6 Tactics for Dealing with Uncertainty

Organization and Change


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A Kahnesky
Manager, Denmark

6 Tactics for Dealing with Uncertainty

🔥NEW The workplace is full of uncertain situations that need to be tackled effectively. Uncertainties can be technical, environmental, or even career and people-oriented. The workplace comprises colleagues, clients, superiors and subordinates. Such connection and communication are essential for the smooth functioning of the organization. However, there is always some amount of unpredictability involved that can lead to uncertainties at work.
Ignoring uncertainties, hoping that they will go away by themselves, will seldom occur in reality. It will not prove to be career-enhancing. One must not try to turn the uncertainty into complete certainty. It is also recommended to do only whatever is in the person's control to change the outcome. Here is a list of six tactics to deal with uncertainties at the workplace.
  1. Embracing Discomfort associated with not knowing
    We have acquired accurate answers that fit every problem we encounter throughout our professional lives. We try to avoid unpleasant feelings that arise when faced with unfamiliar, stressful situations. One way to deal with uncertain circumstances is to acknowledge and accept them as a part of learning. This change of perspective can relieve an immense load of stress and pressure during difficult times. It can also facilitate the flow of ideas and thought processes effectively.
  2. Learning to Distinguish between Complicated and Complex
    Very often, these two terms are used interchangeably without considering their true meanings. When a situation is complex, it means that numerous components are at play. Such a situation does not reflect any level of difficulty. For example, when a company has to digitize its paper-based customer records. While encountering a complex issue, one must try finding ways to manage it rather than solve it. one must be prepared to adjust one's course as one goes about dealing with the problem.
    On the other hand, a complicated situation may not have many components, yet it is unpredictable and difficult. Solutions to such problems can be found through trial and error methods, thus requiring constant learning and adaptation. For example, a factory manager who has to deal with his workers on strike has to tackle a complicated issue. While dealing with a complicated issue, one must not confront the problem in terms of its difficulty level, rather try solving it using an open mind and common sense.
  3. Leave the need for perfectionism behind
    Uncertain situations do not call for perfectionism since the environment is constantly changing. Employees high on perfectionism and need for achievement should try to let go of their fears of imperfection, such as making a wrong decision, fear of failure, and not being able to deal with it. Uncertain situations provide numerous opportunities for learning and developing oneself. Hence employees should try to get rid of their fears, accept failures they experience along the way.
  4. Avoid oversimplification and reaching quick conclusions
    Often, employees get frustrated when they cannot reach solutions for challenges they encounter at work. Similarly, when faced with a complex situation, employees break down the situation into its components and tend to oversimplify it. However, this too can result in false feeling simplification, unpreparedness and minimize the seriousness of the presenting problem. Hence, it is important to avoid oversimplification, understand and acknowledge the core presenting problem and own biases that might play as well.
  5. Don't do it all alone
    Managers often report feelings of isolation which comes from the ever-changing and uncertain situations at the workplace that they have to deal with. This isolation is mainly due to their belief in 'being able to solve all the issues independently'. As the complexity of the task increases, it requires more effort. There is indeed a limit to individual ability, capacity and knowledge. However, working with teams can help expand our knowledge, present us with different experiences and enable us to look at a specific problem using a different perspective.
  6. Find the time to zoom out
    Employees often get too engrossed in the problems they face at work and forget to zoom out. Zooming out, changing the room where one is working allows in broadening one's minds and perspectives. A change of place can help one notice a problem from a different angle or even notice the bigger picture.
These were just strategies that employees could use to effectively navigate one's way while dealing with complex, uncertain circumstances. The efficient application of a leader's way of dealing with uncertainties can be seen as the world still faces the impact of the global pandemic. For helping employees cope with uncertainties, it is important for leaders to learn, evolve, adapt, and guide themselves and their subordinates when faced with such challenges.

⇒ Can you think of more such ways to deal with uncertainties? Do mention them in the comments below.

Zucker, R. and Rowell, D. (2021) '6 Strategies for Leading Through Uncertainty' Harvard Business Review
Wong, F. (2018) 'How To Manage Uncertainties At Work', Medium.

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