How Much Does Overreacting Cost You?

Mike Harden | | Building Relationships, Resolving Employee Problems, Thinking Strategically

When you’re operating under high-pressure, small erroneous details become nightmares. Late reports, print errors, and customer problems might feel like the end of the world. In these situations, every move matters – and that includes your reactions to these slip-ups, mistakes, and problems.

Did you know that overreacting will cost your organization? And, do you know how you can stop it?

Why Do People Overreact?

There are two primary ways minor incidents are hijacked to become disasters:

  • Manipulation By Drama Queens & Kings. These employees react out of emotion. Their actions are often tied to manipulation: they may burst into tears or become enraged over a small matter with the goal of “persuading” others to agree with them or capitulate to their demands.

  • Insecure Perfectionists Beat Themselves Up. After making an error, these individuals may try to over-compensate. Say, for instance, they’ve made a mistake on a report. It happens. They not only fix it, but spend the rest of the day poring over the report, rechecking each fact, then checking them again, and obsessing over future reports. They work themselves up into a state of frustration, worry, and panic about making another mistake.

If you had to choose, you’d go with the perfectionist, but neither one of these types of overreactions are positive for the organization.

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The perfectionist cares, is devoted to doing the best job possible. How can this possibly be negative? Overreacting can eat up the company’s resources. If a customer has a problem, for instance, and I overreact, I may send four people to the site to work on it.

One experienced person could handle the problem on his/her own, but I want to be sure. I just spent four times as much money on the job because I overreacted. I just took three people from other tasks, and I let emotion influence my decision.

Preventing Overreactions

  • Stop. Instead of reacting immediately, stop and work through the problem logically. Switch into question mode. What’s the best way to solve this problem? What resources do you truly need? Which ones can you afford to spare? Who can we count on to work efficiently and effectively? Do you need a whole team, or one experienced person? By responding this way, you’re reacting appropriately to the problem and creating a solution – you’re not panicking and sending four people to get in each other’s way or stand around and waste time and money.

  • Rely On Your A Team. Maintaining a cool head and openness to other perspectives can be difficult when you’re under stress. Surrounding yourself with people who challenge you is the best way to move easily in and out of question mode, and to prevent against mistakes. You need employees to step up and tell you to stop and think, people who are not afraid to challenge you or your assumptions.

Overreacting can be detrimental. When a leader does it, it can be costly for the entire organization. Recognize when your reaction is out of proportion with the problem or based on emotion rather than facts. Bring yourself back to the facts and stock up your team with A players who will help you – each other, and other members of the team – react appropriately and with the best interests of the organization at heart.

Mike Harden

Mike Harden has developed exceptional depth and breadth of knowledge over his 40+ year career as an entrepreneur, executive, teacher, mentor, and coach. Today, as one of DC’s premier Executive Coaches, Mike helps good executives become great leaders. Find Mike on Google+

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