Handling an internal crisis is critical to the success of your business. Business leaders and managers understand that the ability to handle a crisis prevents your company from crumbling from within.
The ramifications of a workplace crisis can seep into the public domain and do real harm to your business as well. If it gets out of hand, distressed employees might voice their frustrations publicly and cause further damage to your reputation.
Regardless of the issue you face, you need to know how to solve the crisis. Just as important is understanding how to dissipate the tension, spread helpful information, and calm people down. Here’s a quick guide on how to handle a workplace crisis.
1. Be honest
Honesty is always the best policy in a crisis. Honesty will help you build trust with stakeholders impacted by the crisis. Over time you will also gain credibility, meaning people are more likely to believe what you have to say and trust your judgement.
When managing a crisis, you should aim to provide honest insights into:
- The origins of the issue
- How you plan to address the problem
- The implications for impacted stakeholders
For example, if your business has to lay off employees, you need to address the reason for cost-cutting, followed by its impact on the company and the individuals. Skirting the problem does not resolve things. Rather the opposite.
Avoiding a problem now often means devoting more time and effort to resolving the issue later.
Facing the problem head-on helps maintain your credibility.
Being honest about the issue is difficult.
There is a pay-off, though. For example, you are more likely to get the support of key stakeholders, who at the very least respect what you are saying.
2. Have a plan in place
Every industry is unique, and every business faces different challenges. Still, some approaches to resolving workplace issues work across niches.
Here are some valuable tips you can follow to help you anticipate and deal with a crisis at work:
- Brainstorm with your team. Create a crisis plan to determine the company’s strengths and weaknesses and the external threats. This exercise will help you anticipate a crisis.
- Identify key employees within the business responsible for handling a crisis. You need to provide these people with suitable training and support to better deal with a crisis.
- Put in place a system of checks and balances for your business operations. For example, you want your business to have a healthy workplace culture. You don’t want staff who take shortcuts that may impact the business’s long-term success.
Getting insights from a company with experience in crisis management or PR crisis management in the planning phase is invaluable. They can provide help and advice based on first-hand experiences your management team might lack.
3. Agree on the response
When a problem arises, take the time to come together and agree upon a response. You want key members of the managerial team on board. You might want a third party to provide impartial, external advice in the meeting.
Agreeing on the strategy should be straightforward. With a bit of luck, you’ll have planned for the contingency.
The scope of the crisis will dictate your response. If you’re dealing with an issue impacting a couple of employees, you might get everyone in the same room to discuss the problem. You may be forced to make a formal statement for issues that have wider ramifications.
When releasing a formal statement, you should:
- Provide context.
- Apologize if appropriate.
- Share your plan for dealing with the crisis.
- Identify who to contact for more information.
To avoid confusion and miscommunication, only people who have been formally authorized should be allowed to make a statement. Providing training and support to nominated spokespeople helps reduce the risk of problems arising from the release of the formal statement or questions associated with its release.
4. Keep all stakeholders informed
It’s important to keep all key stakeholders informed when dealing with a crisis. You will need to make regular updates to different parties to keep them updated about the situation as it develops. The information you share should align with their interests and pain points.
For example, suppose you were communicating with shareholders. In that case, you’d want to inform them of potential drawbacks to the company’s annual revenue or any key performance indicator you promised you would achieve but didn’t.
The key messaging elements to employees might be the same, but you would tailor it to their interests. The information you share with your board would be different as well.
5. Communicate through the most relevant channels
Once you’ve identified whom you need to inform, determine what channels you’ll use for messaging. You might use email, in-person meetings, multi-line phone systems, or Zoom calls.
The channels you use need to suit your audience. In-person meetings with board members make sense. Releasing a written statement to the press or fielding questions in a live question and answer session is better for dealing with larger audiences.
Ensure you communicate regularly with all stakeholders and communicate according to an agreed timetable. That way, people know when they’ll receive the next update from you.
Keeping stakeholders informed of what you are doing is the best way to gain their trust. Timely messaging can help calm nerves and reduce the chance of people making the wrong assumption.
6. Don’t forget to track public sentiment
It can be hard to get a sense of what people are saying about your brand during a crisis. Keeping your finger on the public pulse, though, is critical. One of the best ways to do that in this day and age is by using social media monitoring tools.
Social media monitoring tools help you track mentions of your company on social media, in the press, and on people’s blogs. Reviewing what people are saying is a good way to assess public sentiment. You can also see what issues are gaining the most attention.
You can use insights gleaned from social media monitoring tools to adapt your approach. If you handle the crisis well, answer the public’s questions, and assure everyone that things are under control, the buzz around a crisis should slowly die down.
7. Keep your response consistent
Your messaging needs to be consistent throughout a crisis. That will help reduce miscommunication and stop people from guessing your motives and actions.
To reiterate, here are some key things to keep in mind:
- Consistently tell the truth.
- Nominate spokespeople who are authorised to share information.
- Ensure all of your messengers only share agreed talking points.
If your response constantly shifts from “I didn’t do it” to being apologetic, you’ll worsen things. If people see your position is changing all the time, they’ll know something’s up.
The first and most crucial step to resolving a crisis at work is to remind yourself about the value of honesty. If you’re honest with your staff, the press, your shareholders, and the public, all the other actions I’ve just described will come naturally.
To help you better manage a crisis, develop a crisis plan that covers issues you might have to deal with. Nominate individuals to manage the crisis, and have a crisis team in place to make key decisions and support those people.
When communicating during a crisis, your response should assure those concerned that the situation is under control. Monitoring public sentiment using relevant tools will help you keep abreast of things.