The tone and stiff upper lip image the phrase “Keep Calm and Carry On” portrays tells a lot about its origins. It’s 1939 and Hitler’s forces are bombing England day and night. The government prints motivational posters telling the people “Keep Calm and Carry On.” And they did.

Fast forward about seventy years. While we are not even close to being in this type of immediate danger, there is still a good amount of fear and anxiety going around. Whether it’s the job market, the economy, terrorists’ threats, or many other real or imagined enemies, we’re bombarded with reasons to question our safety and security. Are we calm or do we simply carry on?

How can we deal with workplace threats at a personal level?

  1. Appreciate that a certain amount of fear or anxiety is useful and protective. Thinking you’ll never be laid off, receive a poor evaluation, not get the order, or outlive the crazy boss is naïve. Listen to your body and that voice that says “warning, warning!,” just don’t become good friends with the feeling.
  2. Be realistic about the perceived threat. Are you giving more credence to something than it deserves? Magnifying the issue? Are you taking facts from a previous experience and misapplying them to the present? Do you believe gossip or the opinions of others over your own reason? Some of us can see a threat in everything. Others are rather blind. Ask yourself, “How big a deal is this?” and “Is it possible I am over or under reacting?”
  3. Assess your ability to cope. Use a little sports psychology. Yes, the slopes are icy and the turns tricky but you know the course and have weathered worse conditions. Challenge yourself to think of times when you triumphed over adversity—outlived the politics, delivered great results (despite the environment), thrived while under great stress. Then ask yourself, “How can I apply this knowledge to my current situation in a way that is useful and appropriate?” We have a tendency to forget how well we have done. Sometimes we need to give ourselves a gentle reminder, other times a “blow to the head.”

Your assignment: The next time you get the sense the workplace clouds may be darkening, your boss or colleagues are treating you differently (or worse avoiding you), or maybe the tone has changed, follow these steps:

  • Collect the facts rather than default to your emotions when confronted with a major challenge. You may be surprised with what you find.
  • Honor your feelings. Facts are important but sometimes intuition and emotions are early indicators that something’s up.
  • Keep a running list of your successes (handy around performance evaluation time too) and occasionally take a peek. A few photos strategically placed on your desktop also helps remind you how good you can be or of tougher times.
  • Once you have the facts, acknowledged your response, and are armed with a list of successes, you can then take a multi-dimensional look at the purported challenge(s). You can now accurately assess the potential or perceived threat and respond accordingly.

After trying these tips then you can keep calm and carry on.

Thinking you just might want to give this idea a try but not sure you’ll follow-through and get it right? That’s one of the reasons people hire a coach—to hold them responsible and guide them through the decision making process. And why don’t you have a coach?

(c) Jane Cranston.

Author's Bio: 

Jane Cranston is an executive career coach. She works with success-driven executives, managers and leaders to reach their potential, better manage their boss and staff, as well as develop a career strategy to reach goals and aspirations. Jane is the author of Great Job in Tough Times a step-by-step job search system. Click here to subscribe to her twice monthly Competitive Edge Report.