The Smart Lemming Rules of Life and Career Management: #11 Keep a Lid on Chaos


Do you have people in your life who create drama in their lives? If you have “dramatic” friends or family, then you probably spend most of your time fending off this drama by establishing boundaries. If you don’t, then you’re probably sucked into the drama that only adds stress to your life.

Why is it important to establish boundaries? Why should we keep a lid on chaos?

Catastrophe Thinking

As a manager, your employees look to you to keep your emotions in check. They need confidence from you that their work world is doing well. If you’re emotions are getting away from you, they might go through this analysis in their mind:

  • Is my boss just having a bad day?
  • Is my boss having personal problems?
  • Is my boss having problems with his or her peers? Does it affect me?
  • Is my boss having problems with their boss? Does it affect me?
  • Is our company okay? Does it affect me?

Speaking from front line experience, this is the type of catastrophe thinking I would go through when I looked for “smoke signals” from my boss. I was looking for signals on the horizon for things that I should be concerned about. I don’t consider this a healthy approach to work. I developed this line of thinking after going through two economic downturns, where my job was affected. I narrowly missed one layoff by exiting quickly, but couldn’t avoid the second one.

Vulnerable people in our personal lives also are looking for smoke signals. If you have children, nieces, or nephews, then they probably look up to you. They require stability and confidence from you, hoping you’ll protect them from harm, chaos, or any other stress.

Action Items

As a manager, try to remain calm and consistent with your emotions. With challenging economic times, your direct reports are looking for clues in your behavior to signal if there’s danger that they should be worried about. If you know there’s danger, then carefully communicate your concerns.

If you need to create urgency, then do so without accidentally setting off the catastrophe thinking in your direct reports. Of course, if it’s a crisis, then convey it, but with some kind of action plan for your team that helps you manage the crisis.

If you have other vulnerable people in your life like children, nieces, or nephews, then never let situations or emotions get away from you. Be the calm in the eye of the storm for them, demonstrating strength and confidence to them. Why stress them out when you can be a role model of how to handle stress or be a good crisis manager? Be the one they run to, not the person they avoid.


The Smart Lemming Rules of Life and Career Management series outlines my rules of personal and work success. After reflecting on my personal values, I made this list, realizing values are my rules of being or life management principles. Based on your experiences, I hope this list inspires you to identify your own rules. Here are the rules to my success that may help you over the course of your journey:


Level 1: Rules for Our Fundamental Nature

Level 2: Rules of Continuous Learning and Modeling

Level 3: Rules for the Actual Journey

Level 4: Rules of Adapting to Environment and Interacting with Others

Level 5: Rules of Humility

Level 6: Rule of Being

  • #21 Be compassionate.