Dealing With Crisis At Work


We go to work every day expecting the day to be like yesterday.  We’ll do the same kinds of things, have meetings with our colleagues, solve the same kinds of problems, finish our day by cleaning off our desk, putting on our coats and going home anticipating that tomorrow will be the same.

It Will Happen To You

All of us will at some time have to deal with a crisis at work.  It may be that our boss gets fired, or that a co-worker dies, or the company announces a layoff.  It is these crises that test us individually. This is the time that really counts.  You need to be there for your coworkers.  Forget rank.  Reach out and help your coworkers.  Understand that everyone is affected by whatever it is.  People react differently–they withdraw, they need to talk, they get angry–but everyone needs to know that they are supported.

I’ve been through a number of these kinds of experiences.  I had an employee who was in a locked-down building while a gunman was roaming the building.  She was on a business trip, stuck in an office hiding under a desk and she called me.  Once I made sure that everyone who should at my company knew, I talked to her–for hours.  That is all I could do, but I could do that.  I’ve been the manager of a large department in a company that was doing lay offs.  I’ve had a co-worker die.  I’ve had a beloved boss fired.  All of these were tests.  They were hard.  But the normal, act-as-usual rules didn’t apply.  People’s real souls show in these experiences.  People helped me with these crises and hopefully they would say that I helped them.

We have just witnessed a terrible tragedy happen at a workplace that spilled into a whole town.  The employees in that workplace did their jobs.  The first responders did their jobs. They were heroes.  Everyone stepped up.  The town has stepped up.

That is the way it should be.  Do your part if/when your workplace has a crisis.

What To Do

  • Stay calm
  • Focus on what is most important in the moment and act accordingly
  • Reach out to people who are affected and support them in whatever way you can
  • Understand that managing crises takes time.  Be patient for the “new normal” to get established.

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