top of page

UNEXPECTED! - get ready for it at work

“This did not play out the way I expected,” admitted boss Mark Zuckerberg as Meta revealed it was sacking 11,000 staff.

If you’re one of them or feel that the unexpected is heading your way, don’t be taken by surprise like Zuckerberg. Put simply, expect the unexpected and do your best to minimise the risks and potential impacts.

See also my blog on VUCA.

For all his high-level role and wealth, Zuckerberg’s experience was nothing out of the ordinary. It was just on a different scale to the rest of us.

His admission that “I got this wrong” in hiring too many employees and then letting them go merely confirmed that it can happen to anyone, no matter how high up they are in an organisation.

You could include some of the less than savoury events at work on an “unexpected” list and invest in “how I might deal with this”. For example. one of the most devastating impacts comes from a sudden job loss. As thousands of Twitter employees found out recently, although they were in an ordinarily secure tech role, it was not so safe after all.

One day you’re in, and the next day you’re out, and there’s nothing you can do to change it. You may feel like you’ve lost complete control during these unexpected challenges. What happens to you may have very little to do with you.

As a Twitter employee, you could hardly second guess what the erratic millionaire new owner Elon Mask might choose to do. For example, having fired many Twitter employers a few days later, he had to start re-hiring them to fill the gaps he had created in the company.

As someone seeking success at work, the difference between you and others is often how you cope with unexpected circumstances. While some of your colleagues and potential competitors may crumble under the pressure of the unfamiliar, you need to learn to thrive and find ways to overcome adversity.

The finance industry gives particular thought to unexpected events and produces this list of possibilities to consider:


Luckily, almost every human being has two remarkable assets for coping:

a) A built-in human ability to adapt allows you to look ahead, plan, prepare for contingencies and invest in your future.

b) Opportunities to practice adaptability

Dealing with the unexpected at work is a learned skill you can practice and improve.

So, what are the practical ways to handle the unexpected? Try some or all of these

  • Don’t panic--people will be less inclined to agree or cooperate with you if you aren’t even in control of yourself, and panic can be contagious.

When an unexpected situation arises, pause, breathe, and collect your emotions. You will then be able to return to the situation with a clearer mindset, focus on taking the next step in your response, and not be overwhelmed with your emotions. 

  • Stay optimistic—learn from your mistakes and make them into a learning opportunity

  • Seek opportunities—to show your initiative and how you cope under pressure.

  • Talk to someone you trust about responding to whatever life throws at you

  • Make your response to the unexpected not to rush into immediate acceptance. Instead, the best response may be, “let me check and get back to you on.”

Future reading:


For more ways to succeed at work, listen to my next
Podcast! Every Monday.


Take your next steps towards success at work with these
five interactive, mobile learning courses.

bottom of page