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The Power of the Pause

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ASPA as an organization.

By Dennis Martino
November 26, 2018

It’s a busy week. You are plagued by deadlines and a workload that is piling higher and higher. As a public manager the last thing you need is a problem with your staff. On to the scene enters the human factor. People show up late for work. Somebody calls in sick. Potential disciplinary situations loom. Does this sound familiar?

Probably the most difficult situation to handle for a working supervisor is to juggle their own work while managing the human factor of their employees. In fact, when you look back on any supervisory responsibility that you have not handled well, there is a strong likelihood that you made the mistake of acting quickly and emotionally rather than calmly and rationally.

It’s easy to suggest that you slow down and think before you act. However, it isn’t always that easy to do. Most people in supervisory positions are people who act quickly by nature. (The “Can Do!” types) It stands to reason that it is hard for them to slow down long enough to take in the full situation.

In order to respond to ever-changing work situations, it is important that supervisors form the habit of pausing before acting. It’s a bad news, good news situation. The bad news is if you are in the habit of acting quickly to stimuli, it is difficult to break that habit. The good news is, like all habits the more you practice the new behavior, the more of a habit it becomes.

One suggestion is to assess your own interactions with employees. After you have given a direction, or counseled an employee for any reason, take some time to evaluate yourself. Did I handle this situation in the best and most productive way?

If at the end of a week or a month of self-assessment you find that acting too quickly did not bring about the best results, then you may want to work on slowing down. Asking for feedback from colleagues can help. Ask them to observe you or evaluate you. You can do the same for them.

We all will make mistakes. Acting more deliberately by pausing before acting can minimize them.

Author: Dennis T. Martino M.Ed., MS, CPM

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