Don’t Panic

In the past two years, I’ve had four jobs. That might make you think I’m eminently employable or unemployable, take your pick. Whatever you decide it does mean I’ve had recent experience in that most awkward of processes: settling into a new company. And I thought it worthwhile to share one major difference I’ve seen in my employers, and how it’s affected my work.

Before starting my current position, I worked at two ‘fast-paced’ companies. Now, I could argue about whether or not those businesses had reason to be ‘fast-paced’, but the main takeaway I’ve taken away from my experience at these companies for 6-12 months each, is that a calm and collected approach to work is a far better method of getting stuff done.

Going from those environments to my current company, which has a couple of decades of experience behind it, and several personnel with even longer working histories, has been something of an eye-opener in this regard. I’ve even heard people talk about giving new starts up to six months to settle in! This is a far cry from the mentality of six-month contracting so common nowadays.

The so-called ‘fast-paced’ mentality is just a part of hustle culture. With more and more people creating side-hustles (what used to be called moonlighting), the pressure to produce results faster continues to build. Business leaders and owners see how technology has progressed at a frightening pace, with billion-dollar business built seemingly overnight, and assume their workers are simply not producing enough.

But ‘seemingly’ is the important word here. My knowledge of most of the so-called overnight successes of the tech world is that they were actually born out of a potent mixture of failure and long hard graft. Panic in the business world is rarely rewarded positively, and yet in so many businesses, I have seen a management style that fuels panic. It’s continual aim is to unsettle employees with jibs when work isn’t completed fast enough, withering comments when outcomes aren’t met, and witch-hunts when things go wrong.

So, the next time you find yourself in an interview situation or looking for a new job, my advice is to check as much as possible if you might be entering a ‘panic-culture’. There are a few obvious warning signs to look out for: a late interviewer, which will often lead into a rushed or disorganised interview. A lack of clear communication about what the company is doing and what you’ll be expected to do, or indeed what the next steps are. These should all ring warning bells which should be heeded.

That said, if you find yourself currently in an panic-stricken environment, and you can’t or don’t want to leave, my advice is to simply not allow yourself to give in to panic. There are some great resources on how you can do this, from Stephen R. Covey’s seminal work The 7 Habits of Highly Successful People, through to Fegus O’Connell’s What You Need To Know About Project Management. Books like these promote a more healthy approach to work, even in companies with bad working practices, which in turns leads to better decisions, and better results.

That’s been my main takeaway from the last three months with my current company. My family and friends will testify to the fact that I’m generally happier, less stressed, and yet also highly focussed, and definitely far more productive. Now that just might be me and my personality talking, but I’d highly recommend you try taking a less frantic approach to work, and let the results of a panic-less working life speak for themselves.