your boss is late for your meeting, then you have more time to prepare or time to catch up on emails.
  2. Focus on how to improve the situation.
    If you just received a not so good performance review, probably fretting or complaining about it won’t help you keep your job. Instead, bring to your boss a concrete action plan for improvement.  This is the time to be visible, to be valuable and showcase your variety of skills.
  3. Avoid negative people.
    If co-workers gather in the break room to gossip about job cuts or management changes or whatever, don’t go there and worry with everyone else. It doesn’t change the situation. It just aggravates it! Rather, surround yourself with more positive, upbeat folks.
  4. Be professional, no matter what.
    If you have to work with someone you don’t get along with, set aside your dislike or irritation. Act courteously and focus on the work that needs to get done. Besides that person may have something you need in the future.
  5. Remain calm.
    Negative criticism can give rise to anger or feelings of inadequacy. Expressing these emotions will put you, not the critic, in a negative position. When the hammer drops, pause, take a couple of deep breaths to settle down and decide how to respond. One way is to go into active listening by replying, “So what you’re saying is……Can you explain…….”
  6. Pull back.
    Take a moment to realize that things won’t always go your way. If they did, life would be a straight road instead of one with hills and valleys, ups and downs. And it’s the hills and valleys that often make life so interesting.
  7. Smile!
    Strange as it may sound, forcing a smile – or even a grimace – onto your face can often make you feel happy (this is one of the strange ways in which we humans are ‘wired.’) Try it – you may be surprised!

 Smart Moves Tip:

We all have to deal with negative emotions at work basically because certain people or situations “get” to us. Coping with these feelings – developing emotional intelligence – is now more important than ever. A person out of control is not a person who wins friends.


Marcia Zidle
Marcia Zidle
Marcia Zidle, The Smart Moves Coach, is a national known board certified coach and keynote leadership speaker who guides organizations that are planning, or in the midst of, ambitious growth and change. As a career strategist, she works with professionals, managers and executives who want to build • shape • brand • change • vitalize their careers. She’s been selected by LinkedIn’s ProFinder as one of the best coaches for 2016!Her clients range from private owned businesses to mid-market companies to professional service firms to NGO’s. With 25 years of management, business consulting and international experience, she brings an expertise in executive and team leadership; employee engagement and innovation; personal and organization change; career building and development; emotional and social intelligence. Your Future Starts Now With Marcia!

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  1. I don’t think you can be any meltdown where it won’t require damage control. When a meltdown happens with an executive or director, there is very little what you can do. It’s their job to intervene when things turn south. And when they are emotionally compromised they tend to want to get solutions to the problem rather than confirming first if there is actually a problem. This is why status updates and charts that show progress are mandatory for mitigating meltdowns.

    When a meltdown occurs and that meeting automatically gets called, what would you do when a very angry executive is there sitting across the table from you? You first let the executive vent. You don’t start the meeting until the executive totally and completely vents. Then the executive is ready to listen and the meeting can officially commence. You need to get your executive to think rationally first. If you don’t the discussion will cause more damage than good. The results of one executive meltdown resulted in two directors giving their notice a month later and their teams a few weeks after that.

    When a meltdown occurs and the leader is still hot, everything they do while they’re hot causes damage. It’s best to step up and cool the leader down.