5 Tips for Workplace Communication in a Crisis

A crisis in the workplace occurs without warning. Any unforeseen circumstance, from a server being down or an employee absence to a health scare or even a natural disaster, can cause organizations that are unprepared to suffer significant consequences. During these stressful times, the usual modes of communication such as mobile phones, emails, and texting may not be an option. The following tips for establishing communication plans helps companies avoid lost business, damage, and injury during a crisis.

Tips for Improving Communication

Anticipate employee reactions and questions

Business leaders need to be prepared for how their employees will react in a crisis. To do this they should get to know their employees on a personal level and respect the length of recovery time for each individual. Everyone handles a crisis differently, so it is best to allow people to recover at their own pace. Managers should communicate that they support their employees and consider them to be a valuable asset. Being open about the situation will establish a sense of camaraderie, letting the staff know that everyone is working together to get through the event.

It is also helpful for managers to consider all of the typical problems that the organization may encounter. Knowing the crises that similar businesses have encountered and what would cause the most stress or damage in the workplace will help to establish a useful crisis communication plan in an emergency.

Be upfront and honest

It is costly to keep employees in the dark during a crisis. Employers who are upfront and open in these situations encourage their staff and business partners to trust them. It may also be tempting to tell employees to refrain from using social media when a crisis occurs, but employers should realize that these efforts are futile. It is more beneficial to help employees construct their messages to be shared in a timely manner.

Reacting quickly is a necessity in times of crises, however leaders should not forsake truth and accuracy for speedy responses. It is best not to make up something to appease people if the facts are still difficult to determine because the message will change once the situation becomes clear. Consistency is key for the execution of a unified response.

Remain calm

When disaster strikes, the first reaction people usually have is to panic. It is crucial to minimize stress and avoid chaos in delicate, time-sensitive situations. Business managers and those in leadership position need to set an example by remaining calm. Poise in times of stress assures the rest of the team that disaster is not insurmountable.

Preparation and practice is essential for remaining calm in a stressful situation. Employers should talk to their staff about the possible crises that could affect the workplace. While there is always the possibility for unforeseen events, giving employees an idea of what could go wrong will help them remain calm and collected when the time comes.

React quickly before rumors spread

Timely communication with employees is essential for dispelling any rumors about how the crisis will be handled. Instead of spending their time speculating about what could happen, employees who are well-informed of a company’s plan are more likely to do their jobs. It is best not to wait for the employees to reach out to management. Setting up a notification system that updates all employees on the status of the situation will help to get everyone on the same page.

Test communication plan

Once a communication plan is established, it is helpful to test this plan before a crisis occurs to make sure everyone knows their role. Leaders need to designate certain employees to be part of the crisis management team, doling out responsibilities to employees so they know what to do in an emergency. The proper information should be made available, such as contact lists and alternate modes of communication. Testing the plan on a regular basis may also bring new circumstances to light prompting managers to adjust the plan as needed. After a crisis occurs, it is also beneficial to evaluate how well aspects of the plan worked, review the effectiveness of internal communication, and determine what needs to be improved.

Businesses with communication plans in place are ahead of the curve. This is an evolving process and one that needs to be practiced and reevaluated on a regular basis with new and veteran employees alike. While preventing a crisis in the workplace may not always be possible, knowing how to communicate through a stressful event will serve to control damage and lost productivity.

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Sources

https://www.shrm.org/hr-today/news/hr-magazine/1116/pages/communicating-with-employees-during-a-crisis.aspx

http://www.nonprofitmaine.org/wp-content/uploads/2007/04/Communicating-with-Employees-During-Times-of-Crisis.pdf

http://iveybusinessjournal.com/publication/crisis-communications-managing-corporate-reputation-in-the-court-of-public-opinion/

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