Do you follow the financial markets at all? If you do, then you would know that at least in the USA the first week of 2016 set the mark for the worst first week of a New Year for market performance, with most major indices down anywhere from 5 - 10% from the 2015 year-end closing. The Dow Jones, NASDAQ, the S&P 500 - pretty much all showing steep drops in the frst week of the New Year - driven lower by some combination of declining economic conditions in China, a lower and lower crude oil price, and various and sundry manifestations of 'uncertainty', which no one can define exactly, but generally spooks folks who control lots of money.
But as we all know financial markets rise and they fall - and they rise and fall again, forever and ever as they always have. The reason why I wanted to write about this today was an almost offhand comment I heard from one of the financial commentators on CNBC i think, (I can't remember the specific person, I was in a bit of a Nyquil haze this morning), who said this when asked by the show's host about whether or not investors should 'panic' due to these highly volatile market conditions. His reply:
"It's probably too late to panic."
And then he went on to talk about various scenarios and strategies that he felt like would be the most successful given the current conditions. The specifics of his financial/investing advice don't really matter, the key to why what this one gentlemen said and why it stuck out to me through the Nyquil hangover was just how much sense it made in its simplicity, and how applicable it is to just about every 'crisis' at work.
Almost always when you have enough information in order to make the conscious decision to 'panic', it is probably too late for that 'panic' to do you or anyone else any good. It's kind of like throwing gasoline on the already burning fire, and doesn't help you even start to get to solutions or at least stabilization of the situation. The right time for 'panic' is probably just before things really spiral out of control, not after. Or as is the case of financial markets, perhaps the right time to get really worried and to take defensive actions is after a 5% drop, not after a 15% drop.
Whether it is investing, dealing with a difficult colleague, or trying to rescue a deteriorating customer (or even personal) relationship, 'panic' is probably almost never a great idea simply because most of us are not at all good at reading the signals well enough to accurately time our panic. Better of taking a few deep breaths, think about what signs we missed on the way, and then set to being as calm and rational as possible to make things better.
Does panicking sometimes feel good? Feel like the right and only thing to do? Sure.
Does it ever really help?
Unless you win the $1.5B Powerball this week, then it is perfectly fine, acceptable, and expected to panic.
Have a great week!