A crisis in the workplace is a sudden and unexpected event that causes disruption to employees and leads to organizational instability. A crisis can come in any number of forms: economic uncertainty, global upheaval, political destabilization, a worldwide pandemic. The attendant uncertainty that will almost always accompany any such crisis, can easily throw employees off, leading to fear and anxiety. This, inevitably, will only further intensify any type of crisis situation.
As a leader, your job during times of crisis is multifaceted. You have to be the voice of calm; you have to function, in some cases, as the person who tries to allay fear and anxiety. At the same time, you need to keep an eye on productivity. Communication becomes pivotal during a challenging time or event. Effective leaders address any uncertainty honestly, quickly and concisely to minimize any risks the crisis may have on their organization’s culture and team’s performance.
While there is no one set roadmap for navigating a crisis in the workplace, there are steps you can take and ways in which you might help to ease employee concerns while simultaneously maintaining morale.
Assessing a Crisis Situation
Before implementing strategies to deal with the crisis at hand, you first need to evaluate exactly what the situation is and how it specifically affects your company. Creating a crisis management blueprint is first and foremost about understanding the true scope of the crisis and thereby, knowing what the most prudent steps are.
Determine Your Overall Employment Needs
In first thoroughly assessing the crisis and its impact on your business, you put yourself in a better position to determine your specific employment needs. And not every company is going to be in the same boat. For example, for some businesses, depending on the nature of the crisis at hand, demand for their products/services might actually increase. Obviously, this may necessitate that, at least in the short term, you hire more staff. Whereas, if the crisis is reducing the amount of business you are doing, then you might have to make the difficult decision to furlough employees or perhaps even lay personnel off. The key here is to reexamine your workforce to make sure people’s jobs align with the organization’s most vital business priorities. This will enable you to more efficiently determine what your needs are in both the short and long term.
Redefine Your Mission if Necessary
A crisis can lead to major changes. Such changes may impact the original mission and vision of your company. Your organization’s mission is an incredibly important part of what helps establish the overall company culture. If that mission is only vaguely defined and understood in light of a challenging and/or disruptive situation, this can throw your entire organization off-kilter, creating an even more difficult atmosphere. Understand what your company mission should be going into a moment of crisis. Also, be aware that you might need to reconnect employees to the organization’s priorities and help them attach their current and future work to new goals and outcomes.
Assess Safety and Security
Depending on the type of crisis you are facing, safety and security could be at risk. If employees don’t feel safe in the workplace or they fear their jobs may not be secure, these distractions are likely to affect their productivity. This can be disastrous for any business, especially in the midst of a crisis. A thorough safety assessment as part of your crisis management plan should be among the very first things that you do. This will enable you to more clearly identify safety procedures that you may need to implement and will also help you to understand what your employees could be experiencing when it comes to their physical and emotional safety.
After taking the time necessary to assess your current situation, you will need to develop strategies for helping employees contend with the crisis and also for handling matters as a unified company.
Acknowledge the Situation
Good leaders are on top of the issue at hand, educating themselves daily. They communicate what they know to their teams. By the same token, a good leader is also transparent in acknowledging what they do not yet know. 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. The most effective leaders in times of crisis understand the importance of honesty. In the initial phase of any crisis management, you need to acknowledge exactly what is going on and give your employees the necessary insight.
Increase Frequency of Communication
In crisis situations, employees need a leader who is visible. Consistent communication is going to be the key to seeing things through in the most productive way possible. A typical crisis communication plan involves daily touches, be it via face-to-face meetings or also through online tools such as Slack, Zoom, Trello or Microsoft Teams. By staying visible and keeping in contact, your employees will have a constant flow of information that will help them better understand expectations and any changes to processes.
Have a Solid Plan, But Also Be 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.
Prepare for the Next Crisis
Once the crisis has passed, a good leader will prepare for future eventualities. Critical to future preparation is taking the lessons learned and acting upon those lessons. Reevaluate your workforce needs during recovery. Reemphasize the importance of employee contributions in the context of the overall company mission. And then ask yourself those critical self-evaluative questions: How might you better have handled a certain situation? What strategies can you put in place now that will make future challenges easier to manage? If you do have to grapple with a new normal, how might this affect the way in which you approach another difficult situation? The more questions you ask and are able to answer, the better prepared you will be for the next time.
We work with numerous Kansas City area businesses, helping them work through difficult situations and complex employment issues. You do not have to face a crisis alone; we are here to assist you. Call today and let’s get started!