At the last regular job I had, I think I can easily say that the last year and a half I was there was pretty stressful. I'm not going to go into a lot of details lamenting how unfair things were or how I felt put upon. Instead, I'm going to jump directly to one specific thing.

One day I was having a conversation with the CFO about receivables. He said that he knew what was going on and that it wasn't my fault, but that I was going to have to be the guy responsible for fixing it all. He stated that I had a certain time frame to affect the turnaround, and if I couldn't hit a certain figure by a certain date, he had been asked to give his resignation and that I would be asked to give mine as well.

Whoa; how many of you have ever had that said to you? It definitely shows how quickly one can go from being a diamond to being sludge, that's for sure. Still, I took it fairly well I think, because I recognized overall what was going on, and I knew it wasn't coming from him. Sometimes, people at upper levels expect miracles even when they cause you major difficulties by their actions or inactions. If you don't believe me, watch a few episodes of Undercover Boss and you'll see what I mean.

I could have gone a few different directions. I could have up and quit right then and there, but that wouldn't have made much sense. I could have gone back to the office and started whipping on everyone else to do better, since often I see managers taking out their problems on employees that report to them.

Instead, I kept my cool and I proceeded a little differently than the norm. I went back to the office and asked my supervisors to come in for a little meeting. I closed the door and told them what I'd been told. Now, many managers might not have done that, burying their head in the sand and waiting for the worst to happen; not my style. I told them we had six months to enact some major fixes and what resources we were being given to get it all done.

Then I did something that, once again, was a little bit different. I said that I wasn't going to put a plan together; at least not yet. I said that I appreciated their support if they were willing, but that it was up to the employees who were going to have to do the work as to whether we would be able to get this done or not. I said that I was going to present it to them the same way I got it, and see how they felt about what might be coming. If I had their support, then we'd come up with a plan; if not, I'd basically give my three week's notice later that day.

A little bit after I knew everyone had eaten lunch I called a departmental meeting. I told them what had been said and what our goal was. I said that I hadn't put a plan together yet because I wanted to see how willing they would be to doing what it might take to get to where we needed to be. Then I let them talk; it only took 5 minutes. Every one of them, even a couple of folks I wasn't sure would support me, said they wanted to go for it, and that they would support whatever plan the supervisors and myself came up with. I thanked them for that, then the supervisors and I went back to my office and started working on a plan.

Professionally, I'm not sure things could get much tougher than that kind of ultimatum. I certainly had many reactions I could have had. I could have come up with a plan that no one would support, and then it wouldn't work. I could have done something really stupid and alienated everyone. Or I could have found that I had misread my entire department and now would be faced with following through on my offer to leave or ignoring it and losing my credibility.

How do you handle adversity as a manager when it comes your way? Do you first think about yourself or about the employees who might have to help you achieve your goal? Your reaction could be crucial to overall success of your project; what would you have done?