Crisis Management: Leading a Team Through the COVID-19 Pandemic

By Lacey Conner, SHRM-CP on Apr 28, 2020
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It’s in uncertain times like these, with the coronavirus pandemic temporarily closing non-essential businesses, many workers shifting to remote work for the first time ever and an upcoming transition back to the workplace, that we truly need strong leaders at our organizations. Yet, it’s also during these times that your leaders’ skills are truly put to the test.

A crisis in the workplace is a sudden and unexpected event that causes disruption to employees and leads to organizational instability. Uncertainty often leads to fear and anxiety among employees and answers to questions aren’t always available on the spot, further intensifying the situation. The coronavirus pandemic is just this — a crisis — but it’s not the first time in our country’s history and it’s likely not the last. 

During a crisis, good leaders rise up and are the calm during the storm that your employees need to ease their stress and anxiety while increasing their morale and productivity. It can be challenging, but good leaders address uncertainty honestly, quickly and concisely to minimize any risks the crisis may have on their organization’s culture and team’s performance.

The novel coronavirus, or COVID-19, has forced many business leaders to manage employees remotely

Here are five more things strong leaders do during times of crisis to support their employees and the organization's goals. Strong leaders:

1.  Understand and Acknowledge the Situation

Good leaders are on top of the issue at hand, educating themselves daily. They communicate what they know to their teams, but are forthcoming about what they don’t. Further, they understand the unknown feeds anxiety, so when they don’t have an answer, they commit to a timeline and follow through with answers. These leaders understand the importance of honesty — generally, employees can recognize when leadership is being dishonest or withholding critical information.

2.  Increase Their Visibility and Frequency of Communication

In crisis situations, employees need a leader who is visible, especially when teams are forced to move to remote work like most have had to due to the coronavirus pandemic. When teams that are used to working in a close environment suddenly go remote, the organic sharing of information that typically occurs during the workday almost comes to a complete stop, making it even more important to regularly share information. A typical crisis communication plan involves daily touches and can involve online tools such as Slack, Zoom, Trello or Microsoft Teams. By staying visible, your employees will have a constant flow of information that will help them better understand expectations and any changes to processes. One example of an organization embracing a crisis communication plan is The White House’s live, daily Coronavirus Task Force meetings.

3.  Know Everyone on the Team May Be Handling the Crisis Differently

Good managers know everyone’s situation amid the coronavirus crisis is different. They genuinely care about what is going on in their employees’ worlds related to how they perform their job remotely and know everyone handles stress differently. For example, Susan may dive into her work and become a workaholic under stress, but John may become quiet and wait for someone to tell him what to do. A good leader works hard to understand individual reactions to stress and how changed work conditions impact each worker and provides creative solutions and strategies tailored to each team member’s unique situation.

managing a remote work force

4.  Have a Solid Plan, but are Flexible

Successful leaders have a solid plan and are positive and confident when discussing it with their teams. That said, they are also flexible and agile. Crisis situations can evolve daily and what is the best today may be different two days, a week or a month down the road. Their top priority is to keep their team moving and in the right direction.

5.  Prepare for the Next Crisis

Good leaders are helping their employees master remote work, but are simultaneously preparing to successfully lead their employees back to the workplace once the economy opens back up. They are carefully considering the ways the coronavirus crisis may impact their return to work plan, how to mitigate further spread of the virus and expect the workplace may not be the same as it was before the crisis, at least not for now. They also know there may be other pandemics in the future, so they take what they have learned from this crisis and begin to prepare for the future.   

At Axcet HR Solutions, we have provided our Kansas City-based clients the support and resources they need to successfully navigate the coronavirus crisis. Bookmark our Coronavirus Resource Page to stay ahead of all of the latest developments as they impact small and mid-sized businesses.


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Table of Contents

Business as Usual During COVID-19: What Does it Really Mean?

Business as Usual During COVID-19: What Does it Really Mean?
8 Steps Small Businesses Can Take to Increase Productivity During the Pandemic

8 Steps Small Businesses Can Take to Increase Productivity During the Pandemic

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