Corporate Culture

Strategize your Way to Victory in The War Against Urgency Culture.

by ABFRLadmin | May 24, 2024

Is the Always-On Hustle Actually Holding You Back?

The never-ending symphony of pings, dings, and buzzes. The constant feeling that you’re ten minutes behind schedule even when you just arrived at your desk. The pressure to respond to that “urgent” email at 10 pm with a sense of pride, not a sinking feeling in your stomach. It’s a constant, low-grade hum of panic that can leave you feeling like a hamster on a caffeine-fueled wheel, desperately trying to keep up with the ever-increasing speed. Welcome to the era of urgency culture, a pervasive trend creeping up in an office near you.

This culture thrives on a few key things: the addiction to immediate responses, the glorification of multitasking, and the expectation of constant availability. It’s like living in a world where deadlines are confetti cannons that explode every five minutes, showering you with an ever-growing mountain of “to-dos.”

However, in considering the alternative, we can’t deny that multitasking, for some, can be a superpower, a way to become a time management ninja and avoid the dreaded procrastination monster. Navigating urgent situations can also boost confidence and resilience, proving we can handle the heat.

Think about it: how many times have you rushed through a project only to realize it needs a complete do-over? Urgency often leads to unnecessary deadlines, sacrificing quality for the sake of speed. This, in turn, can lead to burnout and a revolving door of talented employees who just can’t keep up with the pace.

So how does one negotiate the pressures of urgency culture in real life situations, especially when it might just be the need of the hour? We reached out to a productivity wizard from one of the most demanding functions in our office – marketing. Even when tight turnaround times are the norm in your function, there are ways to set yourself up for stress-free success. Just ask Chaitali Pereira, Manager, Marketing – Pantaloons, who is no stranger to the fast-paced nature of the urgency game.

“When urgency is the norm, thriving, not just surviving, is key. Here’s the secret: Just a bit of structure in your daily routine goes a long way. Taking a few minutes each morning to plan your day works wonders. But remember, great work is a team effort! Don’t be afraid to ask for help

– a shared load feels lighter. Now, let’s talk deadlines. The occasional rush is inevitable, but never allow it to be the norm. You owe your team that much.”

Divided we fall, united we can do it all. The best teams have that level of openness and clarity of thought and structure that allow for tight deadlines to be achievable (within reason, of course!). In her own words on the essential role of team strategy, Chaitali has this much to say “Communicate openly – transparency about effort and timelines keeps everyone on the same page.  And remember, it’s okay to say no! Prioritization is key. By empowering each other to set boundaries, we deliver exceptional results, which means more than meeting deadlines.”

Our quest to understand how non-negotiable urgency can be conquered, brought us to our next contributor, Nilesh Chafekar, General Manager and Head IT – International Brands and EWM Application. For him and his team meeting business supply chain exigencies and handling ongoing operational problem statements between warehouse and stores is a constant task with no end, with instant solutions being not just expected, but also essential to maintaining business as usual. In his view, while the nature of his role is to be reactive (responding and resolving tickets as soon as they are in the system), he believes in proactiveness, which entails preparing his teams to the best of their abilities to tackle any problems or requests that may come up.

“Better planning and brainstorming leads to improved co-ordination that is required within my team to stay proactive. Preparing detailed action plans and executing them to minimise urgent requests that may be encountered. Prepared teams are ready to deal with issues that come up at the last minute, discuss, create and execute the reactive action plan, motivate their teammates to stay focused and take the correct action to solve the problem.”

With his experience of working with tight deadlines, what according to him are the qualities he’s noticed that make one a conqueror of the urgency culture?

“The ideal archetype would be by nature calm and composed, a practical problem solver, who is decisive and capable of analysis. In terms of their role in their team, they need to be a strong communicator and motivator – all of which leads to an overall collaborative environment in the team.

Creativity and experience also matter in these situations. Creativity in this context means the ability to find workarounds, because our function is first and foremost a provider of solutions. Having that skill to craft workarounds is in my opinion a superpower in the age of urgency.”

So, stay hopeful my weary warriors of the corporate jungle! Even if you don’t match the ideal description of the urgency Übermensch, there are still ways to break free from the clutches of urgency culture. Here are a few strategies to help you reclaim your sanity:

  • Challenge the Urgency: Not every email with an exclamation point truly requires an immediate response. Take a beat, assess the situation, and prioritize accordingly. Sometimes, a well-timed “I’ll get back to you by…” can be your most powerful weapon.
  • Embrace the Power of “No”: It’s okay to set boundaries and say no to additional tasks when your plate is already overflowing. Remember, a burnt-out employee is not a productive one.
  • Embrace the flow of Ikigai: An important cultural component of Japan, Ikigai is the intersection of what you love, what the world needs, what you can be paid for, and what you’re good at. Find purpose in your tasks, slow down, take the time to do things right, and resist the urge to cut corners. A well-crafted email or a well-researched report is far more valuable than a rushed mess
  • Communicate Effectively: Keep your team and manager in the loop about your workload. Make sure shifts in deadlines are reported immediately to all stakeholders. Share feedback with clarity and thought. Deliberate and purposeful transparency is key to avoiding unrealistic expectations and last-minute fire drills.
  • Schedule “Focus Time”: Block out time in your calendar specifically for focused work, free from distractions and notifications. This allows you to delve into tasks without the constant ping-pong of urgency.
  • Empower Your Teams: You don’t have to be a one-person show. Delegate tasks to others on your team and empower them to take ownership.
  • Lead by Example: If you’re a manager, be mindful of fostering a culture of urgency. Set realistic deadlines, encourage breaks, and model healthy work-life boundaries.

Conquering Urgency Culture requires a shift that goes beyond individual actions. Companies need to take a hard look at their own practices, like our very own Ramya Madhavan, Head – HR, International Brands has to say “Constantly stressing yourself out and meeting unrealistic deadlines may give one a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction, but in my opinion, at the end of the day it doesn’t encourage us to do deep and meaningful work. When the focus is on meeting a timeline instead of the actual outcome of the work you do, we cannot possibly expect results that are impactful.”

Here are some ways organizations can combat this feeling of always falling behind:

  • Rethink Deadlines: Are deadlines truly urgent, or are they based on outdated expectations? Encourage realistic timeframes that allow for quality work.
  • Embrace Asynchronous Communication: Not everything needs an immediate response. Utilize tools that allow for thoughtful responses without the pressure of an immediate reply.
  • Promote Work-Life Balance: Encourage employees to take breaks, use vacation days, and disconnect after work hours. A well-rested employee would be at the peak of their productivity. Lead by example – don’t send emails late at night or expect immediate responses from your team outside of work hours. Offer flexible work arrangements and promote a healthy company culture that prioritizes employee well-being.
  • Invest in Mental Health Resources: Provide access to mental health resources such as Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) or mindfulness training programs. Normalize conversations about mental health and create a safe space for employees to seek help when needed.
  • Dictate the Culture: Leaders set the tone for the company culture. If managers are constantly stressed and working long hours, it sends a message that this is the expected behavior. Leaders need to prioritize their own well-being, model healthy work-life boundaries, and create a culture that values quality work over speed.

The Road to a More Sustainable Pace:
Negotiating how to healthily deal with Urgency Culture won’t happen overnight. It requires a conscious effort from both individuals and organizations. By implementing these strategies, we can create a work environment that fosters creativity, innovation, and well-being. Remember, a successful company isn’t built on a foundation of constant panic. It’s built on a foundation of engaged employees who feel empowered to do their best work, without the constant pressure to respond to the next “urgent” email. So, take a deep breath, prioritize your well-being, and let’s work together to create a more sustainable and fulfilling work experience for everyone.

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